Wednesday, December 01, 2010

On Bharkha Dutt - When Idols Fall

Watching the discussion of the panel of editors on the Bharkha-Radia Controversy on NDTV yesterday added to my confusion rather than resolve it. I’d have liked it much better if it had helped to decide whether the media queen was guilty or not guilty.

In the past six months, a few of my idols crumbled. For me, the most painful fall was that Of Bharkha Dutt, Sashi Tharoor and Vir Sanghvi – in that order. This post is an introspective one. My concern is not whether, say, Bharkha is innocent or guilty, but with the way my mind grapples with disillusionment when an idol falls. The experience is very unsettling.

I’m trying to analyze what happens to the votary when deities prove to have feet of clay.

The mind tries to heal the wounds by fortifying itself to absorb it. It tries to adapt itself to the new reality of the painful wounds. When Sashi Tharoor’s personal agenda behind the Kochi IPL team was exposed by the sweat equity issue, I was upset. I had not only posted blogs in support of him during the elections, but also did my bit in my personal circles to promote him. Here was a man I thought who’d been above blame in his entire career. He appeared to be a genuine person anxious to contribute his mite to making his country a better place. When the scam broke, I told myself – this cant be true. It’s the north Indian lobby working against him and his state.

Then I looked for excuses to exonerate him. I told myself that he and only he could have put Kerala on the IPL map. I tried to invest his effort in this direction with epic proportions. But an uneasy feeling kept nagging at me. Is there no integrity left in this world? Is he too a part of the greedy herd?

Then I adopted the strategy of transforming the body (my mind) on which the wounds were inflicted. So what if he did it? At least, Kerala’d gain by it.

Then cynicism took over. Well, if one has to be effective, one has to play the game this way. I started telling people –so what if Karunakaran lined his pockets heavily building the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium? He did it, didn’t he? No one else could have done it. Isn’t he better than the honest but ineffectual angel like A K Antony?

The same with Bharkha – only in her case it was even more painful. A lot of people I know don’t like her, but I’ve always thought they were jealous. The clarity of her thinking, the felicity of expression and of course, and her guts - gosh she really did us proud.

When the Radia tapes were played by channels I thought – oh no! This cant be. Not she! She can’t be corrupt!

But the tapes were too damning.

So I eagerly listened to the NDTV show with Bharkha and the editors on the Tapes. I listened to it again online. I rejoiced when Bharkha said that she was only playing along with Radia in order to gather information. I believed her. But later I realized I believed her because I wanted to believe her. I didnt want to believe that she had greased her palm portfolio peddling. I admonished my mind when it took upon itself to wonder how much was her monetary share in this power-brokering business. I wanted to believe her when she said that it was an error of judgment on her part to have dealt with such people and made promises to be a go between when she had no intention of doing it. I wanted to believe her when she said she hadn’t perceived that the nexus between the corporates and the government was a big enough story to report.

But the last one was a little too difficult to swallow. No. So sharp a mind as Ms Dutt’s cannot miss the scandalous nature, and therefore the news value of that unholy intrigue which made a mockery of the democratic aspirations of the nation. Imagine, corporates calling the shots on whom to allot portfolios to. And it was painful to suspect that the Kargil heroine and the ruthless pursuer of truth was a key figure in brokering power that makes fools of the voter and the common man!

Soon I found that I couldn’t convince myself of her innocence. The seeds of doubt were sown and watered with ‘proofs’ that she claimed were doctored.

Then that strategy that smacks of cynicism came to my rescue. What if she is dishonest? Hasn’t she done stupendous work for more than two decades? Don’t I still look forward to We The People eagerly?

What if she does what everybody else in her field is doing? What if Shasi Tharoor did what all other IPL companies were doing>

This effort involves a change in the nature of the body (mind) on which the wounds were inflicted – you know a type of numbing with anesthetic and fortification with supplements. In plain speak, I try to compromise my principles, and the things I believe in. I tell myself values and principles are not absolute. They are time and circumstances bound.

Soon the wound shows signs of healing, and with them the pain begins to subside.

This is how idols and icons condition the thinking of their votaries. I realize this. I’m getting caught up in the discourses that they represent. New values are created.

I put a break on this thread of thinking. Integrity, I tell myself, is an eternal value. It cannot be compromised – not even for Barkha Dutt.

But I can’t help wishing that some miracle would happen and Bharkha would clear her name totally and regain her place on the pedestal.


  1. Why idolise?
    And what kind of angel do you want A.K.Antony to be? Ineffectual he is , is it because his bank balance is only little over a lakh?
    If he was flamboyant, corrupt like the old nonagenarian,corrupt, unethical, power hungry fellow and the rest would you call him an effective messiah?So by the same token why can you feel bad about Tharror and Bharkha. They have proved that they are not angels.They have never claimed. But you put them on the pedestal.
    The way things are we cannot in India take news and reporting at its face value. Did any one ask what prompted Tharoor to suddenly land in Kerala and contest elections. While we have not heard him in the local dailies all these years while he was in the UN. Did he ever visit Kerala?Certainly it is not the sudden longing for his home State.The agenda is sinister and the 'la affair e IPL was only a tip.

    Well as you noted when we idolise people , the hurt is much when the idols have a mighty fall.
    Perhaps you read more into Tharoor and Bharkha than their true character were.

  2. Fortunately none of those whom you mentioned were my idols.
    Barkha Dutt nowadays sounds very arrogant and intolerant to criticism. She is too close to Congress to claim herself to be a credible journalist. She may not be corrupt but is as part of the media-corporate-politician nexus as most other journalists.

