Going Nuclear on TV

As a national spokesperson of the Congress party, I have always been TV channel-anchor agnostic. There are no "friends" in this complex equation. At best, you are professional acquaintances. They have to boost TRPs; we have to state our party position."

It was our friend Sanjay (the once ubiquitous, alas not so now) Jha commenting on the famous Times Now Debate in which his mid-level but constant sparring with Arnab Goswami suddenly went nuclear.

Sanjay Jha Arnab Goswami
Sanjay Jha and Arnab Goswami

The subject had been Rahul Gandhi’s return that day after a long leave of absence and the fact that Times Now had hash-tagged the program #Privacy or Paranoia, somewhat laid out the evening’s agenda. To his credit, Jha, who had the distinctly awkward job of explaining the Congress Veepee’s long leave of absence, had his boxing gloves ready to field Goswami’s quickfire baiting.

He got in a few punches with snide retorts alluding to the Oxbridge-educated Goswami’s understanding of the Queen’s language and digs at PM Modi’s late marital declaration. But in the end, it was a lost cause and under the onslaught of Arathi Jerath, Sankarshan Thakore and a particularly snide Nalin Kohli, it was clear that the clipped and proper Congress spokesperson had been stung to the quick.

"Frankly I was nonplussed," said Jha, when we spoke to him yesterday. "I’ve participated in many such debates but not only was the hostility uncalled for, but there also seemed to be no provocation for it." He said about a particularly rock bottom moment, when Goswami threatened that he might have to ask him "to leave the show."

"This breech of decency created a huge outcry on social media and, I am sure, was noted in my party’s highest echelons," said Jha, adding, "I did not respond in kind because, frankly, we have been brought up differently." Have the two gladiators kissed and made up since, we enquired, always curious to know if high- decibel TV spats segue into bonhomie over tea and biscuits once the mics are removed. "No," said
Jha tersely.

Will he return if Goswami invites him? We prodded gently. "Yes," said the brave man stoically. "Because I have my party’s position to represent." Make that call, Goswami. Give peace a chance.

Press peer awards
"I was absolutely delighted when the administrators of the RedInk Awards wrote to us a couple of days ago to tell us that we’d won the award for best news start-up of the year," said Naresh Fernandes, editor of Scroll.in, the news site, fast becoming the go-to portal for those seeking an alternative source of news and features.

Supriya Sharma of Scroll on stage with journalist-author Mrinal Pande (left) and Gopal Gandhi, former governor of Bengal
Supriya Sharma of Scroll on stage with journalist-author Mrinal Pande (left) and Gopal Gandhi, former governor of Bengal

"Among the projects we’re most proud of is the ‘Window Seat’ series by Supriya Sharma, who set out on a 2,500-km train journey a few weeks before the general elections, to talk to ordinary people about how they perceived politics and politicians," said Fernandes, always one to defer glory.

"And this Thursday, at the NCPA our RedInk award will be received by Mridula Chari, our youngest reporter and one who has been with us since we started." The Mumbai Press Club, as peer and professional recognition for path-breaking stories and to encourage good, ethical journalism, has instituted the RedInk awards.

Other awardees this year are Dr Prannoy Roy (lifetime achievement), Arnab Goswami, (‘Impact Editor’) and Sreenivasan Jain (‘Journalist of the Year’.)

RIP Ivan Stolfi
Recently a pall had fallen on many a young person. It was the news that the handsome young Ivan Stolfi, who’d made Goa his home and was a talented baker who’d once worked at the popular Thalassa, was gravely ill.

Ivan Stolfi
Ivan Stolfi

Described by all who knew him as "one of the most amazing sweet-hearted smiley person we know" Stolfi had met with a serious bike accident in mid-March while returning home one night, and was in a coma for over a month in the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Galaxy Hospital in Goa.

So you can imagine the grief amongst his family, friends and loved ones, when the handsome young man in the prime of his life succumbed to his injuries this Sunday.

And as tributes to him were posted on the net, the most apt one was from a relative who quoted John Donne’s most poignant rebuke to cruel fate: "Death Be Not Proud" under his beatific smiling image.

How art makes a difference
This is perhaps the most basic reason why we need art: it makes our lives easier, more liveable, and more empathetic. Following the release of Shonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw, which not only turned the focus on the case of the differently-abled but also on the film’s inspiration, her cousin, writer Malini Chib, the accolades have been coming in swift and fast.

Kalki Koechlin in Margarita with a Straw Malini Chib
Kalki Koechlin in Margarita with a Straw and Malini Chib

"Yesterday I was strolling along Russell Square when suddenly I was stopped by a woman from Nairobi ‘Are you the one whose story is Margarita with a Straw?’ I smiled and nodded," recounted Chib about a recent encounter. "We chatted. It appeared that her sister-in-law had cerebral palsy," says Chib, who, by agreeing to share her story, has empowered so many others.

"I hope indeed the film will bring out more disabled people and give us a chance to lead a normal life Thank you, Shonali and Nilesh, for making it happen and spreading the word," she said.

The Good Samaritan
Word comes in that the Indian-born Nepali-origin ace photographer Rohan Shrestha (son of India’s pioneering photographers Rakesh Shrestha) is doing his bit for aid and relief work in Nepal. Rohan sent out a post on social media stating he would soon be heading to Nepal with a team of two medics and a disaster management expert.

Rohan Shrestha
Rohan Shrestha

"Funds and relief are not reaching the right people as the epicentre is outside Kathmandu and the villages are stranded," he posted. "We pledge to be doing ground relief work and I will email all of you back the details of where and how your donations have helped."

The post has been shared numerous times in the young influential circles of the city and has been garnering much support. Nice!

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