The gold standard for this was set when prime minister Narendra Modi visited Washington and New York last September. Back then we got anchors cycling down lanes, reporters asking costumed superheroes in Times Square about foreign relations and Arnab Goswami holding a special, mega, explosive, bellicose edition of the Newshour in America where he suddenly turned quiet (perhaps because of noise pollution laws in the US).
US president Barack Obama’s return visit promised plenty of the same joys. As if there isn’t enough pomp and circumstance surrounding the visit of an American president, Obama was also coming as chief guest of the Republic Day celebrations. Add to that Modi’s general penchant for showmanship, and India’s TV channels knew that had a new opportunity to grab ratings by over-covering the Modi-Obama show.
The puns came first.
A nation divided by language, religion & money, united by the singular task of coming up with puns for Obama's visit. pic.twitter.com/QREML4HiGc
— Rega Jha (@RegaJha) January 25, 2015
You know about Brangelina. But here in India, we have Mobama, the budding friendship of Obama and Modi pic.twitter.com/P4rIR4PyKI
— Anita Kumar (@anitakumar01) January 26, 2015
Our TV channels, no stranger to adding music to everything, decided to do both. Here, Aaj Tak decided to adapt a popular Hindi with some added lyrics that were a tad more topical. "Amrika se aaya mera dost, dost ko salaam karo. Rajpath se jao zara, swagath ka intizam karo."
Everything possible was covered in the run-up to Obama's arrival. Literally everything. There were discussions of the monkeys around town and whether the US president would get acid reflux. Some news outlets took a deep-dive into Obama's dietary preferences.
This is President Obama's favourite vegetable http://t.co/xTxbUN9fPN pic.twitter.com/AxtPok4fyj
— NDTV (@ndtv) January 24, 2015
This prompted others to reminisce about Indian media coverage of presidents back in the day.
@RegaJha During Clinton's visit, TOI had one paragraph in a gushing article about how the Taj in Mumbai will handle his waste. — oculus (@daddy_san) January 25, 2015
Once Obama arrived, the race was on to get the most banal news flashes and headlines possible (prompting more than a little bit of mockery).
Really has everyone just bloody gone mad? pic.twitter.com/7ztLeS1Jx0 — bookofgenesia (@genesiaalves) January 26, 2015
CNN-IBN: "BREAKING NEWS: Modi addresses Obama by his first name" — Shashank Bengali (@SBengali) January 25, 2015
Obama says “namaste” and a thousand news anchors and foreign policy analysts soil their pants. #ObamaPalooza2015 — Overrated Outcast (@over_rated) January 25, 2015
at 5:45pm president obama will make his way to nehru place to buy blackberry charger with indian plug — . (@i_r_squared) January 25, 2015
Indian TV anchors seem perplexed by the Obama-Modi hug. "That could perhaps be described as a hug," one says as the moment replays again.
— Colleen Nelson (@ColleenMNelson) January 25, 2015
TimesNow surprisingly didn't have a ridiculous hashtag to go with the visit. Because noted cartoonist RK Laxman, a long-time employee of the Times group also died on the day of the Republic Day celebrations, the channel didn't get a chance to go overboard with its Newshour coverage either. That said, its Obama coverage happened to be sponsored by both Amity University and Shine.com. As it happened, Amity University also sponsored the Obama coverage on NDTV as well.
DailyO brought in some suggestions for songs Modi should sing to Obama.
And Telugu channel TV5 decided to figure whether Obama or Modi's car was better.
All of this was a lot of hard work for some people, who couldn't quite stay awake amid all the Obama discussions.
Top left panelist on @TimesNow debate goes off to sleep. Deep sleep. pic.twitter.com/PMhYU9lpGk
— Man Aman Chhina (@manaman_chhina) January 25, 2015
And India Today's So Sorry team decided to put a pin on the whole business with one of its patented cartoons that almost seemed to make fun of its own group channel, Aaj Tak's coverage of the events.
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