Monday, July 23, 2007

Is Good Journalism,Bad Business?? A comment

There was a time when news meant newspapers or the occassional broadcast on doordarshan.But those times have long gone.The last time i ever saw doordarshan on my television was........... Ok..I don't remember.The point is news today has long gone from being the first thing after coffee to the everything we watch in between advertisements.I remember waking up early in the morning to get the newspaper before my dad in order to look at the photo of sachin in his glorious form on the sports page...Well,that was ten years ago.

Today news channels are on an adrenalin high.They go buzzing off for everything insanely silly from an eloped couple to bhoots coming to town on hearing himesh's music.I really do not understand the fact that News channel editors do find it ethically,morally right to put these things on television.Not even the 'high class' news channels have refrained from this fast catching hunt for TRPs.So it came as a pleasant change as i watched india's best journalists discuss this new phenom of journalism in front of a very capable panel.

The Indian Express is often regarded as the most respected newspaper in this country by aesthetic readers.Others like me prefer 'The Times Of India' out of habit.I remember my dad bringing a copy of the Times along with the Express.He would read the Times,for compulsion of habit and the Express for politically relevant news.But recently even newspapers have fallen prey to the 'entertainment' factor.

As I watched our 'exiting president' APJ ABdul Kalam question the relevance of journalism's role in the upliftment of 22% of our population which are below the poverty line,he was almost rebutted by an answer by the editor of the Times Of India.What I vaguely heard over the confusion was that the 22% do not read newspapers,watch TV,or get podcasts.How is the media ever going to get to them.A very pertinent question indeed.But i wish the rep for such a reputed newspaper had looked back a little on our past before commenting so harshly.The path to our independence has been paved with the efforts of responsible journalism.Raja Ram Mohan Roy' Samvad Koumudi is probably one of the earliest reference to good journalistic behavior.And i doubt whether people in those times had television,i pods,least of all they hardly were literate.

Another question that came to the fore during this debate was that whether or not the indian media was losing its touch with relevant and responsible journalism. The question was raised by the ever wily LK Advani.The man sure caught Rajdeep Sardesai on the wrong foot.Even Barkha Dutt tried her chances as she pushed rajdeep to the fore to answer that question.What rajdeep said indeed surprised me.I hold him in high esteem for being a good journalist all these years,but his answer referred that he was more a businessman now.He replied that he did not work in a vaccuum.He referred to his channel being the biggest news breaker this year.So what if some of the news are completely stupid.They only act as spice in the middle of a hearty meal.That answer was good enough for Sitaram Yechury, an uncomfortable communist sitting there to raise some better thoughts.Was it not possible for the media to do the same kind of strive towards its excellence in the field by eliminating such irrelevant news?

The question still remains what is relevant and what is irrelevant news??Some journalists raised the argument that regional newspapers have gone to dogs.This they attribute to the fact that the televison media is showing all sorts of news which 'titillate' the reader who looks to his newspaper in the same way as he watches TV.So,publishers who do print relevant news find it 'bad business' to keep on doing their job as other newspapers make hay while printing gossips.The answers to which ranged from the eternal 'Times have changed' to 'we give the reader what he wants'.So,my question wud have been,If the reader indeed is going wrong in asking for stupid stuff;isn't it the job of the media-the conscience keepers- to rectify them and bring them on track with good,responsible and impact creating news?

I might be considered an ambitious yet stupid young man.I do not now how the industry works,or how it should work.I have no experience in the field that i dream of going into.But one thing i know for certain...Integrity,independence and courage are things a journalist lives on.That is what my teacher taught me.Compromising on any one of these factors for any reason-be it money,fame or popularity-is despicable.And i wonder if those news casters knew that.For they were sitting beneath the picture of one of the founding fathers of Modern Indian Journalism.

Ramnath Goenka is a legend in the news circles.I hardly know anything other than his big fight with Reliance(remember GURU),his crusade against Indira Gandhi.MY father told me that Goenka was not known for his founding of the Indian Express.When Mrs Indira Gandhi declared eemergency all across the country,most newspapers next morning carried out an 'official' press release declaring the story of it.The Express didn't.What Mr ramnath Goenka did established his fame in the annals of Indian journalistic history.The readers of the Express received a completely black manuscript.Nothing was ever printed in those pages,except for a few words at the beginning of the front page.The words read

"Let Truth Prevail"

That is journalism.Fearless,true and morally right.

Friday, July 20, 2007

My Father's Son

I know u people will be bored to death if i go through this self pitying thought one more time,but then i don't have anything else to write about.This morning i got up and had a duel with my pa.Well,that would have been usual except he said one thing that made me think again.What he said was," You are hardly the son iexpected you to be."

