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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Whether or Not the Nation Demands to Know

Arnab Goswami, a man many Indians love to hate, is not a corrupt politician or a goon but a news presenter.

It is strange how social media posts update one of things back home in their country. My friend argued why he saves his little one from Indian TV. "C'mon! Horror movies and Arnab are not meant for kids. The time of my wall post will tell you when I watch it [mid night when the child is fast asleep]. But I won't be surprised if she asks one day: Dad, where are my chocolates? The nation demands an ANSWER!." 

I have been away from my home country for long and now am mostly between travels. It is by chance I get to watch Indian TV, especially its news channels. Sometimes it is entertaining to watch almost-comical presentations crammed with loud anchors seated in wrong emotions - venting out their childhood anger out on some new bully who must have taken the avatar of that new guest... they have now got a chance to attack in their studio. Forget it for a moment that the guests are not wise cracks. Then viewing becomes laboured and leaves one furious as TV proves it is nothing but an idot box [or must I say an idiot's box?]... with its own idiots almost energetically pulling the viewer's emotional state to that of the presenter's. 

Goswami is the anchorman of a news hour programme in one of India's many news channels. Complete with theatrics he loves to grill/fire/shoot/make faces/round his eyes/thrust some a4 sheet papers/shake his head in denial... at politicians and celebrities. It seems for years this anchor has been hogging airtime with all this... and his favourite line that interrupts the guest - 'the nation demands an answer'. This is repeated like an ad jingle though out the programme. This line is now a new favourite among the comics of the nation. Bollywood copies everything faster than Chinese fake-bag units. Hindi movies now cashes in on Goswami-theatrics to promote new releases... I happened to watch the SRK promo on Happy New Year where a con-man dressed like Goswami, complete with his idiosyncrasy entertains the viewer to have the name of the film registered well at the expense of the newsman.

To be frank I have nothing against his programme with a curious title 'Frankly Speaking'. Thanks to YouTube clips on Facebook reposts, I have only watched a few minutes of this journalist's work and it gives me palpitations... not that the guy intimidates me... but to know the whole world is probably watching such programmes. Though am not that weak or old to start complaining about my health but I have serious concerns for my countrymen and their children who may be subjected to this sort of entertainment/information options.

I recommend Indian television news channels to please start keeping a statutory warning line that 'TV news viewing can be harmful for your mental and emotional wellbeing'. This can probably warn heart patients or at least give a heads up to parents who may want to switch to other channels when children are around.

By better news channels, I don't intend to point at the western media. Western media's propaganda layers are as thick and gooey... but presented just as fine as Tiramisu. I will not speak of news in the Middle East yet, because I work and live in Dubai on a freelance journalist's visa and 'frankly speaking' will not do anything at this point to revoke my sole proprietor's license.

Why do we need to watch news on TV? For reasons to keep human resources of a now-not-so-relevant industry busy? I don't see any relevance in watching a 24-hour news channel when your phone can beep you the latest news for free!

I am sorry to let my industry colleagues know that the job of a TV news anchor will fast become redundant for two reasons. First of all, the new age of information dissemination is really easy, free and in your hands with the mobile technology... and this suits the busy/choosy/attention deficient/impatient mass population of hand-held-gadget-addicts who are the real majority of today's human race who has access to TV etc. 

Secondly, to produce a news package for TV takes so much more effort, human labour, man hours and is far more expensive. I was a TV journalist before I joined print media. You work more hours under constant pressure as the deadlines are hourly there... and then if you are lucky you will definitely get the golden chance to be the butt of some joke... for the right or wrong... reasons depending on the humour of management and/or sponsors. I am not against anyone dreaming a career in TV news journalism. For that dream to come true there must be better channels run/owned by real journalist-entrepreneurs who conduct themselves better/or are constantly trained to monitor their tones and undertones... and this breed should ideally not have a price tag on their news finding souls. Am not sure if you get all that I mean. Is it too bluvian? [Feel free to let me know ;)].

Online news reporting is a much better alternative for aspiring journalists. I worked for online portals before heading to TV news. It is the fastest and the most effective mode of mass communication for over a decade now and is here to stay for some more decades. The portal desk also gives you a lesser injurious environment to work if you can ignore office politics. The word that you typed wrong can be corrected as soon as it is found out… unlike when it is dramatised in a TV news relay that is recorded by enemy channels. 

In this matter, the worst place to work is the print media. In a Literary Festival last year I spotted a book by the name - UAE Newspaper Goof Ups. Believe me I was shocked to see a book full of newspaper clips with bylines of few of my contemporaries. Empathy made my ears turn red. Trust me this is exactly how it feels to be a news journalist. And exactly why many are happy to choose the desk and burry their life's purposes under spelling errors and silly human slips by those who must have made history while exposing a certain story... those envious reporters I mean!

