Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Home is where the heat is

(Published in Business Standard on April 20, 2013)

There are many delightful side effects to getting the heck out of Delhi in the summer. One is that, for a few days, you stop getting pan-seared when you step out the door. Another, right up there, is that you leave Delhi. At this moment in the nation’s history, that means leaving behind, for just a few precious days, the ceaseless tide of chatter about Nobody-Knows-Him and You-Know-Who. Don’t make me say either their names or their cutesy shorthand codes (you know, along the lines of J.Lo and K.Jo), because I will barf if I have to hear or see them one more time. I’ll just say that if you don’t know what ‘beehive’ or ‘five-F formula’ mean, you are probably deceased. Quite likely pan-seared to death. Lucky you.

We’ve been thus deluged with stories about these two fellows because the media wants attention, and nothing gets people’s attention like a fight. You know the syndrome: Folks will merrily skip through war-torn rubble, step lightly over people lying on the street with foam coming out of their mouth, be completely unable to see or hear the wretched of the earth tapping on their car windows for a few coins—but if someone yells ‘Fight!’ within a 10km radius, their heads will spin immediately and accurately in that direction, sometimes a full 180 degrees; they’ll drop whatever they’re doing, and race to the spot. There they will proceed to stand around gaping, smirking, placing bets and egging the contestants on. They can’t help it, that impulse is on some ancient human frequency too powerful to ignore—like whale song, or bat radar, or salmon swimming home. So when the media yells ‘Fight, fight!’ everyone’s head metaphorically spins around, and they proceed to stand around gaping, smirking, placing bets and egging the contestants on.

The funny thing is that it is not at all clear whether Nobody-Knows-Him or You-Know-Who are even actually fighting. If they are, it’ll be fun to watch. The media doesn’t actually need them to be contesting in order to make a contest out of it; they can build that up all by themselves. But if it turns out that it was a real fight all along, actually starring the two of them rather than merely on behalf of nameless others in their respective parties—well, just the thought of it is enough to make people break out into opinions.

Each camp’s supporters loathe the other camp, and maintain a cheerful blindness to the opposite side’s strengths. Dislike is fecund soil for wit and creative insult (though nobody has been able to beat Shakespeare at that game). The really fun part of any face-off, as everyone knows, is not in what’s being played out in the ring, but in standing around arguing about it to the point where the actually protagonists are more or less irrelevant. It’s all very meta and all very amusing.

And yet, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing—at this moment you might say waaaay too much of a good thing—so I’m delighted to be out of the country at this moment. I know they’ll probably require me to leave at some point. I will resist, I will resist valiantly, because the temperatures here are about half of what they are in Delhi. But karma has me on a long stretchy leash. Eventually one has to turn one’s face up to the sun, read the thermometer, face the music, and recognise that home is where the heat is.

Besides, I thought I heard someone yell ‘Fight!’

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