Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Royal tale

It was a story that gripped the heart of entire nation, the way all stories these days do. As the smallest items starts emerging from a remote corner of the country (and may be the world for some) and takes form in our living room, thanks to the unilateral focus of all news channels alike, all of us entertainment starved Television viewers find ourselves engrossed in these forms. And thankful for being part of this participative form of "infotainment", we play our part to perfection by kneeling down in prayers or sending dozens of messages to the news channels alleging our concern for the cause - whatever it may be.
We have seen this fever take the country by storm beginning from the days of 9/11 and spreading through the parliament attacks to Mumbai rains and to the 7/11 blasts. Yet to see the same fervor for the misery of one kid who met the misfortune of falling in a 60 ft deep hole that had been left uncovered in an act of inhuman unconcern, is certainly puzzling. Its puzzling not because its a singled out event affecting only one person - it is puzzling mainly because in our country finding ditches is more natural than finding a straight even path. It is puzzling because many a people do fall in these ditches perhaps everyday and lose limbs if not lives.
But even more than the ditches, it is puzzling because we collectively look away when we see a mishap happen in front of us. We regularly fail to find "eyewitnesses" to any crime. We ignore rapes and we ignore murders and we ignore reservation bills - yet we are singularly absorbed in the rescue operations of a kid living in an epic town. Only beacause the media conviniently chose to play the drama over and over again in our living room and in our minds? Aren't we being hypnotized to chose our concerns and the themes for our prayers?
It is not that it wasn't a commendable task. By all means it was - with its focus, media did indirectly rope in the political and administrative support which would perhaps not have come otherwise and a kid was saved because the entire nation was looking out for him. But if it does possess that power, is it not media's responsibility to make the citizen more concerned for matters that can directly use his/her help? Is it fair to dramatize a misery to mint revenues? Is it right to sell stories on an emotional appeal, disregarding the need for rational information and a well-rounded picture of the world. I find it hard to believe that for 48 hours Prince's plight was the only matter that could have concerned the 1 billion of people inhabiting this nation. And yet, that was the pne news that kept flashing over and over.
Media's independence is a much celebrated virtue in our land, and mercifully our journalists have traditionally made good use of this virtue. But lately, with episodes of this kind, the 24 hour news channels are turning into a day long version of afternoon tabloids, prying into the private miseries of people and leaving the nation largely ignored. It may not be particularly worrying, it does somehow seem to be an unwelcome twist in the story.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Clamping them down

So finally the big brother has come to this country as well, clamping down on voices that dared to defy its authority or question its administration. That is perhaps a pointer that we have come of age, for didn't Mr. Orwell conceptualize this state of affairs as an order of future? Where every voice is synchronized to speak one language and issue a unilateral opinion, and every time you want to express your views, you have to get them whetted against the overseer's appetite.
So, even though running a little bit risk of annoying the big brother and having this forum taken away from me -I simply can't keep myself from expressing the questions that form in mind everytime I read of the Chinese virtual dictatorship or a 1984. Why? Why does anyone bother with the threat of the voice? Who believes in the mightier pen anyway. That is a dated fantasy of those who write - wasn't it put down by the writer in the first place? The trouble with the pen is that it can easily be erased, or worst still - ignored. Then why does anyone have to take the pains of blocking something that can be ignored. The only purpose the blocking will really serve is perhaps intrigue people and draw attention to a word that could have been lost in anonimity.
And why our country? Haven't we sold ourself on the USP of largest democracy in every forum? Ofcourse one expects democracy to be the most widely played joke in this world, yet the least bit of pretense in the form of "freedom of the press" has been maintained in most democracies. That is perhaps the only thin line marking democracy from authoritarianism. Are we ready to cross that wee-bit of line for no objective?
May be a little unrelated - sometimes I do think that perhaps authoritarianism is what we need as a nation. For a thousand voices with selfish short term interests can take the country nowhere. You need a voice to command and lead it in a direction. But ironically, we continue to be led with the multitude of these voices, and merely are bound to follow the loudest volume. Isn't it a better fate to be led by a single maverick rather than a bunch of jokers running in different directions, if being led is what is in store for us?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The bollywood drama

I have heard enough and more people speak of Mumbai with a fondness that I have found difficult to attach to any city - even my favorite delhi. And I cannot stop being puzzled at it now that I am here and experiencing its craziness first hand. What could someone possibly find alluring in a city that carries millions of people who gobble up your sense of identity as you hunt for walking space on the road? Or about a place where traffic deadloacks materialize in ten minutes but take hours to clear up?
And if the normal drama of everyday existence falls short, thousand different events come to rock the city from its mad pace into an even madder one. A week begins with incessant rains that engulf the excuse of roads that the city has, ends on a mindless riot by over-zealous members of a certain party - and leads to the next one into a series of bomb-blasts on its "lifeline" - the metro network.
And with each of this calamity, the city pauses, hesitates, suffers - and gets back on its feet again the next day. All mumbaikars show a brave face to the media or anyone who cares to listen, and dorn an exaggerated shrug of "life goes on.." And the whole world praises the exemplary spirit of Mumbai and its ability to brave all troubles.

Does this city really feel so good and confident? Is the Mumbai spirit really that strong? If it is, why does the smallest shower lead to frantic rush on the roads leading to deadlocks? Why do i see panic written large on the face of every passerby and my colleagues when they hear the news or when the clouds takeover? Why cant the average mumbaikar stop pretending and let the world know that he is as scared and as disturbed as every human elsewhere.
May be the pretense is what keeps the wheels rolling for this place, which an outsider like me finds crazy. May be you need the pretense to hold on to shreds of normalcy and not lose head as you struggle to find a foothold on a rushing train.