In a famous couplet, Mirza Ghalib wondered about the limitlessness of desire: Hai kahāñ tamannā kā dūsrā qadam yā rab/ham ne dasht-e-imkāñ ko ek naqsh-e-pā paayā (What will the next step of desire, O Lord?/For the entire realm of possibility has been covered in the first stride). What is true about desire is also true about hypocrisy. This was the revelation that I got today morning reading Barkha Dutt’s article in Hindustan Times on news television coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput’s death (https://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/chronicling-the-tragic-death-of-television-news/story-W5YJhVyeVtq8u2H1BWuqqJ.html).
Hypocritical statements by politicians, editorialists, intellectuals, activists, etc., no longer shock me; like the coronavirus, I all have learnt to live with them. But Dutt’s article takes the cake. One writes such articles when sanctimony becomes one’s defining feature.
She thunders pompously: “nothing has, as dramatically, underscored the death of journalism as the coverage of the Sushant Singh Rajput tragedy.” She then reveals to the world—without realizing the fact—that she is one of the killers of journalism. “I did one interview with Susan Walker, a Mumbai-based therapist who treated the actor and who reached out to me through a professional acquaintance. It was a complicated decision for me to broadcast her assessment because it was evident that she was breaching patient privilege when she told me that Rajput was bipolar. I finally decided to air her statement because she told me that she feared more lives were at risk because of the toxicity of the media circus and it was her ‘duty’ to speak.”
Sanctimony and self-righteousness are like an opiate; they numb your senses and sensibilities; they often kill your cognitive and cogitative capabilities. A therapist wants to breach doctor-patient privilege because “she feared more lives were at risk.” If that was the case, she could have informed the police, the Central Bureau of Investigation or other authorities at the Centre. She didn’t do that; she met Dutt who in turn helped the therapist and made the mental health issues of the dead actor public.
The therapist felt no shame, nor did Dutt, in telling the world that the dead actor had mental health issues. In fact, Dutt had the cheek to pontificate about “the toxicity of the media circus.”
Dutt lectures us how bad it is to spend “hours of air time on people’s private lives, break-ups, relationship woes and the supposed friction between girlfriends and parents.” After having interviewed Walker and telling the world that Sushant suffered from bipolar disorder!
Dutt is correct, however, on one point: “The hypocrisy all around is staggering.” She knows because she and her ilk are all around us.
I paraphrase Ghalib: What will the next step of hypocrisy, O Lord?/For the entire realm of possibility has been covered in the first stride..