I finally found out after all these years that the job of a journo is not only to educate and entertain, but also spark a war between nuclear-armed nations.
Morning meeting at a TV channel, India: Hi, everyone. This will take only a few minutes. Where is DD?
Fake News Editor: Sir, she is at the university. We have managed to bring the vice-chancellor down on his knees. Here’s a short clip of him begging for forgiveness for being an anti-national. Check out the Red Flag being trampled upon, on the right of the frame.
Producer: Are you people crazy? We have a very small window of opportunity. Get her out of there. We need to whip up hysteria on the streets; lots of short interviews of common people. Ask them whether they want cheaper onions and petrol, or jet fighters.
Intern: Sir, shall I go stand in front of the enemy’s embassy with a protest sign? I can get some of my friends to join me at their lunch hour?
Producer: Who are you?
Intern: Sir, I work with the channel’s PR firm. I am here to see how the media functions, for my MA dissertation.
Producer: Does anyone remember an English film where a fake war and a song are created to make people nostalgic for a good fight? Who has connections in the entertainment industry?
Photoshop Editor: Sir, DV. She knows the actor who is playing a politician’s role in a biopic?
Intern: Isn’t he the one who was caught in a sting, ready to take money to praise the ruling party on Instagram?
IT/Video Editor: I have a great idea. Sir, do we have the budget to buy a drone?
Producer: No, you know as well as I do, the funds are short. Any other ideas?
Intern: I have a friend (from the enemy side). She believes war will be best for everyone. But, honestly, I think she just wants the conflict to break so she won’t have to sit for her semester exams. She has been taking a long break from studies and having fun; her parents think she is on a special project.
Producer: OK, here’s my prepaid calling card. Make her say something controversial.
Intern: Like, make her say, who eats ‘halwa’, ‘poori’ for breakfast?
Food Diva: What’s wrong with halwa, poori for brekkie? It has all the right proteins. It is wrong to make fun of nutrition. Do you know why the truck drivers have all that energy for the long hours on the road? It is because of ‘nihari’ and ‘kulcha’ early-morning breakfast. When I was in the port city of the enemy in 2009 on an invitation ...
Producer: Let’s move on. We need something that will make people go crazy ...
Food Diva: How about cricket or biryani? Everybody thinks their biryani is the best, and there have been fights over whether fish, chicken, mutton or veggie biryani is best. How about getting a famous cricketer to say, “War or no war, the game must go on.”
Producer: OK, I want you to go to the famous bakery with the name of the enemy port city and start a riot. Get close-ups of the people hitting the ‘maska’ (butter) biscuits with a cricket bat for a six.
Food diva: Nooooo, I can’t do that. Do you know many people enjoy those salty, buttery biscuits, with sweet Irani chai? Cameraman: I know a gangster who will threaten the bakery owners.
Producer: No gangsters. They are very expensive.
Intern: Sir, can’t we just wait for our politicians to say something provocative?
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi.