The Nira Radia tapes: Making the wrong call?

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 23, 2010 13:33 hrs

What I find funnier than the recordings of conversations between senior media personalities and lobbyist Nira Radia is the former's passionate defence of their rapport with Nira 'just-a-source' Radia, on forums ranging from Twitter to Op-Ed pages in newspapers.

Thankfully, none of the voices of the scandal has pointed out that the websites that put the recordings online have used the mandatory note that they cannot vouch for the authenticity of the recordings. Then again, I suppose one could simply call up Nira Radia, and establish authenticity once Pal Pal Pal plays - unless she has changed her caller tune.

Even more hilarious than the caller tune was a conversation between Radia and A Raja - the linguistic obstacles were usually surmounted with an 'Aenh?'

As fellow-journalists from Delhi and Mumbai call me up frantically to figure out the branches of Karunanidhi's family tree (which admittedly resembles a banyan), I find myself preoccupied with a bigger question - why would people discussing power politics lay it out openly enough to qualify for the final scene of a Scooby-Doo mystery, right down to shaking their fists and going "If it weren't for you pesky kids..."?

What happened to a good old code? If only they had chosen to use a pseudonym for 'The Leader', such as, say, 'Lemon Tea', everyone could have got off so much more easily. 'Someone has to sweeten the lemon tea' sounds rather more James Bond-like than 'someone has to talk to the leader and tell him we don't want Maran'.

One can just imagine the tweets:

Amazed, angered, disappointed and horrified at misinterpretations of my culinary discussions!

Wake up people, media persons have to discuss lifestyle, you know!

Everyone is allowed to catch up over lemon tea to cultivate a source.

Some of us promise to have lemon tea out of politeness; it doesn't mean we'll keep the date.

We're all just good friends discussing recipes.

But if our leaders find Hollywood cliches too kitschy, they'll have to invent a new medium of communication. The Commonwealth scandal proves emails are out. The Radia tapes show that someone might be recording at the other end, or somewhere in between. Everyone is too suspicious of special investigations to have a face-to-face conversation with anyone else.

So, the question is, how do the movers and shakers of this country keep the corruption rate intact without getting themselves into any trouble? Here are some covers that could provide our politicians with fool-proof meeting ground:

Host more parties: Munching while talking should be a good enough code, the noise would buffer...ahem, diplomatic conversations, entry is by invitation only, and since most politicians will be in attendance, the process of Chinese whispers should be quicker. 

How do politicians party when the nation is in disarray? Well, they could consider not confining their secularity to the Iftar season. With Deepavali, Christmas, Pongal, Bihu, Holi, chhath puja, Ganesh Chathurthi, Rath Yatra, Dusshehra/ Navaraatri/ Pujo, there are opportunities through the year to host festive dinners.

Buy more IPL teams: It's hard to conceive of a manner in which the tournament could be further tarnished. With a couple of teams having been booted out, the round-robin pattern could run into problems unless more purchases are made. Chances are that viewership will decrease anyway. A good time to buy, one would say.

If politicians are shy of being seen supporting their own teams, they do have the option of painting their faces and carrying placards, so as to consort with each other without being recognised.

Buy more airlines: A branch of the Maran dynasty has already ventured into this field. What better way to talk to friends in high places than sitting back in a business class seat you've been honest enough not only to rent, but buy?

If only the protagonists of the 2G Spectrum scandal had resorted to one of these ideas, Karunanidhi could have hailed Raja as 'a Dalit icon' without offending an entire section of the Indian population.

The author is a writer based in Chennai. She blogs at

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