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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Shoes as missiles of change

I was talking to a media person about the Shoe Incident Day, when an angry Sikh reporter chucked his shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram.
“This flinging of shoes at politicians has to stop,” she said. “First that Iraqi reporter chucked his shoes at George Bush, now this Indian copycat flings his shoe at PC. The Iraqi should have patented his action. We Indians always copy.”
“First a small correction,” I said. “The Iraqi actually flung his shoes at Bush. He put a lot of shoulder action into it and he flung both his shoes. Jarnail Singh merely lobbed one soft trainer shoe in PC’s direction. He was angry but the shoe throwing was symbolic. And it worked because the Congress is re-thinking fielding Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. They’re calling this form of activist journalism “Jarnailism”.”
“Far as I’m concerned, he copied the Iraqi,” she said.
“Jarnail Singh knew that a boot in hand works better than flinging two at the Bush,” I said.
“These Delhi journos must be earning huge salaries,” she said enviously. “You know how expensive shoes are and to just go around flinging them at people is the height of extravagance.”
“These men were angry about grave injustice done to their people and that was why they threw shoes,” I said.
“I will never throw shoes,” she said. “Do you know how difficult it is to get shoes of my size? Whenever I am lucky enough to find a good pair that fits me, I buy two pairs.” There seemed nothing more to say to that so we walked on in silence. But she was not finished. “Then there’s the other thing,” she said.
“What other thing,” I asked.
“Now they will have shoe detectors along with metal detectors and we will all have to leave our shoes outside the press conference and walk around barefoot,” she said.
“That would be nice,” I said. “I like walking barefoot.”
“Don’t be silly,” she said, “We’ll have to have pedicures regularly and I just can’t fit that into the salary I earn. I could give myself a pedicure, but nail polish too is so expensive. This Jarnail Singh is really going to cost us media-persons dearly.”
“Making journalists take off their shoes for press conferences won’t solve anything,” I said. “Anger will find its release any way, anywhere. They can throw anything. Politicians will just have to wear bullet proof jackets and crash helmets.”
“Throwing a heavy book would have been better,” she said.
“Shoes don’t hurt so much,” I said, “And anyway Jarnail Singh’s shoe was a soft trainer shoe. It would have been like throwing a small pillow at the Union Home Minister.”
“That’s the thing,” she said. “He did it in such a half-baked fashion and now we all have to suffer for it by going around barefoot like M F Hussain. Have you seen how terrible Hussain’s feet look?”
“If Singh really wanted to make an impact, he could have thrown a hob-nailed boot, or an army boot, even a lady’s stiletto heel,” I said.
“What I say is if you are planning to do something; you should do it properly,” she said, “especially when you know that lots of your colleagues will suffer. Now we have to go through all this indignity of being told to take off our shoes, when all he did was lob a soft shoe in Chidambaram’s general direction. And he threw his shoe like a girl.”
“I think you are being too hard on Singh,” I said, “He asked Chidambaram a question about the Sikh riot accused and Chidambaram was quite sharp with him and refused to answer.”
“I am afraid politicians may not want to take any more risks and will make the media wear government-issue overalls at press conferences. All clothes, belts, shoes, watches, cellphones, laptops, handbags and briefcases, will be kept in a holding area. Can you imagine how silly we will look on TV?” she said.
“If someone wants to throw something they will,” I said. “They offer samosas and tea at press conferences. A hot flying samosa with its three sharp corners can do a great deal of damage.”
“Chidambaram should have worn Jarnail Singh’s shoe and taken the other one too. Then all our problems would be over,” she said.
“How would that help?” I asked.
“Because according to Mahatma Gandhi: Three quarters of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world would finish if people were to put on the shoes of their adversaries and understand their points of view. All Bush and Chidambaram had to do was wear those shoes. The shoes would be missiles for change. Gandhiji would have liked that,” she said.

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