Satire Shot

How Indian television’s scariest people celebrate Halloween

Vampires and zombies are passé. There are scarier beings among us.

Welcome to Indian Television’s House of Horrors. Prepare yourself for a night of abject terror. Unlike other Halloween-themed amusement parks, we don’t have to rely on clowns or zombies or vampires to scare the bejeezus out of you. We have managed to gather the scariest people on Indian television for your entertainment. Enter at your own risk!

Don’t miss our popular attractions. In the awkwardly named India Today Scare Room, you can play Patriotic Improv with Gaurav Sawant. You give him names of things that you like to do, and he in turn will tell you how a disgrace like you is hurting the Indian soldier. Don’t be alarmed by the flak jacket. That’s just a thing he started wearing a few weeks ago even though the only danger he will ever face is Rajdeep Sardesai cornering him in the washroom to talk about Kishore Kumar for half an hour. No one says anything to Sawant about it because he loves to play dress up and comes to the office in different costumes all the time. Someday he pretends to be a soldier, someday a cowboy. One time he even dressed up as a journalist but we haven’t seen him don that disguise for a while now.

In the NDTV Horror Hall of Fame, the self-proclaimed august news organisation celebrates a made-up capitalist holiday whose only purpose is to get the masses to buy more things. As soon as you enter this hall, their anchor Ravish Kumar dims the lights and you’re suddenly transported into the middle of a We the People episode. Afterwards, Dorab Sopariwala takes you to a tour of his home, which is a tiny cottage under the huge table NDTV uses during Election Day broadcasts. In the finale, you get to moderate an hour-long debate between Sambit Patra, Sanjay Jha and Ashutosh.

Of course, the biggest show is at the main auditorium and is hosted by Times Now. They took it over before anyone even came in and claimed they had a right to, because they have 2565% higher ratings than any other channel. Even though the Times Now representative manning the ticket counter yells at everyone passing by without a ticket, accusing them of being anti-national, not everyone is welcome inside the hallowed auditorium. You can’t enter if you are Arundhati Roy or if you’re a student at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, or if you’ve ever received a Sahitya Akademi award, or if you aren’t excited about a nuclear war, or if you’ve ever had a thought that does not align with the opinions of Arnab Goswami. Those lucky enough to be allowed entry have to leave the following things outside: working brain cells, sense of shame, every shred of self-awareness, humanity, commitment to ethical behaviour, and blood pressure medicine. Then, they have to sign a standard disclaimer indemnifying Times Now and Bennett Coleman & Co. Limited of any physical, moral or psychological problems that may arise from attendance of the event.

The first attraction at the News 18 Fiesta Room is a mock interview with Bhupendra Chaubey in which he asks you uncomfortable and probing questions about your sex life in a sanctimonious and judgemental tone while he takes copious notes of your answers. Then, as you feel an urgent need to take a shower, you’re accosted by Zakka Jacob who only lets you go once you agree to buy a Reliance Jio 4G connection. The pièce de résistance is an hour-long speech by Swapan Dasgupta, in which he forcefully expounds about how Narendra Modi would have got more things done in the last two and a half years if only he hadn’t have to face all those distractions that are part and parcel of his job.

You may want to skip the dilapidated News X stall, though. They blew their entire budget on the neon X that adorns the entrance of the stall. Their only attraction is Rahul Shivshankar and Ashoke Pandit falsely accusing all the visitors to their booth of being under investigation by the Intelligence Bureau for connections to international jihadist groups.

Patriotic shtick 

Over the last couple of weeks, our news channels have been going after the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. But it’s not because they think what the MNS is doing is wrong. It’s more like professional jealously. They’re angry at the MNS for stealing the self-righteous patriot shtick they have got going these days. They’re mad that someone else used faux patriotism and the visage of dead soldiers for their advantage.

Gee, you dedicate a large part of your programming to unnecessarily whipping up people’s sentiments, constantly encouraging them to be angry with people who don’t agree with your conveniently adopted opinions and then you are shocked – shocked! – that someone else took advantage of that? Okay, then.

A political party metaphorically kidnapped a producer’s movie and the chief minister brokered a meeting between the kidnappers and the producers to work out the ransom amount that would have to be paid. This was a failure of so many of our institutions. The media for creating an environment the MNS could take advantage of. The police for failing to protect theatres and moviegoers. The various organisations that joined the boycott for not standing up to the bullies. And the state government, for reducing the writ of the state from a mere bystander to a ransom facilitator.

Which is why those who tell us that we shouldn’t question our institutions need a civics lesson. All our institutions are run by humans and humans are not infallible. Not even the ones who claim to be appointed by god. If you’ve ever had to deal with a local, state or central government entity, you would know how far away from infallible they are.

So yes, there shouldn’t be a blind trust of any institution. No one should get a free pass – not even the army. There is a reason there is civilian oversight of the armed forces. We have a parliament, not a military junta. We’re a constitutional republic, not a tinpot military dictatorship. There are some people who don’t like that. We need to protect our democracy from such pseudo-nationalists.

Snake-oil salesman

Pseudo-nationalists are the sort of people whose love for their country only exists to serve their nefarious purpose. Their patriotism seems to wake up the minute they start losing an argument. Because their love is superficial, they tend to over-compensate by pretending that the object of their fake affection is perfect and should not be subject to any criticism at all.