  3. My thoughts exactly.

    While Tharoor is a slightly different tale Barkha Dutt has had her lid blown before. The way she openly exhibited how hypocritical she was when she went after those bloggers and sued them, was enough to portray her caricature. I never idolized her but always had an ear to what she had to say. Not any more. She also blew her chance to set things straight in that NDTV show by being argumentative and getting animated and upset at Manu Jospeh. Didn't you notice, she didn't have any support from anyone in the panel, well except from Sonia Singh :P

    Though Vir Sanghvi committed a grave sin than Barhka it was her that, befittingly or unfortunately, took the center stage. When you fall from great heights the pain will be more. Not only for the protagonist but also for all the idol-worshippers around that person, be it you or me. One thing I've learned mam, there are no white lillies in our democratic system. The system will, eventually, get to you...

    Perhaps that's what happened with Ms. Dutt as well.

  4. Idolization, whether of Gods or humans, falls short of wisdom. Salt, you'd have read, is effective for killing the snails that have appeared in large numbers in Trivandrum!

  5. Barkha Dutt definitely was high on my list as well. What shook me was her dishonesty to her own profession, to whatever she apparently held in high esteem herself, the values I associated with her were that o clean journalism, and thats exactly where she disintegrated in front of an entire nation. Shashi Tharoor, i still try and tell myself, the same thing as you do, so what if he makes money while he is at it..atleast he is doing something constructive for the state.

  6. First of all the Comic Sans font used is not interesting to me, see its name itself is comic, and it dont appear nice to read serious topics in that font.

    Yes there are many celebrities we think are idols, we get this idolism planted in our hearts by media. Such idols are Mr.A.K.Antony and V.S.Achuthanandan, compare them with not that idolised Ummen Chandy and Pinarayi Vijayan, you will understand the later may not be idola, they may not know the way how to idolise themselves. But we dont get hurt if they do some mistakes. Ummen Chandy doesnt mind to travel in a car congested with his folk, like Mamukkoya goes in Ramji Rao Speaking or Garvasis goes in Mannar Mathai speaking, but at the same time we have read the when Mr.Kumbalangi KV Thomas tried to travel with Antony from Delhi, he doesnt allow him saying its against rules. Same type of incident occured when Mr.Karunakaran allowed a person referred 'pavam payyan' travel along with him, then how many stories were written about that incident, saying Anto was Karunakaran's left hand in murky dealings, there was a box full of gold and currency with him etc etc.

    But if we truly analyse we will see that after Achuthamenon era whatever development came to Kerala is through Karunakaran only. May it Ernakulam Air port or Kaloor stadium. Karunakaran is an able ruler and quick decision maker, but media made him a power hungry corrupt image, at the same time Antony was made a saint. But its the saint Antony's decisions who made lot of harm to Kerala than anybody else. Self financing colleges, Liquor ban etc have done just opposite to what expected.

    So we should not idolise anybody, it may be the people who doesnt cultivate an image or doesnt bother about a bad publiciy will be better persons.

    And dont judge a book by its cover. The panic ways and excuses which Barkha does in blogs and twitter are enough to prove that she is guilty.

  7. Corruption is in our genes.Politics is such a tempting field these days.There was something fishy about Tharoor from the beginning.Like Anil asked,why he chose to come back here when his family was abroad.To serve India? Money is addicting and irresistible. I don't know what he has done for the state.
    Whoever idolizes,will regret,because it is their own mistake.

  8. Great to know that none of them were my idols..

    Could see through Tharoor but then he can speak and write well.. we might as well be content with that and let him enjoy more wives :)

    as for Burkha Dutt, I think I started being wary of her after the 26/11 for the way she was exploiting the emotions of her viewers and the victims..and she has refused to aplogize unlike Vir..

    I am sure many of us knew that the media was not above corruption but I am glad that we got a chance to prove it. Hopefully these elements shall vanish and one can trust them again.

  9. No one is perfect. all have their own share of skeletons hid in closets. just a matter of getting caught or not.

  10. You should have seen her facial expressions and the uneasiness on her face on TV interview while being grilled by journalists including that from 'Open'!

  11. KPJ, you stole words from my mouth! I had written something on similar lines. As usual, I started with the caption (Idols with Feet of Clay) and then what followed was nearly a copy of your blog. Though I am sad I dare not publish it without facing charges of plagiarism, I am happy you share my thoughts.

    Anil says 'They have never claimed (that they were angels). But you put them on the pedestal.' Concurring, Dr Antony's take is that 'Whoever idolizes will regret because it is their own mistake.' Suseelan agrees and reasons out why 'we should not idolise anybody'. 'Balachandran too says 'Idolization, whether of Gods or humans, falls short of wisdom.'

    When Happy kitten and Charakan use nearly the same words: '... none of ... were my idols', they imply that when they do have some hero and heroines. I agree. I too am human and I guess I need some heroes and heroines to look up to. Though, then they fall from grace, I feel badly let down and hurt.

    Incidentally, more often than not, my view on things are different from yours and I have seen that my view generally coincides with that of Anil Kurup and Balachandran. This is one issue which is different!

  12. Thanks for posting this, I got increasingly anxious as you went through the various stages of "grief" here and was vastly relieved when you put a break to the creation of what you aptly call "new values" being created. I havent listened to enough of the radia tapes to make a judgement but I'll say Barkha fared poorly in the NDTV panel discussion. She didnt see a story about the corporate--government nexus! What next?!


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