To analyse this we have to go way back in the past.Back to my father's past, to be more accurate.He was a very scholarly person.Of course,I haven't seen that myself.But that is what all my relatives tell me.He was the kind of mamma's boys that sit in the first benches,raise their hands to answer every one of the teacher's questions,never miss class.I beleive that is why he scowls at me everytime i am late for the first lecture(whoever gets up and reaches college for a 7 am lecture....don't even think about answering).I also heard that he was the equivalent of the students' union leader.His friend once told me,'that college might have run on a sunday if your father wanted it to.'scholar,leader,class representative....Man,i wish i was all this.On second thoughts...Nah!!

Now that is my father.Back to me.What shall i say about myself.I am every disciplinary parent's nightmare.I am never on time for my lecture,never ever study my lessons(unless u call makiing chits studying),am as dirty as is physically possible,have failed my exams twice in a row,talk convincingly,and lie even better.Prodigious talent,you may say.But my father fears me like he does cholera.Hey, I ain't superman.

I know how dissappointed he is even though he tries hard not to show it.I know,for i have been there all the time.I can imagine the joy on his face when i was born.I can picture him,holding me in his arms,promising that he would raise me like no parent had ever done.I can remember those days when he would come after doing his job and still help me with the hmework.He is a great dad.Except that he just does not know when to stop beleiving in his son.

He knew i was an average student when my ranks kept declining after the 5th standard.He knew i was way too weak in maths when i almost nearly failed in my 9th standard terminal exams.Yet,not once did he tell me that he thought that.He still continued to beleive in my ability.I wasted a lot of his money on waste pursuits.Like the cycle i bought,cost him 2000 of his salary,and never used.I still remember my mother's scolding for that.But he never wrinkled his face.

I know i have failed him in a lot of respects and that has hurt him.I know he still belives that i might be his best investment yet.But i just can't get myself to do things he wants me to do.Maybe i am too selfish,maybe i just am not sensible enough.Or maybe i just am too stubborn.But one thing i know for sure.He is still going to come home tonight and ask me if i did anything useful today.And i know that he still beleives in meAnd i hope he'll continue to do that,for that is the only reason i try to change myself.Maybe because i want to succeed in life,or maybe because i am 'My Father's Son'

Monday, July 16, 2007

Peak hour.

I am not an adventurous person.NO sirree! I am a self confessed couch potato.I do not like to embark on adventures to places unknown or even have a remote desire to conquer a distant land,unless it is inside 300 sq ft of my existence.So when i landed at my cousins place this saturday,I was least expecting an adventure.But as it all goes,i did have an adventure.

My cousin is quite a dude.We call him 'Junky'.that might explain it all.So he is one guy who cannot sit back and relax at home,even on a Sunday.He goes all out and plans a trekking trip.though not everybody in the 'youth department' was ready.Every body had something else to do,i was the only one left.So he caught up with some of his friends,and decided to drag me along.I said already,thet i am not the adventurous guy.But that does not mean i am not a guy who take chances.So i went along,half to redeem my courage in the eyes of family and partly to just get a change.

The plan was to head to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary,far away from the dirt cauldron of mumbai and its honking cars.So we woke up at 6 am on a sunday morning,caught a train to panvel(by 8:30).We picked up the other guys at vashi.They were known people,in the sense that i had seen them before but did not quite know them.So off we went.Four amateurs,high in the toxic fumes of adrenalin,in search of adventure.

We caught an ST bus from panvel to Karnala.By the time we got there,it was 11 am.So we braced ourselves for the trek.I had been to Karnala once,long back.That time i had found it comparatively easy.Well,it is easy even now,except if you know which way you are going.We walked to the "First Base" pretty easily.The atmosphere was as serene as a mumbaikar could hope for.If you can oversee the Bisleri bottles lying around and the place,the place is nature's haven.We left for our target,the fort at the peak.

The place was covered in lush greenery,result of the rains.The clear skies added to the attraction of the greenery.We stopped by a brook on the way and dipped ourselves in cool,fresh,unbottled water.Then lightning struck!! we spotted a narrow,rocky path swerving behind the place from where the brook was sprinkling from.With two in favor,and two against the vote for that path was a stalemate.Then,'junky' challenged for an adventure.And we fell for it.

From then on,what we did would never be called 'trekking'.Not in my vocabulary.It was tripping,climbing,skidding and hanging.The more we climbed,the steeper the climb became.After one hour and no peak in sight;not that we could see it with all the towering trees and creepers above us.Till we came to a point where there was no route ahead.In front of us stood a couple of huge boulders,cut through by flowing water.Up ahead,we could not see any path.Our mobiles were still catching signals,but they were useless if nobody knew where to find us.We decided to put our courage to task.We started scaling the rock-face.I grabbed a stout creeper hanging over the rock,slid my left foot into a crevice grabbed hold of the jagged eedge and pulled myself up.The process included a spasm in my stomach.I made it up.And so did the others.The path from above was worse.The mud was slippery.Even 'Adidas' shoes couldn't hold forte.We pushed and grimed our way through the sticky,slippery and steep slope.

