A few nights ago a colleague, Anand Vasu, was on an NDTV debate over cricket rivalries, and one of the participants was Navjot Singh Sidhu. Now if you've ever heard Sidhu, you'll find it hard to forget his dialogue delivery. He tends to throw himself into his beliefs with disconcerting conviction, even when the basic point he's making is actually rubbish. So most of the program passed by with Sidhu's monologue about how the India-Pakistan rivalry was greater than the Ashes. When the others got a word in, they differed, and rightly called the Ashes the more prominent battle, reasoning that the subcontinental rivalry owes much of its reputation to jingoism. This incensed Sidhu, and he somehow became even more animated. And when Sidhu becomes animated-angry, it stops being funny and starts getting scary. The eyes spread across his face, his eyebrows touch the pagdi, and his mouth contorts in the visually violent manner that an Arabic speaker's does. And then he wags a bony index finger at opponents.
His persona becomes bigger than the subject, which is long dead by now. The monster that is Sidhu's reputation grows bigger and hungrier. He is, in a way, the opposite of Harsha Bhogle, who reduces his presence considerably to give the subject its due. But my thinking is, the reason why Sidhu is such a phenomenon is because he often displays the side of us that we're too polite to admit exists, even to ourselves. The one that desperately wants to get up someone's nose but is restrained by etiquette. I know I'd love to wag my finger at someone and chastise "you reap what you sow" but can't because people will think I'm being silly. But the part I love the most; the one I suspect many admire him for? It's where he's on a verbal roll, and neither moderator nor angry participant nor commercial break can stop him. He's a verbal juggernaut, winning arguments only because he won't let anyone else speak, tiring people with his relentless barrage of anger and opinions while his opponents raise their fingers and say 'err' and 'umm' and 'excuse me'. Forget the point he's making. In many cases it'll be nonsense. But watch the man defend his territory. He's simply amazing.
Ps. Here's a man who delightfully connected Sidhu and atheism. Okay, his name's Jai. You know, Jabberwock.