At the very outset, let me make it plain as a pikestaff that being urinated upon by an inebriated idiot is no laughing matter, even at a light-headed 40,000 feet up in the air, on Air India’s business class service. The 71-year-old lady who was thus obscenely assailed was certainly not amused. Neither is being snuffed out prematurely and chopped into little pieces, a pastime many of our insane murderers seem to be overly partial to. Add to this list of macabre horrors, being trapped under a car full of drunken louts and dragged for miles after which it is only a matter of picking up the pieces. We are left dumbfounded and speechless. Which, of course, is an affliction that garrulous talking heads on our television news channels do not in any way, shape or form suffer from.
Let us examine the Air India incident first. Celebrity anchor, shouter and fist-waver Arnab Goswami on Republic TV went berserk and ballistic (this time with some justification), throwing hashtags around like confetti and repeatedly referring to the ‘drunken creep’ who ‘exposed his private parts’ in order to do his number one business on business class on an elderly lady. Not that the dastardly deed would have carried even an iota of merit had it been perpetrated on a younger person. Without getting too technical about it, I suppose the drunken slob’s pathetically weak defence would have been that exposing one’s private parts inevitably goes hand in hand, as it were, with having to relieve oneself, and that he was not quite himself after several large single malts. Had he been well-read, he might well have paraphrased King Lear and protested his innocence by claiming he was more pissed against than pissing.
Where this misguided poop went horribly wrong was in supposing that the reclining seat, where the unfortunate victim was enjoying her forty winks, dreaming of home and hearth, was a convenient toilet receptacle for him to unzip his fly and blissfully disgorge the liquid contents of his bloated bladder. Imagine the lady’s shock and horror. She could not have had a ruder awakening than the poor girl who found herself trapped under a swiftly moving car in Delhi.
As if all this was not ridiculous enough, news reports tell us that another similar incident occurred on an Air India international flight of a man mistaking a passenger seat for his private bathroom to aim (not very well), shoot and flush. Is this a nasty habit that one catches, like the flu? This time, mercifully, the passenger was not physically present in the plush, seat urinal. Actually, you can forget about the flushing bit. These sloshed sons of Belial were only interested in drawing and shooting, wherever and whenever it took their urges and fancy. A modern-day Quick Draw McGraw of yesteryear cartoon fame! One of the perpetrators now has a name, but I shan’t demean my column by giving him publicity, even if it is of the extremely cheap variety. Our television, print and social media are doing the honours, with knobs on.
Inevitably, the endless, tasteless jokes must follow on social media. Toilet humour has been with us for centuries and when provided with an opportunity on a plate, such as in the present instance, Facebook and Twitter go to town with puns, cartoons and wisecracks to keep them all rolling in the aisles with helpless mirth. The Air India fracas is presently enjoying top billing in the media and is, by some distance, the lead story. Keeping close company is the pathetic tale of the girl who was fatally trapped under a car. The girls who were killed and vivisected have, for the nonce, faded into the background, if not complete oblivion. My preoccupation is not with the criminality or otherwise of all these grim tales. The law, if there is one operating in our country, can take care of such matters, even if our dilatory justice system often moves at a snail’s pace to pass sentence and mete out justice. They are far too tied up jousting with the government over appointment of judges and other such weighty matters. I can see where the Supreme Court is coming from. If you don’t have the requisite number of judges, who will do the judging?
My primary focus of attention is on our television media channels. There can be no arguing on the fact that heinous crimes like grisly murders are grist to our channels’ voracious mills. What I am not able to come to grips with is why, for a certain length of time, say a week to ten days, they behave as if nothing else is happening anywhere in the country, or indeed, in the universe that is worthy of even a passing mention. If a lady has been defiled by a drunken passenger on an international flight, by all means report it, give it the due coverage it deserves. Then, for crying out loud, move on to other things. Make Air India, deservedly, the whipping boy. Come back later to the urinary track if things move and you have some important development to convey. Perhaps Arnab’s ‘creep’ had a prostate issue and couldn’t keep it in. Who knows? Who gives a toss?
However, if every channel has nothing better than to, day after dreary day, hour after lurid hour, repeat the same story, raising an almighty stink to high heaven, you have irretrievably lost the plot and the viewer’s interest. As we used to say as school kids, ‘stale news stinks, and so do you.’ And guess what, after a week or so, the story dies a natural death and all the channels grow tired of it and we hear no more on the subject. It is as if nothing ever happened. Once the goons are apprehended, it is pretty much curtains as far as that story is concerned. The viewers have switched off and so have the television channels. Perhaps the Tatas are counting on this familiar pattern. We can now revert to Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, scuffles in parliament, analyses on forthcoming state elections, the Nifty’s erratic behaviour, the never-ending Russia-Ukraine war, India’s decline in world cricket, and so on and so forth.
Let’s face it. There must be innumerable other horrendous happenings taking place all over India and elsewhere in the world that we may not even be aware of. So let us display a sense of proportion in how much coverage we allot to these stories, and not inundate the public with minutiae of these incidents that have no bearing on the overall development of the newsbreak. In assessing the seriousness of a crime, a man urinating on a lady, in-flight, disgusting as it is, cannot compare with the severity of a girl being put to death under the wheels of a car. However, you could be forgiven for feeling otherwise, judging by the way the respective news items are covered. My own sense is that our channels love a high-profile target to lash out at. And who could be more high-profile in India’s corporate ether than the venerated Tatas and their pride and joy, India’s very own flagship airline which they once owned, lost and regained recently. It was too good an opportunity for the media to miss and they are going about it with a vengeance. This will be a supreme test of the Tatas’ resilience and PR skills to see how this highly admired institution will deal with the situation. Thus far, they have maintained a stoic silence, doubtless burning the midnight oil with their PR and advertising agencies to chalk out a suitable response. I am not sure about what the nation wants to know and how our TV channels are responding to this insatiable thirst for knowledge. Speaking for myself, I shan’t be holding my breath.
Finally, as a note of abundant caution, all passengers, if they are finicky about being pissed upon, should make a special request to the airline to provide a seat next to an abstemious teetotaler. An extra charge may apply, but look on the bright side. You will save big on laundry and dry-cleaning charges. On a less flippant note, it is high time airlines placed a cap on how much alcohol a passenger should be allowed to consume during the journey. There ought to be a cap, after which a red sign should flash, ‘THE BAR IS CLOSED.’ This may tempt some hopeless, gone-case lush to tank up before boarding, but that is a chance we are going to have to take. And it lets the airline off the hook.
Postscript: As I put this blog to bed, news is filtering in that the CEO of Air India has expressed regret at the unsavoury incident. This has set the cat among the pigeons, again, as the hyperventilating news channels go yakety-yak over whether an expression of regret constitutes an apology. Or not. I cannot even say ‘watch this space,’ because I have no intention of revisiting the subject again.