It is only apparent that I admire a journalist, especially a good reporter. Trying to be a good journo for most of my career, I also know where the shoe bites the wearer. It is essential that editors served as reporters before they got there... cos experienced empathy powered leadership is the only thing that will run this creative brand of fire fighters.

For Goswami, I have little more to say. He is simply fighting... and is watched by an angry nation... of emotional viewers who thrive on drama over matter... and unfortunately all his research or study do not prevent him from morphing into the viewer's puppet monkey in the act. Am not sure if his manager watches him closely... not sure if the HR took a psychometric test before admitting him to that seat! Am not sure why I don't like this reporter though he seems to be doing his job well... perhaps it is the presentation. Am sorry I must confess it is bad!

Why am I writing this on/for a presenter whom I know not? He may never even read this. Well, being a reporter am 'frankly speaking' about what I found completely by chance. It is my duty whether or not the nation demands to know.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Play dead but love knocks you down anyway

Love is the one thing that transcends time and space, this is perhaps the gist of the spectacular sci-fi Interstellar. This was the last movie I saw in the cinema last month when I had no breathing time literally between study material and work and travel. 

The movie tells the story of a space traveller, played by Matthew McConaughey, who travels to make an adventurous inter-galactic voyage, swinging back and forth in many dimensions, before he comes home to realise the truth that love is the only single-most powerful phenomenon that eventually finds a way to save the mankind/human species. McConaughey’s bond with his little daughter is portrayed beautifully.

When you are away from home, being an expat in another city, most often the books you read and the movies you may watch do all the talking. It reminds you of things you have forgotten while living a hamster-on-the-wheel life. This movie too caught my nostalgia and dragged it once again to a long time back to one school day morning back home in Delhi.

Morning yells

It was the most dreadful time of the day also because I could never eat in a hurry. ‘You are dead if I come back and the milk is not finished.' That was my mother's favourite yell-line every morning as we all got ready to leave home. I had to make sure the milk disappeared. It would be poured quietly in to the sink or Sandy, our dog’s bowl and sometimes even the money plant in the corner got a milky surprise. And when mother came back I would pretend as if the milk made me so full beyond comprehension. We are all best actors when a situation demands. And if caught, I thought, I had no option than roll over and play dead, like our pet dogs.

A short walk over the bridge got me to where the school bus came. Father walked me there. He never supported forced-feeding but never interrupted mother. It was probably their secret pact. Anyway we hatched a plan to escape the breakfast round of yells. I would tap on the table with the cutlery. A sign for him to announce - 'Let me just wrap it in the foil, you could always eat it while we walk to the bus.' Winks exchanged.

The middle of the bridge offered that moment of peace. This is where I could fling that foil full of my frown-factor up in the air. It always landed right in front of the beggar who sat under the bridge. He must have thought God dropped breakfast air parcels... and he must have also thought that God took off on public holidays.

It was during a Diwali that grandparents had come over. Grandma reminded mother to arrange food for the poor before the prayers. Caught in the festive spirit to volunteer I mentioned about the beggar. My big mouth! Careless blurts always got me into trouble.

Hearing session

I could hear the monsoon clouds gather momentum as mother came closer. 'Somebody is gonna get hurt today' like how Russel Peters would ape his father who was about to punish boy Russel. This was not a funny moment for me.

Mother wore that ‘you are unbelievable expression’ and asked if he was the beggar I was throwing the food every morning? In that moment, I wished if the earth split open I could just disappear… like how the last traces of the milk ran into the holes of the stainless steel sink. I still have no idea how she always knew what I was up to. Mothers, I tell you!

'And the milk?' She wanted to know everything now. I knew it was time to play dead like Sandy. But most often I would look down to let pass the hearing session. If she demanded that I look into her eyes! It was the most horrible penance of all.

Not interested in feuds or because of their secret pact, father would never be in the picture. And as long as it was only mother speaking, it was only her speaking. And when she finished she finished once and for all. 

The verdict

The verdict was simple. 'Tomorrow onwards we all wake up earlier and I will sit with you till you finish the food and walk you to the bus stand. And if you missed the bus I will drop you to school. And if you reached late you can clean the reception area like other latecomers who missed the morning assembly' - those words rumbled louder than the monsoon clouds in India. While every culprit played dead, including our pet dogs, I thought of the next big idea to get rid of the morning misery. 

I agreed to join boarding school. 

Optimism has kept me going till date. Times changed and with no one in particular to exchange winks I sometimes post them on my social media box.

Living away from home some days nostalgia strikes in batches… of those wonder years of childhood… those silly moments that seemed like between life and death… love of our beloveds… the lane that walks you to back home and oh-so-precious mother's food. I miss being home this Diwali and perhaps the new year too… This year even though I visited India few times, was badly tied up with commitments in another cities, and could barely spend anytime at home.

Mother is now emotional. Time to roll over and play dead.


With sister and grandma from one of those days when grandparents visited… Guess this was clicked in Agra … b4 spotting Tajmahal