LEXICON OF THE CLICHES, BANALITIES AND TRUISMS OF INDIAN JOURNALISM as conceived by Nikhil Rao and Shekhar Krishnan
For a while now, we have been engaged in a great philological project, our very own 21st century Hobson Jobson, as it were: that of compiling a lexicon of the marvellous cliches, truisms, banalities, and other little idiosyncrasies that litter the pages of our Great Indian Newspapers.
Contributions by David Clingingsmith, Aaron York, Eric Beverley, Arvind Rajagopal, Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar, Namita Devidayal, Shailaja Neelakanthan, Anagha Neelakanthan, Rajeev Rao, Avtar Singh, Rohan Sippy, Rohena Gera, Rochona Mazumdar, Paul Beban, Sanjay Bulchandani.
All text for all news in the English print media in India is essentially generated out of these words. Feel free to add, append, and modify the lexicon and the master paragraph below.
- confabulate: to confer. “The party leaders confabulated about the new agreement.”
- work out the modalities: sort out the details. “The party leaders confabulated about working out the modalities of the new agreement.”
- supremo: head dude. “The party supremos confabulated about working out the modalities of the new agreement.”
- brigand: bad dude. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos confabulated about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand.”
- crack sleuths: smart dudes. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand.”
- strongman: big dude. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand.”
- hardened criminals: tough dudes
- airdash: to move at other than usual glacial pace. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in.”
- beefed up security: more bodies, but not necessarily more security. “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in under conditions of beefed up security.”
- second only to Scotland Yard: usually cited while hailing the work of the Mumbai Police; the subtext is that they’re not anymore
- swing into action: to finally stop drinking chai and reluctantly get off your ass.
- swoop down upon: “The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in under conditions of beefed up security. Meanwhile the Mumbai police force, second only to Scotland Yard and having been called in to assist with the situation, have now swung into action and are ready to swoop down upon the brigand and his associates.”
- nab: seize
- flying squads of nuisance detectors: These are the Mumbai Police’s intrepid stalwarts who have been relentlessly patrolling the city enforcing the B.M.C’s recent ban on plastic bags of less than 20 microns thickness.
- abscond: to evade police.
- scam: normal conditions of doing business in South Asia.
- to the tune of Rs 10 crores: estimated dimensions of scam.
- point the finger of suspicion
- stung by criticism: react to weary but yet admirably persistent public outrage.
- take stock of the situation: to pretend to give a shit.
- take umbrage: to give a shit.
- take up cudgels on behalf of: to stand up for.
- cuddling and fondling: [this, we must admit, we have never seen, but Aaron assures us that he has seen newsprint to the effect of “Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Verma were seen cuddling and fondling in post-election bliss.”]
- fracas, also known as dustup: most often seen in close conjunction with unseemly. often applied to parliament and other herdings of political animals.
- inveterate, sometimes confused on sub-editor’s desk with invertebrate so one can find references to ‘invertebrate followers of the political scene.’
- the India Today ending, also sometimes the TOI edit page ending, which always takes the form of a rhetorical question, e.g.,
- is anyone listening?
- have the ends of justice been served, that is the question
- only time will tell (that old tattletale)… ad infinitum
- the ends of justice scattered all over, especially in the Calcutta journals. where are the beginnings of justice? doesn’t anyone care? is anyone accountable for the beginnings of justice? Is that the question?
- Eves and Romeos: young women and men, most often seen together in the context of roadside Romeos being accused of Eve-teasing.
- hardcores, ultras and clean shaven culprits associated with the Punjab action and other trouble spots.
- hot pursuit: recently-much-in-the-news
- the classic epitaph/retirement speech phrase: so and so must receive kudos for having rendered yeoman service to such and such.
- the enigmatically enhanced pressurise
- cooling their heels in the lockup
The Ur Paragraph of Indian Journalism
The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supremos, in consultation with the Maratha strongman, confabulated with the Special Task Force’s (S.T.F.) crack sleuths about working out the modalities of the new agreement with the forest brigand. The PM himself has been airdashed in under conditions of beefed up security. Meanwhile the Mumbai police force (M.P.F.), second only to Scotland Yard (S.Y.) and having been called in to assist with the situation, have now swung into action and are ready to swoop down upon the brigand and his associates.
