Has anyone heard any good news lately? Just asking, because if anything even remotely approaching good news has filtered through, then I clearly missed it. What was that some smarty pants said? No news is good news? I think it is safe to say that we appear to be in that unfortunate situation as this missive is being word processed. There you go. I can’t even say ‘as this is being written,’ because some literal-minded idiot will accost me on social media with a ‘How can you say “written” when you are tapping this on your keyboard?’ Life is hard enough without having to deal with these twits on Twitter. I do apologise for my crabbiness. Blame it all on the news, which does nothing to engender that elusive sunny optimism.
To get back to my point, I have been scanning the newspapers and news channels to check if anybody has something good to say about anything. You might as well be looking for an oasis in the Sahara. Here is a random list of news items that have been dominating the headlines, and if any of you can find anything good there, then you are a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
Nirbhaya. The Nirbhaya rape and murder case has been dragging on for well over seven painful years, and our wheels of justice keep moving at a pace that would make a snail fancy its chances against the system. They have even had the time to make a television serial out of it. ‘Hang the rapists’, the country cries out. ‘In a while crocodile,’ responds the system. Appeals, counter appeals, mercy petitions and still the noose eludes the four guilty goons. Dates are set for the execution and re-set. When such dilatoriness happens over an execution, the public’s unsated, prurient interest only heightens. Remember those medieval times when the blood-thirsty public were invited to witness executions? Better these matters be dealt with swiftly and all concerned be duly informed once the dreaded task is over. Instead of all this shilly-shallying.
There is an interesting sidebar to the Nirbhaya case. Some months ago, somewhere in the heartlands of Telangana, another gang of murder suspects being held in custody for a heinous rape crime, was mysteriously gunned down in an ‘encounter.’ The cops claimed they had no option as the desperados snatched their guns and tried to make a run for it, but the smart money was on the cops ‘managing’ the shootout to their advantage. Some may say rough justice, but even those from the higher echelons of society were found to be applauding the local police. ‘Serve them right,’ was the cry of the vox populi, underscoring their disenchantment with the glacial movement of our justice system.
L’affaire Shaheen Bagh. Protesters gathering in Shaheen Bagh in India’s capital city have been grabbing the news headlines, and only recently has the noise died down. While it lasted, they were able to disrupt normal life in Delhi more than somewhat, to employ one of Damon Runyon’s pet phrases. I shan’t get into the rights and wrongs of their compulsion for so doing (CAA, NPR et al). The Central Government and the Delhi State administration were helplessly red faced. This movement gave rise to more Shaheen Baghs across the country, putting more pressure on the BJP led government. They in turn stuck to their guns, accusing the opposition of spreading falsehoods and innuendoes, all the while emphasising that the CAA was ‘good for every Indian citizen,’ if only the citizen cared to understand what the Act sought to achieve. The opposition parties were raucously gloating at their rival’s discomfiture. Meanwhile, with the onset of the warm weather and the Covid 19 (Coronavirus) scare, the protesters have reportedly dwindled, and the citizens of Delhi can, hopefully, soon breathe easy.
Coronavirus. When I said the Delhi denizens can breathe easy I was, of course, speaking metaphorically. The one thing they are not able to do, along with citizens all over the country, is to breathe easy. The Coronavirus pestilence, not unlike SARS and Swine Flu which took much of the world by nasty surprise, is now infesting various parts of the world, and anyone who so much as sneezes, hares off to the overworked hospitals. Travel and the world economy have taken a nose dive, and we keep opening the newspapers every morning hoping the dreaded virus shows signs of retreat. Face masks have gone underground, and a few hopefuls are running to Homoeopaths and sundry quacks for a miracle cure. I wash my hands with soap and water ten times a day! No shaking hands. Namaste is the order of the day. While Coronavirus continues to occupy centre stage, other news will for now, fade into the background. Had my mother been alive she would have said in chaste Tamil, ‘We are all paying for our sins.’ Hmmm!
The Delhi riots. Donald Trump came calling. Our Prime Minister pulled out all the stops in his home state to welcome the American President. Trump and Modi addressed a humongous gathering in Ahmedabad, with Donald trumping the Indian PM with his oh-so-cute references to Swami Vivecamundan and Soochin Tendulkar. While Trump visited Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram and was feted royally, rioters went to work in parts of Delhi, the resultant communal clashes leaving many dead and many more injured. Damage to property and businesses was incalculable. Again, political parties blamed each other. Were the riots cynically timed to take away the sheen from the Trump visit? Or was it a powder keg waiting to explode? Who knows? The national media had to divide their newsprint space and airtime to both these happenings in a bizarre concatenation.
The bourses go berserk. With so much bad news taking pride of place, our sentiment driven stock markets went base over apex. The Sensex and the Nifty plunged southwards in simpatico with world financial markets, primarily driven by scare-mongering brought about by the Coronavirus and its deadly implications for world trade. The Yes Bank crisis was the icing on the cake. My fund manager called me to say that at these levels prices are attractive and this may be a good time to invest. At the time I had a worrying cough and could not respond. Which was just as well.
T20 Women’s World Cup. With so much bad news, the progress of the Indian eves, as they are fancifully referred to, reaching the final of the T20 World Cup in Australia raised great hopes of a famous win. Kohli’s boys had not covered themselves in glory earlier in New Zealand, and this was our chance for redemption. It proved to be a false dawn. At the packed MCG, Harmanpreet Kaur and her girls went down like nine pins against the fancied Aussies. Our cup of woe was overflowing, and the media resorted to the usual clichés whenever we lose.
A judge is transferred. The peremptory, and some might say vindictive, midnight transfer orders given to the estimable Justice S. Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court was received with anguish and anger by the judicial community and the intelligentsia – with just cause. The silver lining was the admirable composure with which the judge himself responded, without acrimony and displaying considerable dignity and grace under pressure. A much loved, respected and admired judge overnight became a national icon and treasure. There is hope yet.
So there we are, still waiting for some news to cheer us up. Perhaps I should stop watching the news channels or reading the newspapers. Like the fellow said, it’s wonderful when we are not supplied our dailies following a public holiday. ‘Nothing ever happens.’
This article appeared in the Deccan Chronicle dated 10th March 2020.