I love our newspapers, sometimes more than I love the Guardian whom at present I love most intensely since they’ve shared with us an extract from Philip Pullman’s Once Upon a Time in the North, the book that will be the background to the Northern Lights trilogy. Newspapers in India realise that we live in troubled, traumatic, cynical times and so they take it upon themselves to give us something for the pain every morning. This, perhaps, is the secret behind the Times of India’s stupendous circulation (it’s got the highest readership for an English daily in the world, apparently).
It’s because of the Times of India that I know that Warren Buffet is going to appear as himself in an episode of the soap opera All My Children, that “pollution is contributing to global warming” (*GASP! No! Why didn’t anyone tell us before?!) and that women are more likely to like greens and men more likely to prefer meat ( this is something that most people who have one or more brothers or a boy friend or a boyfriend have been able to gauge but hey, if it comes from Agence France-Presse, that’s serious stuff that deserves a big slab of space in the middle of the page). Only the Times of India will have an article titled “Indian volcanoes destroyed dinos” communicating oodles of conviction only to finish off the story with a quote from a senior volcanologist saying, “It certainly bolsters the case, though it doesn’t prove it.”
Yesterday morning, if you turned to the page titled “Nation”, the experience of reading it was almost as good as watching Seinfeld. For example, “Centre to aid terror victims soon” had under it “Cabinet okays MoU with Malaysia on jobs” which almost made it seem as though the aid for terror victims was a job in Malaysia. Just to add to the randomness, the other paragraph under the aid for terror victims header told us that 15 Polar Satellite Launch Vehicles have been approved.
On that page you also found out that the United States of America has barred employers from filing more than one H1B visa per worker in a fiscal year. Now don’t go all technical on me and say this is about the laws of a nation other than ours. There’s enough Indians in the US in who clamour for H1Bs and are therefore affected by this law. If they’re affected over there, we’re affected over here. Just because they’re desperate to stay out of this nation by getting a visa to stay in another doesn’t mean we’re going to neglect them.
The major story in this page, however, is how three Indian soldiers were killed and two were injured during an exercise by the Indian Army. In case this depresses you terribly, the accompanying picture has two soldiers dressed like the love child of a yeti and a gorilla. Ok, this may be how soldiers camouflage themselves in certain conditions but surely there were some soldiers in the exercise who didn’t look like they had procured Robert Downey Junior’s costume and make-up guy from Fur at a bargain. I want to mourn the soldiers who died during the Brazen Chariots exercise (Brazen? As in the adjective that means “made of brass” and also “impudent and shameless”? Smart move.) but I have to say, at this point, I want to take the Army chief aside and give him some pointers about what pictures to release to the press. On the other hand, if this is a canny ploy to distract attention from the dead soldiers by exposing the lamentable fashion sense in the military (Eddie Izzard has such a brilliant bit on this though it has to be said, our Army’s wardrobe seems far more varied than Izzard figured), then their efforts have met with success. Apparently, the numbers joining the army are falling (this isn’t in the Times of India, naturally. You’re expecting actual fact and hard news in the country’s most-read newspaper? Pshaw!). With pictures and items like this floating about, I’m not surprised.