Caught on camera, several enlightening utterances have defined the last few days. Yes, it’s the damn mike. With pesky reporters waiting to pounce on any verbal glitch ‘mike menace’ has become an embarrassment for those in positions of power. Sample some recent gems.
“If you work hard, you can steal a little.”
“There is a lot of noise. Adjourn the house for the day.”
“Inflation is good for the farmers.”
Outspoken remarks, honest admissions or careless whispers - measured in degrees of embarrassment, all the above are medal winning blunders. If the cameras and mikes had not captured these gems, they would have been denied to the civilization. And we would have been lulled into believing that the media had “misreported”. Again.
Since political air is full of utterances, gaffes come with the territory. No wonder, the television media milks them to their advantage and makes hay while the fumbler whines. Even Anna’s impromptu “Ek hi maara” was debated with gusto on prime time television.
What’s interesting is that while some verbal blunders are accidental - like the careless whispers caught on camera, others are self-inflicted. Sushma’s declaration of shaving her head and sleeping on the floor; Advani’s admiration for Jinnah or Khursheed’s comment on his leader crying over Batla pictures did not arise from any babbling delirium - they came from the heart. That said, some phrases, depending on the degree of viciousness present in the political air become immortalized. Remember the infamous ‘Maut ke saudagar’? I have a feeling that the recent ‘mota maal’ barb by Sushma Swaraj is going to hurt the Congress for a long time. Undoubtedly, barbs flying in all directions are patently leaving the media breathless. Phew!
Recently we witnessed ugly scenes when MLA Vijay Mishra's daughter was caught on camera distributing Rs 500 notes to policemen as 'bakshish' after he was released from Naini jail in Allahabad. Even more disturbing were the visuals of UP’s urban development minister, Azam Khan rebuking an IAS officer and calling him ‘badtameez kahin ke’. Hard to imagine the plight of the public servant being admonished by netaji on national television!
While videos are damning, pictures can be deceiving. This reminds me of a photo of Barack Obama apparently staring at a young woman's derriere during the G8 summit. The picture had inspired a new name for the presidential anthem - “Tail to the Chief”.
And who can forget Bush’s infamous Iraq-war bloopers? Even as American leaders have learned to laugh at their gaffes, the reaction (sabko andar karva doonga) of a UP leader after his alleged “steal a little” remark, smacked of intolerance.
Indeed, verbal gaffes provide delicious fodder for the television media. With handheld devices that can produce video and audio of high quality, we will never know when someone will say “Smile please, you are on candid camera!” Does this mean that the residents of Blunderland have to stew in their misery?
Of course not. They have devised ways to emerge unscathed, albeit with some minor bruises. First, of course is denial. If the television channels continue airing the footage repeatedly, those caught on camera can resort to the tried and tested juvenile escape – “So what if I said so, they said it too”.
Second is to hope that the moment one commits verbal gaucherie, a colleague utters something doubly outrageous. Only a fresh gaffe can take the spotlight away from the previous blunder.
Finally, if the foot has landed deep inside the political pie-hole, the last resort is to go down fighting in the history of gaffe books. If America can celebrate their ‘top ten’ Bushis’ms or Biden’isms, we can applaud our Beni’sms and Yadav’isms too. There is no dearth of talent. Right?