Code of Honour

December is Delhi's cruellest month. The multiple murders of children in Nithari, Noida, came to light in December 2006. And now, the city is finally putting some distance between itself and the atrocity of last month, because the family of the victim wants to be left alone.

What a difference six years have made to the reporting of horror. In 2006, Moninder Singh Pandher, who owns the house where the poor children of Nithari were sexually abused and killed, was depicted as a monstrous sybarite, a man who drank gold. It was suggested that luxury was the wellspring of his crimes. Luxury stretched to the point that it bred perversion.

This bizarre mythmaking was done on the strength of a journalistic investigation of Pandher's bar, which revealed a bottle of Goldschläger, schnapps with flakes of gold film floating in it. Patently, a man who drank pure gold was capable of anything. Looking back, the general impression was that in large doses, wealth could be toxic. This is a distant memory now but compelling nevertheless, and replete with images of expensive bottles dancing across the television screen, moodily lit to suggest satanism.

This weird perversion of a terrifying story about atrocity and homicide into a moral fable about luxury had been especially prominent on some Hindi channels. But in order to move hearts and minds, even the leading English channels had preferred to suppress something that five seconds on Google can tell you: how much gold is there in a bottle of Goldschläger? About as much as you can buy for Rs 40 today, when gold is priced obnoxiously high. Certain Ayurvedic tonics probably have a bigger payload.

Gold is extraordinarily malleable and is therefore widely used for embossing cheap wallets and belts. To make economic sense, it has to be spread very, very thin. Goldschläger uses gold exactly the same way. It is a gimmick aimed at new money, not something that the seriously privileged are likely to take seriously.

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