Let me start with a warning: This story contains sickening details, and you will feel like vomiting.
It was around 10:15 Tuesday night, February 25. A full blown riot was continuing in Delhi. The Indian news television was too busy in its relentless coverage of the Trumps on their exotic India tour, but off and on, it kept cutting into its telecast to tell you what was happening in North East Delhi. But then, displaying great alacrity and news sense, it would return to the Trumps waving hands to the natives.
For the most part, dead bodies kept falling on the horizontal scroll crawling at the bottom of the television screen.
At 10:15, when the India Today and Aaj Tak channels were flashing 13 dead and 135 injured on that bottom scroll, and the Trumps had just left India, the India Today and Aaj Tak channels immediately went in for some “LIVE” coverage, with National Affairs Editor Rahul Shrivastava managing a scoop: an interview of Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-In-Chief of the India Today Group.
Clearly, it could not have waited.
When a news channel of years of experience has its Chairman and Editor-in-Chief on air, LIVE, and gets a journalist of a seniority no less than its National Affairs Editor to interview him at a time when parts of Delhi are engulfed by flames and smoke is billowing out and hospitals are struggling to cope with the injured being wheeled in and the dead body count is rising, you have to listen carefully, very very carefully.
The Editor-in-Chief had finally decided to talk. How could he remain silent after two earth shattering events?
“President Trump was in his usual dark suit. I can’t remember his tie but he was dressed like he normally is. The First Lady was in a very elegant long gown.”
They were standing in the Vijay Chowk. It was an outdoor shoot. The world’s media was there because a US President had come to India. It was the biggest event on the globe, if you go by the sarkari line of event projection.
And here was the Editor-in-Chief weighing in. He could not let any detail slip his notice:
“I asked from the designer, who was there with me, what’s the colour of this gown. She said it’s called ‘light rouge’,” Aroon Purie explained.
Purie is apparently a very good observer, particularly when you consider what all he had to ignore to concentrate on what really mattered to the Chairman of a group who is also the Editor-in-Chief of multiple channels, magazines and other journalistic publications.
You might not appreciate it because you might not have covered beautiful visiting women accompanying the United States’ president in the backdrop of people being hacked to death less than 20 kilometres away from Raisina Hill, but this was a pair of journalists with impeccable credentials.
“She’s of course beautiful and attractive, she was also very attentive, not stiff,” Aroon Purie was talking about Melania Trump, who had thought it prudent and in keeping with the highest humane traditions of not allowing riots, corpses and homes ablaze, to interrupt her visit to a Happiness Class in a Delhi school.
Purie seems to have forgotten to praise Melania for displaying such a touching sense of good guest etiquette.
“She was very warm, went down the line greeting everyone with great warmth. She made a very good impression on people,” Purie was effusive with his praise, fumbling for even more beautiful words that could go with Melania’s gown.
All this while, hundreds of armed goons were moving in the streets of the national capital, killing people, setting fire to houses and people, stabbing, maiming people on the basis of religion but clearly, that story could not compete at prime time. This was a LIVE interview on an urgent subject. Purie was within touching distance of women accompanying a president of the United States, a President known for his extremely feminist views and a heightened sense of respect for women.
As everyone knows, it is just not possible that our beloved Prime Minister Narendra Modi would ever invite a world leader, no matter how powerful, who proclaims that he has been grabbing women if he liked them.
This is what Donald Trump had been caught on tape, saying about women: “You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” (You can click here to read more about Donald Trump on Tape.)
But let us not be distracted from the India Today’s Editor-in-Chief’s LIVE interview to the National Affairs Editor at prime time.
The scroll said “Curfew imposed in four areas.” It said, “Para military forces deployed.” It added, “Delhi Ghaziabad border sealed.” It affected thousands when it flashed: “CBSE exams postponed in Delhi areas.”
But the LIVE telecast from Vijay Chowk was captivating. The National Affairs Editor asked the Editor-in-Chief about Ivanka Trump, and also reminded him that “she is very popular on social media.” Clearly, you could hear Aroon Purie’s heart break (or was it the sound of some people being lynched a few kilometres away?) as he rues that he could not get to speak to her.
But that is no reason to not speak in equally flamboyant terms about her.
“I couldn’t get to speak to Ivanka …she was on the sides…she was seated next to Chief Minister (Manohar Lal) Khattar (Heartbreak music please!). I would like to know what they spoke (about) because they were speaking a little bit but I did not get to meet her. But she was, of course, most elegantly dressed in a white kind of floral dress and she’s extremely tall and stands out anywhere.”
While we search for corroborating evidence for how Ivanka Trump stands tall anywhere at all since the reports about the intellectual prowess of the Trumps are a little mixed, you must not miss for the world for the National Affairs Editor’s next query:
“When Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi went to meet (US President Barack) Obama in the White House, we heard a lot about how he had nimbu pani and it was a fasting day. Did the Trumps really eat here?”
The rival channels were now flashing a higher death toll. You could surf all across the news channels but there was no escaping the cries of those whose loved ones had been killed by marauding mobs.
But the Editor-in-Chief was LIVE from the Vijay Chowk:
“Well, there was a full vegetarian, non-vegetarian menu. There was lamb and there was….”
Do you really want the details? We had stopped listening. Sick in his stomach pit, this writer went to vomit.
As the National Affairs Editor handed over the baton back to the studio, the anchor found that of all such stuff, the most thrilling was particularly the fact that it was Khattar who got to sit next to Ivanka Trump.
The two earth shattering events that we referred to earlier were: 1.) The Editor-in-Chief was in pretty close proximity to Melania Trump. 2.) The Editor-in-Chief was in fairly close proximity to Ivanka Trump.
Here is the viewing lesson: During important LIVE telecasts, you can keep glancing at the scroll on the bottom of your television screen. It is there that the dead fall and their count rises. Rest of the screen space is for stuff more important.
As for the feeling you have right now in the pit of your stomach, we did warn you that this story was going to be sickening. Now, go and vomit. You just watched national news television.
And learn to admire the gown, and the bravado with which the Editor-in-Chief must have asked the designer: “Excuse me, I am the Chairman of xyz, and would you be so kind as to tell me what’s the colour of Madame Melania’s gown?”
To be fair, I just made up this quote. The actual one might have been much worse, including perhaps a mention of how the gown’s colour looked more glorious in the reflected flames from the houses ablaze in North East of the city.
Post Script — By the time this story went up on the website, the toll had risen to 42. By this time, India Today helmed by Aroon Purie, had done further research on the core domain of expertise exhibited on this momentous occasion and informed us that it was a “bubblegum pink long gown by Carolina Herrera with a knee-high slit… adorned with flowy exaggerated sleeves, a loose silhouette and a high neck (with) the neckline featuring a long bow, which rested on her shoulders.” I rest my case.