So all those people who want to shut down any sort of dissent, you’re only fooling yourself. You’re not patriotic. You’re like a child in old-time movies selling newspapers with sensational headlines. Extry, extry! You don’t care about the country. You only care about making money. You don’t care about our soldiers. If you did, then you wouldn’t be trying to create a situation that would risk many of their lives.

Yes, you can have your high ratings. You can emotionally manipulate the thousands of people who share your sense of emasculation. You can sit behind a camera and pretend to be brave. You can wear camouflage jackets and play dress-up all you want, but you’ll remain nothing more than a snake-oil salesman who specialises in selling empty boxes of phoney patriotism.

We already have an example of a country that doesn’t question its army in our neighbourhood. A country that exists to serve the army, instead of the other way around. A country where the army chief has more power than its elected representatives. We’re far away from ending up like it, but that is the path this cosmetic hero worship will leads us to.

I guess what they say is true. You do turn into the very people you hate.

Who’d a thunk it?

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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Some of the worst decisions made in history

From the boardroom to the battlefield, bad decisions have been a recipe for disaster

On New Year’s Day, 1962, Dick Rowe, the official talent scout for Decca Records, went to office, little realising that this was to become one of the most notorious days in music history. He and producer Mike Smith had to audition bands and decide if any were good enough to be signed on to the record label. At 11:00 am, either Rowe or Smith, history is not sure who, listened a group of 4 boys who had driven for over 10 hours through a snowstorm from Liverpool, play 15 songs. After a long day spent listening to other bands, the Rowe-Smith duo signed on a local group that would be more cost effective. The band they rejected went on to become one of the greatest acts in musical history – The Beatles. However, in 1962, they were allegedly dismissed with the statement “Guitar groups are on the way out”.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Decca’s decision is a classic example of deciding based on biases and poor information. History is full of examples of poor decisions that have had far reaching and often disastrous consequences.

In the world of business, where decisions are usually made after much analysis, bad decisions have wiped out successful giants. Take the example of Kodak – a company that made a devastating wrong decision despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Everyone knows that Kodak couldn’t survive as digital photography replaced film. What is so ironic that Alanis Morissette could have sung about it, is that the digital camera was first invented by an engineer at Kodak as early as 1975. In 1981, an extensive study commissioned by Kodak showed that digital was likely to replace Kodak’s film camera business in about 10 years. Astonishingly, Kodak did not use this time to capitalise on their invention of digital cameras – rather they focused on making their film cameras even better. In 1996, they released a combined camera – the Advantix, which let users preview their shots digitally to decide which ones to print. Quite understandably, no one wanted to spend on printing when they could view, store and share photos digitally. The Advantix failed, but the company’s unwillingness to shift focus to digital technology continued. Kodak went from a 90% market share in US camera sales in 1976 to less than 10% in 2012, when it filed for bankruptcy. It sold off many of its biggest businesses and patents and is now a shell of its former self.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Few military blunders are as monumental as Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia. The military genius had conquered most of modern day Europe. However, Britain remained out of his grasp and so, he imposed a trade blockade against the island nation. But the Russia’s Czar Alexander I refused to comply due to its effect on Russian trade. To teach the Russians a lesson, Napolean assembled his Grand Armée – one of the largest forces to ever march on war. Estimates put it between 450,000 to 680,000 soldiers. Napoleon had been so successful because his army could live off the land i.e. forage and scavenge extensively to survive. This was successful in agriculture-rich and densely populated central Europe. The vast, barren lands of Russia were a different story altogether. The Russian army kept retreating further and further inland burning crops, cities and other resources in their wake to keep these from falling into French hands. A game of cat and mouse ensued with the French losing soldiers to disease, starvation and exhaustion. The first standoff between armies was the bloody Battle of Borodino which resulted in almost 70,000 casualties. Seven days later Napoleon marched into a Moscow that was a mere shell, burned and stripped of any supplies. No Russian delegation came to formally surrender. Faced with no provisions, diminished troops and a Russian force that refused to play by the rules, Napolean began the long retreat, back to France. His miseries hadn’t ended - his troops were attacked by fresh Russian forces and had to deal with the onset of an early winter. According to some, only 22,000 French troops made it back to France after the disastrous campaign.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to sports, few long time Indian cricket fans can remember the AustralAsia Cup final of 1986 without wincing. The stakes were extremely high – Pakistan had never won a major cricket tournament, the atmosphere at the Sharjah stadium was electric, the India-Pakistan rivalry at its height. Pakistan had one wicket in hand, with four runs required off one ball. And then the unthinkable happened – Chetan Sharma decided to bowl a Yorker. This is an extremely difficult ball to bowl, many of the best bowlers shy away from it especially in high pressure situations. A badly timed Yorker can morph into a full toss ball that can be easily played by the batsman. For Sharma who was then just 18 years old, this was an ambitious plan that went wrong. The ball emerged as a low full toss which Miandad smashed for a six, taking Pakistan to victory. Almost 30 years later, this ball is still the first thing Chetan Sharma is asked about when anyone meets him.

So, what leads to bad decisions? While these examples show the role of personal biases, inertia, imperfect information and overconfidence, bad advice can also lead to bad decisions. One of the worst things you can do when making an important decision is to make it on instinct or merely on someone’s suggestion, without arming yourself with the right information. That’s why Aegon Life puts the power in your hands, so you have all you need when choosing something as important as life insurance. The Aegon Life portal has enough information to help someone unfamiliar with insurance become an expert. So empower yourself with information today and avoid decisions based on bad advice. For more information on the iDecide campaign, see here.

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This article was produced on behalf of Aegon Life by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.