Time was passing us by.Our reserve of water was fast emptying,without ending our unquenchable thirst.Our clothes were discolored by the mud,Hands were so grimy,that even dettol couldn't have washed it off.Then we reached another 'Dead End'.This time it was a group of bent over trees blocking our way.By now,the crew was tired,hurting and seriously doubting that we were on the right track.We looked around for voices but heard nothing other than the scream of an eagle overhead.But we never gave up hope.we bent over,backpacks and all,and searched our way out of the bushes.

That might have been the most sensible thing we did.Coz right ahead of the bushes lay a rock hewn path,which looked naturally civilised.In the sense that it bore signs that somebody had been here.Though the path was steep,our new found faith fuelled the remaining energy to banish our exhaustion.

The only signs of civilisation that we saw was a fifty feet beneath the peak.We spotted two foreigners who asked us the way back.But all my excitement of reachhing the peak was diminished by the fact that it was so crowded.It looked like a bustling udipi hotel.Though this was not the end of our journey,the fort lay 500 metres in front of us.Its flag fluttering high,inviting one and all.

We marched on.The fort greeted us with a medeival embrace of silence.As i stood above the edge of the fort's remaining walls,and peered down into the vast expanse of greenery,i felt fear,power,happiness and sorrow.All at the same time.
Fear- for having looked at how high i have come,and where i was standing.
Power - for having accomplished this in the face of every obstacle.
Happiness - for discovering that there is something within me that symbolises a fighter
Sorrow - for the thought that i have to leave this place to be ravaged over by humans like me in search of an adventure.

After admiring the beauty for a while,we started our downward trek.In our bags we carried every garbage that we had used.But the mud,sweat nad grime,that we carried in our shirts and shoes were priceless.They were the signs of our struggle.I might leave this place with an very dirty apparel and aching joints,back and musscles(that might carry over to the next few days);but i promise i will be back here someday.Not tomorrow,not the next sunday,but someday.I have to find out if nature can survive its battle against the heartless adventures of mankinds industrial zealots.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Value Of Education

School years are probably the most important years of a students' life.He learns almost everything in his school days.From cheating in the examinations,forging parents' signatures on leave letters,escaping homework....well, almost everything.But there are things they never learn there.IN fact something they never learn is the value of education.For most of us go to schools out of compulsion.At least,I did.The reason is obvious.Who likes to go with a overloaded bag to a place where you will be locked for six hours while the sun shines outside.

When i left my school,i felt liberated.Unlike most people i never feared losing my school friends in college.But this is not about all that,This is about a strange incident that i was witness to a few days back.

I was sitting on the grounds of my school,watching kids play the same ol' game of cricket.I guess somethings never change.Some of my teachers spotted me there and called me in.School had not yet started,and most of them had just arrived.I went in through the entrance that used to shelter me during rains.I had a brief conversation spent mostly trying to convince them of what my academic reality was.Just then the 'princy' arrived.Well,she is the new 'princy',back then she used to teach me science.She smiled and asked me to come in.I tried to escape,plead and excuse myself.But it isn't easy when you have been a former favorite.(Unbeleivable.Beleive It)

I was sitting in the principal's office,when a lady entered.She was leading a little girl by her hand.The girl might have been 5-6 years old.She was dressed neatly,a bag hanging behind her back and hair partitioned in two ponytails.She was the kind of girl you look at and say "cho chweet" to.She looked a little scared,perhaps apprehensive of the dominant chair in front of her.From the first moment they entered,I knew what it was.Admission.MY principal asked me to wait outside.I obliged.

There was a huge gap in the door,which was half opened,through which i watched the entire proceedings.Teh girl kept looking at her mother all the time.The mother meanwhile,was no less scared .Well, after all this was a question pertaining the future of both of them.The principal knew this and was trying to be affable.She started by speaking in hindi to the mother.Then switched to english to the child.After a gentle prod by her mother,the child replied in as good an english as you could expect from her.after a while,i assume hon.madam chose to grant the kid admission.She turned to the mother and expressed of the same in fluent english,probably a force of habit.As it turned out,the mother was illiterate.No wonder then that she blanked.It was then the moment came.

The helpless mother first looked at the madam,then at the kid.The madam did not grasp the situation so fast,as the kid did.She explained to her mother what was to be done.That moment has left and indelible mark on my heart for the last few days.

IN that fleeting moment,the little girl learnt the value of education.She might have not learnt it,if her teachers used the rod.Not even if her father;like mine; shrieked at her for years to come.She learnt the value of her education,the price of her literacy in that moment when her illiterate mother looked around helplessly to try and know what was to be done in order to get her little girl in school.I doubt that she will ever forget her mother's helpless moment.

I was never a bad student.But yet,i became one.Not because nobody told me the importance of education,but because everybody did.That little girl just reiterated to me what my teachers tried to drill in my head.Except she knew the value of education better.