Andrew Buncombe: Paxman – time to throw the shoe

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The Independent Online

I wasn't at the press conference last week when an Indian journalist took off his shoe and threw it at home minister P Chidambaram in disgust over the politician's apparent refusal to properly answer his question. But I was watching it live on television. To his credit, Mr Chidambaram leaned gracefully out of the way of the projectile and urged the security personnel to go gentle on Sikh reporter Jarnail Singh as they led him away.

Ever since an Iraqi journalist hurled both his shoes at George Bush during his last visit to Baghdad, the throwing of footwear has become the de rigueur form of protest. Chinese premier Wen Jiabao also had a shoe thrown at him by a disgruntled student. But I think there was a difference in Mr Singh's actions. He had been pressing the politician about a clean chit given to two ministers accused of inciting mobs in the 1984 riots that left many Sikhs dead and for which noone has ever been held responsible. Mr Chidambaram's party, Congress, had even been planning to field the men in an upcoming election. Watching live, one sensed Mr Singh getting increasingly frustrated as the minister parried his question and then dodged a follow-up. His spontaneous decision to slip off his sweaty Reebok and gently toss it towards the minister appeared more an act of despair than seething anger. Later, I bumped into an Indian television reporter who told me most journalists were ashamed at their colleague's actions. I'm not so sure. While hurling a shoe isn't the height of professionalism, I wonder if there's a half-way point journalists might adopt when a politician refuses to come clean. Perhaps it would be enough simply to take off one's shoe and hold it high in the air. I'm sure they'd quickly get the message.

Keeping your clothes on

A thousands times we've driven past the Jain statue, a thousand times we said we must take a look. The statue of the Indian sage Vardhamana, carved from a single piece of stone, gazes impassively over the scrub of south Delhi. It also seems to attract a lot of gurus, naked but for a fan of peacock feathers used to brush away ants from their path lest they crush them. The gurus were a friendly bunch and keen to invite me to another temple south of the city to learn more about Jainism. I could, they insisted, keep my clothes on.

Indian meals on wheels

"You haven't eaten Biryani? You have to eat Biryani," declares the taxi-driver as I rush for a plane from Hyderabad back to Delhi. I have five minutes to check-in. The driver knows a place near the airport. Just five minutes, he says. It actually takes 10 but the food is fabulous and I still catch my flight.