My column Delhiberations, which used to appear every Friday in the Hindustan Times Evening News in New Delhi during several years in the 1970s and '80s, wasn't stereotyped, and didn't have a uniform mode of presentation. It was basically a light-hearted commentary on passing events, with an accompanying cartoon drawn by myself; but sometimes it could also acquire a serious tone and take a critical look at fundamental issues. And once in a while I would deal with a given topic in both styles in successive articles or on different occasions, reinforcing my reflections.
The familiar-sounding but non-existing names I had assigned to these imaginary friends of mine had special significance with reference to the great demographic diversity of India and some historic landmarks of its capital city. I shall explain this aspect some other time; meanwhile, here's a typical conversation between them, on the slow but steady evolution of live television in India:
Evening News, New Delhi
23 Feb. 1977
20 Eyes For Montreal
"There are times when we can curse TV to our heart's content, but there are times when it's a real blessing," Rajpath Roy said'
"Are you talking about the Olympics?" Kutubullah asked.
"What else?" Rajpath Roy said. "Delhivision is doing a wonderful job, rushing the Olympic films to New Delhi within 48 hours."
"I think it would be 36 hours, rather," I said. "Don't forget that Indian Standard Time is 11 hours ahead of Montreal time. That means when it is Monday evening in Montreal. it's already Tuesday morning in India. And Delhivision flashes Monday's events on Wednesday evening here!"
"I still remember the Munich Olympics which I saw on Delhivision," Safdar Singh said. "It was a memorable show."
"Of course, it's not the same thing, seeing the Olympics on TV and attending them personally," Janapathi said. "I was in Munich in 1972, and saw the Games. It was a remarkable experience."
"Nothing is the same seen directly and on TV," Rajpath Roy said. "But it makes a lot of difference seeing the Olympics on TV and not seeing them at all! Take these gymnastics, for example. It's one thing just to read in the papers that Nadia Comaneci got 10 points out of 10 in three different events, and it's quite a different thing to seeing her actually do it, even if only on the TV screen!"
"You are perfectly right," I said. "The important thing here is the speed with which the shots are rushed to your TV screen. I am sure even the best documentary on the Games wouldn't be so thrilling if you saw it a month after the events. This is where Delhivision has scored another splendid goal."
"You know, actually there's an advantage in seeing the Games on TV rather than in person!" Kutubullah said. "So many of the games go on simultaneously, I am sure you can't see all the highlights if you are physically present in the stadium. But on TV you don't miss anything important which happens. It is as if you were present in 10 different spots at the same rime, watching the games with 20 eyes!"
"Naturally!" Janapathi said. "There are so many other events too, like the Republic Day parade, which are better seen on TV than in person. But still, I don't think a TV show is a satisfactory substitute for the real thing."
"Look here, Jani, don't give us a big lecture just because you are able to go abroad now and then and actually saw the Munich Games," Rajpath Roy said. "If you feel so strongly about it, why don't you fly away to Montreal?"
"I've just been to Europe on vacation." Janapathi said. "What do you think I am supposed to be doing? Enjoying a permanent vacation, eh?"
"In that case, don't grumble!" Rajpath Roy said. "Just thank Delhivision for letting you have a glimpse of the Games within 48 hours!"
"You mean 36 hours!" I said.