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Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 9, February 14, 2009

Follies of the Republic

Thursday 19 February 2009, by Meher Engineer



Subhas Borker describes the most alarming of the many disorders of the Indian Republic (“Rapid Inclusive Growth: The Only Way Forward”, Mainstream, January 23-29, 2009) well. He uses the language of psychology to draw parallels between the disorders and psychological states like Schizophrenia and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Thanks to him. Thanks, also, to those who signed the admirable plea for media restraint in South Asia (DOCUMENT, ibid.). More on that after a few comments on Borker’s article.

One, Frances Reynolds’ famous description of Samuel Johnson at the threshold of a doorway—“on entering Sir Joshua’s house with poor Mrs Williams, a blind lady who lived with him, he would quit her hand, or else whirl her about on the steps as he whirled and twisted about to perform his gesticulations; and as soon as he had finished, he would give a sudden spring and make such an extensive stride over the threshold, as if he were trying to wager how far he could stride...”—underlines just how apt Borker’s descriptions are.

Two, the motor tic that made Johnson twist and turn before a doorway runs parallel to the verbal tic that makes so many (most?) members of the Indian governing class preface every discussion on the State of the Republic with over long panegyrics on “our miraculous, post- structural reforms rate of economic growth”, whether by seven or eight, or even, by the grace of one of the Republic’s too many gods, ten per cent!

Three, Johnson suffered all his life from his ghastly illness. Will the follies of the masters force the same fate on the Indian people? We do not know but it’s terrifying to think that they might.

Four, its equally terrifying to learn that OCDs start in childhood because the Republic—now at the same stage in its as yet incomplete life—has similar symptoms. Time will tell whether they will stay till death.

Views of the Republic’s follies find little space in today’s electronic media and, although I may be wrong in thinking so, in the daily English newspapers. A content analysis—long overdue —should settle the latter issue. Pending that, and given the difficult times that we are living through, it felt good to see the views presented in the DOCUMENT, in print. The antics of many TV anchors, and some TV correspondents, seen every-day on TV screens around the country and abroad, are no less irrational than Admiral Suresh Gupta’s threat to “chop off the heads” of TV reporters for daring to disobey him during November’s security debacle in Mumbai. Such threats are par for the course for military men, accustomed to obeying orders. The antics are not, for the men and women of the media. When it comes to reporting on the rich and the powerful, heresy is the mother of truth. TRP ratings are not.

January 29, 2009


Meher Engineer

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