In other news today, a flying squad of nuisance detectors (F.S.N.D.) managed to nab red-handed three hardened criminals who have been remorselessly violating the ban on plastic bags (B.O.P.B.). Two other associates in the plastic bag scam (P.B.S.) are believed to be absconding in Delhi. Meanwhile, the Bombay Municipal Corporation (B.M.C.), stung by criticisms alleging that it is involved in the scam, has promised to take stock of the situation. The municipal workers union (M.W.U.) has taken umbrage at the allegations and has vowed to take up cudgels on behalf of their comrades in the flying squads. The scam is rumoured to involve sums to the tune of Rs. 10 crores.
Border Security Force (B.S.F.) cadres have been placed on red alert at the latest trouble spot (L.T.S.) on the Indo-Pak border following anti-national activities being engaged in by a band of hardcores. Highly placed sources at South Block (H.P.S.S.B.) point the finger of suspicion (F.O.S.) at a sinister foreign hand (S.F.H.) for sowing discord. Since the leaders of this band of ultras have been cooling their heels in the lockup of late, the most recent anti-social activities are probably intended to pressurize the government into preponing the date of their release. Kudos to our B.S.F. boys for having rendered yeoman service in putting a lid on this situation.
In related news, an unseemly fracas broke out in Parliament today while Members were “debating” the latest border situation. The issue at stake was a recent master plan that has been mooted by doyens of the Indian security establishment and that is intended to quash all manner of anti-social elements operating in backward areas. Inveterate watchers of the political scene shook their collective head in dismay. Will our leaders ever learn to lead? Will the ends of justice be served? Only time will tell.
This long essay is a study of the closure and redevelopment of the Phoenix Mills in Lower Parel, Mumbai, conducted from September 1999 to March 2000. Click here to download the original booklet (PDF) published by the Girni Kamgar Sangharsh Samiti (GKSS), Girangaon Bachao Andolan and Lokshahi Hakk Sanghatana in April 2000 in Mumbai. Since the tragedies at Elphinstone and Kamala Mills in 2017, the full text and booklet is re-published below with minor revisions and colour photography from 1998-99.
The Murder of the Mills: A Case Study of Phoenix Mills
Workers Rights and Labour Law: A Backgrounder for the Workshop on Labour was compiled and edited with the help of Jairus Banaji and the Trade Union Solidarity Committee (TUSC) in Mumbai in 1999. It was published for the National Conference on Human Rights, Social Movements, Globalisation and the Law held at Panchagani, Maharashtra in December 1999 by the India Centre for Human Rights and Law, Mumbai.
This is my unpublished M.A. thesis, submitted in 1999 to the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), University of London, where it was awarded a distinction.
You can download the full PDF for offline reading. Please note that this work is not for citation without my permission via email.
This essay argues for an analytics of caste power in modern India through an argument of the indeterminacy and fuzziness of its practice, symbolic forms, and modes of articulation in the discourses on caste offered by the synthetic theory of Louis Dumont; ethnographies of the dominant caste and king; and in the discourse of colonial governmentality.
Secondly, this essay makes an intervention in the analysis of subalternity, showing that the lower-caste domain is constitutive of the hegemonic order of caste society by making present the negativity that inheres in the caste order and provides a ground for its criticism and transformation. In this regard, it describes the emergence of social antagonisms in the anti-caste polemics of modern non-Brahman ideologues, with analyses of the particular discourses of Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Kancha Ilaiah, arguing for an understanding of antagonisms as constitutive of the social in the plastic political world of modernity.
Finally, this essay addresses the egalitarian imaginary of modern politics, its introduction in Indian society through nationalist politics, and the generalisation of this form of politics in the postcolonial era through the proliferation of caste antagonisms and the practices of hegemonic articulation in contemporary democracy.
Throughout, there is a consistent theoretical concern with abandoning essentialist conceptions of the unitary subject agent and the sutured social totality, and with presenting the symbolic and discursive construction of subject positions and social relations, affirming the open, politically negotiable character of the social.