The Honest Diary of a Patriotic Primetime News Anchor


The Honest Diary of a Patriotic Primetime News Anchor

Illustration: Sushant Ahire/Arré

Dear Diary,

Today, yet again, I learnt that it is not very soul-friendly to compete in a profession where Arnab Goswami sets the bar. He may have the stomach, but I found myself questioning if I do. Yes, I did agree to play this game, but now I am receiving angry letters from my core audience – a section of which patriotically sent their kids abroad to get their BA Entire Pakora degree, only to discover that they’d been lied to.

Obviously, it’s morally degrading to lie. Especially about being a university which hands out authentic pakora degrees. Clearly, some failed opposition neta is behind this conspiracy. These liars are making Modiji look bad, because they attempt to ruin all his work. As I told the bright young ’uns at my recent talk at AMU, “Ek baar tal ke toh dekho (Fry it and see for yourself).” (I admit, it helped that a giant portrait of a pakoda hung imposingly above me as I fried in demonstration.)

Sorry, losing my train of thought a little. It’s late and I’m a little drunk.

Somebody who shall go unnamed (Biplab Deb) called me Diet Arnab today. It stung, dear Diary. I mean, woah mitr, aren’t we on the same team here? I went to the nearest Patanjali theka and drowned myself in a bottle of Johnny Walker Bhagwa Label, all the while thinking furiously of a comeback I could hurl at that damn Biplab Deb! I think I have one: O listen mister Biplab, you person… I forgot.

If there’s one thing I have learnt, it’s to display anger when it comes to issues of women’s safety.

Anyway. I have a point to make in all this. Even though I know none of this is Modiji’s fault, my job is kinda getting harder. It’s hard to defend his ministers nowadays. It was hard to say Padmavati 3,456 times in a night. It was hard to convince people about GPS currency, choreograph talvar scenes in newsrooms, and sound like I know anything about Kashmir — but I try.

And if being in a constant rage and finding traitors from thin air isn’t difficult enough, it is a downright Hanumanian effort to sound like I’m speaking on behalf of earthy, non-negotiable religious sentiments of the poor, when I clearly look like I had a Yahoo account in the ’90s.

Dear Diary, I have to make another confession: At the last post-work gomutra pe charcha (a totally voluntary office practice), I had a near-breakdown trying to distinguish those I’m allowed to target from those I’m forbidden from targeting. This political “parivaar” is very frustrating. Who is in it, who isn’t, who left, who returned — the answers change irritatingly often without warning. Am I allowed to like Yeddyurappa or not? And where do we stand on Tamil Nadu?

Because of this conspiracy, I’ve had to do a complete 180 degree on my fiery critique of Nitish Kumar. Then, just as I was about to unleash my painstakingly researched two-hour special tribute to Praveen Togadia, I got a call saying I cannot. When Asaram was convicted, I took the first step and made a call myself to ask what was possible to report.

First, they laughed at me because I still use words like “reporting”. Then, I was informed that I lacked a conscience for even seeking clarifications about a convicted rapist and that I should show more journalistic spine.  

Somebody who shall go unnamed (Biplab Deb) called me Diet Arnab today. It stung, dear Diary.

I have to swallow such things all the time.

Then I get showered with such hurtful remarks from some pseudo-sickulars that sometimes it is painful to carry on. They say I’m an opportunist, a sarkari puppet. These fake intellectuals and minority appeasers have the nerve to question whether my heart is in the right place. Well it is! It beats firmly in rhythm with national interests. Quit playing games with it.

Let’s be real, Diary. These Afzal premis have forgotten the one primal rule: Don’t hate the player, hate the game. In times then, as in times now, the principle has been the same: what sells, sells. For years, when the pseudos dominated primetime TV, nobody complained. Those overfamiliar, darbari interviews with your PCs and Aiyars — beautiful English and all — were totally fine, were they not? Now it’s our time and we will milk this for all its worth and get an even more eye-watering colour scheme for our ticker. We will also make heaps of money (but the nation does not want to know that).

These Aurangutans ask for a lot. Even though I follow Goswami’s Third Law and always offset my agenda by occasionally going the other way to give the illusion of balance, they are never satisfied. They should be. That’s the most they will get.

You, dear Diary, are wondering what the first two laws are. The Second Law is tricky: It involves sincere mock honesty. If there’s one thing I have learnt, it’s to display anger when it comes to issues of women’s safety. It’s an evergreen topic that kind of dulls the political rabidity. When people see someone who was recently defending the indefensible, suddenly take the lead in an urgent and just cause, they get confused. If you can’t attack a party, just attack politics. The First Law, anthropologists have discovered, traces its origin back to Sunny Deol’s Fourth Law, which insists that you should always sound like you personally diffused a Pakistani landmine only minutes ago.

However, somebody recently told me that I am complicit in fascism being ushered into the country. Of course, my suggestion to him was that Karachi is beautiful this time of the year, but still, it left me rattled. I often try to see if there’s something I’m missing. But whenever this weird, unrecognisable feeling comes, the chariot wheels of my brain turn and I start streaming videos of myself on YouTube. This gets me so mad that I forget about whatever I was thinking before.

I should sleep now, Diary. That bloody Biplab’s smug face is still swimming in my mind and I have to be up early. Oh hey, before I forget… I hope you don’t mind, but I will be submitting you for corrections tomorrow. Don’t worry, the Hero Honda Central Dalmia Institute of Swacch Diaries is a short walk from here.

Yours truly,

I Was Just Doing My Job