In the 2014 thriller Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhal plays Lou Bloom, a morally bankrupt video journalist who films crimes and accidents up-close to sell to TV news stations. The gorier the incident, the higher the TRPs and consequently, a higher price for Bloom's videos. As a result of this, Bloom begins to hope for the worst, feeding off tragedies like a parasite.
But despite his lack of remorse for the profession he has chosen (nightcrawling), Bloom is not unaware of its darker side. "I'd like to think if you're seeing me you're having the worst day of your life." With those simple words Bloom acknowledges that he is intruding on people in their worst moments.
In India, Bloom has stiff competition when it comes to profiting off the misery of the lay person - from Indian politicians.
Indian politicians are, for the most part, nearly impossible to get a hold of. Almost anyone you meet on the streets comes programmed with their own anecdotal tale of political ineptitude or apathy. However, you wouldn't believe this if you've ever seen the news following a tragic event.
Even before bodies of victims have arrived at hospitals, politicians arrive on the scene, dutifully acknowledging every camera in the vicinity with an awareness they otherwise lack. And, as if it was Christmas time, they come bearing gifts to compete with one another. One with his cash donation ("a small gesture"), another with promises of a job, yet another begging to pick up the hospital bill.
Having offered their gifts at the altar of suffering, they emerge, once again acknowledging every camera. This time, they also accept the mics that are thrust in their faces.
"The government must answer," fumes Opposition Omar. A pensive and pained looking Establishment Eeshwar can barely contain his 'sorrow'. Just as he's getting into his car he says, "Government is looking into it. We are deeply saddened. We will investigate it thoroughly. Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers." Third Party Trishul meanwhile informs the assembled journalists that he will be giving a full statement at a press conference to be held at Press Club later that afternoon. Snacks will be provided. All three also remember to inform the world what charitable act they've performed.
In performing this ridiculous ritual, each one returns to party HQ, confident that their token gestures have atoned for whatever part each one's party had to play in causing this latest tragedy. Sure, condolences are in order. But while the body is still fresh?
An alleged suicide by a former army jawan, brought forth these very same rituals today.
No sooner did news spread that Ram Kishan Grewal had allegedly killed himself over the OROP issue, than politicians, like circling vultures, descended. This time, they, both Manish Sisodia and Rahul Gandhi, were prevented from meeting the victim's grieving family.
Sure, it would take a special kind of idiot to imagine that the Delhi police were acting out of any notion of sensitivity. They have, in the past, proven that they have a very tenuous grasp of the concept, as displayed once more today when they also detained the deceased's relatives. But there was some unintended mercy in their actions as the family were spared the theatrical condolences of these opportunist netas.
No doubt that the BJP would also have been a part of this macabre theatre had the deceased not been protesting their government's policy.
Having been denied the limelight at the hospital, each immediately took to the press to turn this affront into a tool for publicity. Kejriwal, shooting over Sisodia's shoulder, thundered, "Is meeting an aggrieved family politics or is seeking votes on account of surgical strikes politics?" as if only one could be an example of playing politics.
Rahul Gandhi, meanwhile, in his typically bewildered style, wondered, "This is a particular type of mentality, now, they don't believe in democracy," as if democracy is the practice of politicians trying to feed off death for cheap political gains.
That each of them felt themselves so entitled to interrupt a grieving family in what is certainly their darkest moment is a sign of how deeply entrenched this disgusting practice is. Yes, there's an issue at the heart of it - OROP. But to use grieving families as props in their political drama is unpardonable. There is a decorum that should be followed in moments like this, a call would do, maybe hand delivered condolences through an aide. A minister and his/her entire coterie interrupting a grieving family though, doesn't seem like the right approach.