Tharoor, Sania, IPL, and Other National Distractions

April 13, 2010
Aaman Lamba

Indian polity can be said to have arrived as it were, on the world stage, with a constant parade of popular affairs for the media and cognoscenti to sink their teeth into, masticate on, pontificate, and then move on to the next grist-worthy scrap. Larger macro-economic and political matters requiring greater cogitation can be deferred to the think-tanks, policy wonks, and 32-page essay types that feel them of greater import while bread and circuses satiate the populace.

The discussions du jour range from the Sania-Shoaib-Ayesha marriage to the recent imbroglio involving Union Minister Shashi Tharoor and IPL impresario Lalit Modi around the ambiguous ownership structure of the putative Kochi IPL franchise. Interestingly enough, each of these seemingly tabloid-themed issues exposes or uncovers larger truths about Indian society and the disequilibrium between our story about ourselves and the emerging social structures. Much like immensely popular websites celebrating exhibitionist small-town bourgeoisie coexist with moralistic panchayats condemning unapproved liaisons, these issues expose changing concepts of conspicuous consumption and alternate choices of lifestyle or mates.

The media, to their credit, makes every effort to appear fair and balanced, following up the Ayesha-Shoaib-Sania or the Tharoor-Sunanda-Modi triangles with Naxal-Nuke-Inflation reports, delivered with equal seriousness and rigor. The scrolling bars and breaking news indicate however the currency of the realm is frequency of updates, which is where the distinction becomes evident. More important than manufacturing consent, it appears, is the need to manufacture interest.

Bread and circuses will ever be popular diversions, especially if, like the IPL, they are larger than life, and spill over from the sports and entertainment pages to the front page. This gives armchair desi critics and the like the opportunity to spout forth while the industrious strivers continue their efforts.

From an informational perspective, matters unreported seem to pause and carry on their activities in a subterranean realm, emerging every now and then like quiescent faults striving to release pressure and divert, if momentarily, from surface streams that bubble their way along. One expects, though, that people in public office focus their attention on matters of public concern, such as foreign affairs, rather than being a constant distraction, twittering their foibles or phoning them in, as it were.

Aaman Lamba is the Publisher of Desicritics.org, a Blogcritics network site. He also blogs, more infrequently nowadays, at Audit Trails Of Self
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