A historical entity that is the standard-bearer of news, views and public opinion in the country. A newspaper of record that prints everything that is worth printing after ample fact-checking, covering multiple sides of a news story so that no angle is left unrepresented. An editorial that is as fair as it is balanced. A mouthpiece of the citizenry and the citizenry alone, without any camouflaged political agenda. An independent, self-funded organization unaffected by commercial machinations of its corporate masters. A newspaper held in high regard for the competence, even flamboyance, of its language and style of delivery, so much so that it is recommended for daily reading in schools.
So, now that we are all in agreement that The Times of India is none of the above, let us see how the premier newspaper of India still manages to fit in our daily lives so remarkably.
Bowel Mover. The ten minutes that you spend in the cocoon of what is your private loo, TOI is your silent companion. It passes no judgment as parts of your body hiss and heave trying to do all that nasty business. You divert your attention away from the smells and sounds by holding aloft the newsprint with both hands, looking at the full page ads of your Chief Minister’s remarkable transition of your city from a dusty hamlet into an almost-Switzerland, get to learn that Akshay or Ajay are in your vicinity promoting their new buffoonery of a film, and of the latest antics of the BCCI and the MBPB (Mamata Banerji of Poschim Bongo). The moment the lever on the flush is pushed and the so-called ‘fruits’ of your labour swirl onwards, the 72 pages are tossed aside, and your silent potty-buddy forgotten for another 24 hours.
Colourful Shelf Liner. As Indian homes grow bigger, so do the closets – in kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, study etc. Gone are the days when newspapers were abysmally dull black-and-white, smudgy 8-page leaflets. The glamourous new avatar is colourful and glossy. And that makes ideal shelf liners! Not just great colour and texture, there is also a wide variety of full page pictures to choose from. If you are a health fanatic, pick any of the Review section ads featuring John Abraham or Bipasha Basu, and place all your packs of Horlicks, energy boosters and protein shakes firmly on their 6- and 8-packs. Your kid a maniacal fan of cars? Choose from the full page ads of BMW and Audi to line his nikkar drawers. A big TV serial fan? The ads blitzkrieg of the new Saas-Bahu charmer that is starting next week should do it – remember to tune in every Monday to Friday at 8 pm to find out what is keeping the 2012 Ram and Sita jodi apart. (Hint – it’s that big woman with the big bindi)
No-Smoke-Without-Fire Myth-breaker. ShahRukh hates Cricket Administrators, Aamir hates Doctors, Sonia hates Pranab, Jayalalitha loves Advani, Roger Federer loves T-20, Kalmadi loves sports (and foreign trips), Annu Mallik hates baldies, Amitabh loves Rekha, Vijay Mallya loves paying staff salaries, Aishwarya loves Haagen Dazs, Jackie Shroff is Gay, Karan Johar hates Coffee, Ekta Kapoor hates TV audiences, Shirish Kunder embodies remarkable talent, Akhilesh Yadav idolizes Rahul Gandhi, and so on and so forth. If you can imagine it, just print it. But do end the news story with – “Our reporter was not able to contact them for their comment” – to cover your legal ass. If the new name for news is entertainment, entertainment, entertainment, what could be better than to make incredible smoke without any credible fire? After all, people love magic, especially if it is also sleazy!
Rekindler of Old Conventions. Some Indian traditions must endure the passage of time – really, what would India be without them? One of them is the eternal Kabadiwala. This man, with his unique and idiosyncratic “outside” voice, has been visiting Indian homes every month for decades, haggling with our mothers and grandmothers on weight and count, and in the end, thrusting crisp Gandhijis into their welcoming palms. The gleam in the eyes of the lady of the house on receiving this unexpected bounty has hardly ever found a comparable parallel. TOI, with its ever expanding girth, has kept this glorious custom alive and well – its benevolent contribution to modern India.
The Birds and The Bees Discussion Fast Forwarder. Why must 6- and 8- year olds not question you about Sunny Leone’s ample bosom, or Tushhar’s ample butt, or for that matter, even bullet-riddled corpses of Maoists or burning Tibetan monks in the street of Delhi? Clearly, such items are best displayed in all their pictoral glory on the front page of the main newspaper or the lifestyle sections. This is how TOI assists the ever-fatigued parents in their children’s upbringing – by rushing it up. Exit dreary conventions of self-censorship or decorum, enter the modern Newspaper.
Bringer of Page Three to Thee. What is Life if it isn’t about chasing dreams? Of rubbing shoulders with Queenie Singh at the latest exclusive Rain Dance party. Or a Masquerade Ball featuring Feroze Gujral. Or dipping in a 5-star pool with Liz, Stan and Diane – not sure who they are but they must be some well-placed foreigners one must be seen with. The sheen of a Delhi celebrity may pale brilliantly in front of an authentic one from Mumbai, but hey, the size of his/her head is no smaller. So, till you have acquired one of your own - a large head, I mean – read the TOI diligently and practice how you will carry it to the next event you can organize ‘passes’ or invitations for. (Pass – noun – A free entry to a fashion, sport, musical, sporting, or really any event that every Delhiite must learn to hustle if he/she is to be deemed of any significance. Your hierarchy in society is directly proportional to the largeness of the event that you attend without spending a dime)
The list is obviously longer, and I shall keep updating it as we establish newer and cooler ways of using TOI and other similar entities in our modern paradigm.
And now I need a bathroom break. Where the hell is that newspaper?
Photo credit: the-tiki-hut.com