31 May 14

On The Trough Of A Wave

On why it’s only fair we wait for the trough of the BJP wave, and the media’s refusal to let election frenzy die a peaceful death.


Rahul Roushan, the blade-runner of Faking News once tweeted, “Narendra Modi to contest from two seats. If he loses from one, will prove Modi wave. Crest and Trough”.

Indeed, a wave by definition must possess a trough in addition to a crest, and while there is little doubt that the recent general election witnessed a Modi wave – an event that catapulted the Bharatiya Janata Party to a historic high – what everyone is waiting for now is the inevitable trough. And why shouldn’t we? The government, run by hundreds of men and women – independent thinkers all, some with a personal agenda, some without, some with bloated egos, some not – will eventually run into problems of its own making, just like a large corporation. It would then be upon its CEO to solve them to the best of his ability, and if he fails to do so the knives will be out. This is only fair in a democracy – to wait for the trough. Some wait for it gleefully, others with trepidation, but wait they all do.

What we haven’t witnessed as yet, though, is a trough of another kind. The quiet after the crescendo that allows one to introspect and enjoy the proverbial Sunday – a day of rest after the travails of a difficult week. I talk of the media – both electronic as well as print – that continues to ride the crest post-election. There has been no quiet period to reflect upon the maddening frenzy that accompanied its election coverage which, for some media houses began a good six months before the election. The votes have been counted, a new government has been sworn in, it is too soon to criticise its actions, but we continue surfing the crest of this wave without as much as waiting to exhale. It is as though our media never suffered any effects of anti-incumbency, hop-off-hop-on to the next session as it were.

A reader, a viewer – a consumer – looks for and desires solitude after a historic event that had subsumed all his emotions. One cannot watch football or cricket in the days that immediately follow a month-long World Cup – it is impossible and inhuman for one not to be repelled by it. This also extends to those who are active participants: India, under the same Dhoni who won us the 2011 cricket World Cup, were thrashed 4-0 by lowly England in the aftermath of the World Cup euphoria. Ultimately, it’s all to do with steam. Every iota of one’s energy went into the Great Indian General Election – and now that it is over, the participants – and by participants I now mean the collected junta – want a day of rest. That hasn’t come.

Granted, quiet days, days of solitude and reflection are not our forté as a people, but to see the same tempo sustain on news channels and newspapers as if we are still in the middle of an election, is not only duplicitous it is also hugely off-putting. There is no longer any point in discussing the successes or the failures of the Gujarat model, it is no longer necessary to highlight the woefulness of the Congress, no more than it is to carry on ridiculing Arvind Kejriwal and his antics – we’ve done these to death these past months. May 16th was the inflection point beyond which lay an unexplored land, to be inhabited by unexplored faces. But all we see are the same old faces churning out the same old arguments with the same old panache (or lack of it).

The Mona Lisa has been removed from the museum wall but we are forced to gawk interminably at the soiled impression left by its gilded frame, gawk at the empty square and imagine the Mona Lisa. Forced to experience the high without the instrument that delivers it.

There is no news, there are no trip-ups, the week-old government is taking its first baby steps, and yet the bombardment on news channels continues unabated – this, the unending allegro that fails to slow down – like a Soprano on acid. Inevitably, in the absence of news – a large part of which is criticism and opinion, controversies have to be manufactured for them to become news. Intellectuals have to appear daily to chatter on topics that are of little relevance, opinions have to be written by the column-yard, new ministers have to be advised, derided, lampooned, taken to the cleaners. It is exhausting. Why not wait instead, for controversies to surface on their own? The nation needs rest after a historic, mind-numbing phase – the nation demands it, and everyone – especially those keen observers on social media who enjoyed every bit of the election extravaganza – need the Sunday quiet. This should have been the time for the media to focus on human stories, on world events, on art and culture, on science, on topics that it barely covers at the best of times. Instead, what we are forced to consume are the political stories and shenanigans we became so familiar with over the past months. Phew, indeed.

Let us not forget that the trough of a wave is as important as the crest, for it cradles the next high.


This article first appeared in newslaundry on May. 31, 2014.

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