A couple of days ago, that is the morning after "SMRITI EXPLODES", as one news channel had a band running, happened in Parliament, a respected and well-read newspaper from Kolkata came up with a headline - AUNTY NATIONAL.
Now this sparked off a virulent debate around office floor water dispensers and corner chai stall addas. Is it justified - not the debate but the headline; should a journalistic enterprise be so flippant about a minister in Parliament? And what about the intent of putting up such a headline?
The water coolers and chai stalls are divided along two verticals. Vertical one has those who are upset... rather very upset and they are not necessarily BJP supporters. Those in vertical two have two types of noticeable characteristics. There are those who cannot stop smirking and smiling, suffering from what is sometimes unofficially referred to as acute hummouroids and those who feel the usage of Aunty National is an expression of free speech. This second group is usually categorised as leftist liberals and interchangeably as anti-national Maoist traitors.
|The Telegraph's frontpage on Thursday.|
According to vertical one, the expression Aunty National in this case has been used with an obvious derogatory connotation to anti-National.
Vertical two (Hummouroids faction) say the play on words was more in context of Govinda starrer Aunty No 1 - itself based on the Marathi play Moruchi Mavshi. (HRD minister Smriti Irani had her Tulsi cut in Mumbai so the Marathi/Aunty connect is apparent, they claim.)
Vertical two (Anti-national Maoist traitor faction) say speech is free and so should headlines be. They support the right of Smriti Irani to say what she wants, in and out of Parliament, with or without melodramatic posturing, as they support any newspaper to call her bluff by bestowing on her the sobriquet - Aunty National.
The chai walla's are doing brisk business and office managers are worried about the increasingly long breaks employees are taking.
Vertical one condemns the degrading of journalistic ethics and the acute lack of civility in newspapers bid to come up with smart snappy headlines. They deride this resorting to flippancy as doom for credible journalism.
Vertical two (Hummouroids faction) continue to smirk and smile (some outright guffaws were also reported) as they repeat the catch phrase for their own enjoyment - Smriti Irani is Aunty National.
Vertical two (Anti-National Maoist Traitor faction) engage vertical one in historical discussions of headlines going back to the days of Julius Caesar. (The historical time limit of going back to about 50 BC having been arrived at, as one Maoist traitor was overheard explaining, by Aunty National's own reference to the - enemy at the gate/ enemy within quote, credited originally to Cicero - a Julian contemporary.)
While the debate continues to rage and refuses to die down I am reminded of the magazine cover that had Dr Manmohan Singh with the big block title stating DR DOLITTLE.
|This India Today cover image was scathing and sarcastic without being derogatory.|
But the most flippant one I have ever heard, was in the vernacular, from the same Calcutta, now Kolkata, made famous by the Aunty National headline. I have been told about how a Bengali daily carried the headline - Indira Gandhi Bonn theke Hague e elen. Literally translated into English and using the Bengali meanings for the two European city sounding words, this comes out as - "Indira Gandhi took a shit in the jungle".
But if the words Hague and Bonn were used as city names, the headline meant: Indira Gandhi reached The Hague from Bonn. I confess this is hearsay and I don't know if this particular headline ever graced the front page of a newspaper or it had been made up by communist anti-nationals, who were then very much coming into fashion in 1971 West Bengal.
But if this ever made it to the headline, Aunty National stands no chance of being the most hilarious, most flippant, most derogatory, most thought provoking, most nonsensical headline of all times.
Smriti Irani's parliamentary posturing pales into insignificance when it comes to Indira Gandhi's European exploits.