Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Truth...

The last few days have forced me to think once more. Think about what I value and what I want out of life. There have been different people that I have met in different parts of the world, yet the message seems to have been loud and clear – power, money and sex are the motivations and desires of most people. It seems strange to me that intellect and honesty have not figured on most lists. Actually I should rephrase that. Intelligence and truth are not deemed “in fashion” in their purest forms. Wisdom is thought to be of use only if it generates cash and truth is attractive only if packaged with some sex appeal.

While majority of the people are telling me this, the silly me is fascinated by Gandhi’s autobiography – My experiments with truth. My little brain reasons; Gandhi did not accumulate wealth for self nor was his honesty sold with physical pleasures. On the contrary, this man who believed that “nothing is impossible for pure love” actually secured the treasure of freedom for the nation at the cost of his own family. He gave up physical pleasures (not just sexual but even those of taste and the touch of silk) in his quest to test his own endurance. The world holds him as an iconic example of a model human being. So was Gandhi wrong, am I na├»ve or is the world just hypocritical?

Unable to find the answer, I am confused and agitated. Why does everything boil down to sex, money and power? Is it worth believing in love, having faith in a supreme power, valuing knowledge and astuteness and dealing with integrity and sincerity? Or is it wiser following the world, seeking pleasures and hoarding materialistic gains? Will there ever be a time when mankind will cherish the pure values that Gandhi promoted and true love conquer the current and future generations?

I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I do not have the answers and fear ridicule with this post. However, I am interested in knowing the world’s view and the truth. So I am risking this post, putting myself out there and being who I am; because there is no other way that I know how to live other than being honest with myself at least...

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Cup is Always Half Full

It was past 2:00 pm and I was hungry. In the queue to buy lunch I was restless and was looking around. Suddenly a lady jumped the queue and went to the top end, but before I could react I realised it was a mistake. Everyone is allowed such errors, but that was not what the person behind me thought. Even after the lady apologised and joined the end of the queue, he shook his head in grave disapproval. Watching this scene play out, I missed moving forward which drew another groan from Mr. Perfect. Normally I would have laughed this out, but the fact that it was a Caucasian male disapproving of brown skin errors, made it a hard to ignore act.

I am myself critical of the weaknesses of my fellow countrymen and our systems, but sometimes find the intolerance of foreigners a little overbearing. It is not because I am holier than thou that I think I can be nit-picking and outsiders cannot be, but it is because I think I can look into my own house and set right the wrong. If we do not amend our own limitations, outsiders will only exploit us. But the outsiders need to look into their own affairs before they start raising eyebrows at our dealings. It is the assumed higher ground of some foreigners that I have difficulty in accepting.

The first time I went to live in Europe, I was asked if I could really afford the education and life in France. There were questions on if I had ever travelled outside of India, how I would repay any loans I had taken and did I watch movies other than Bollywood productions. These were amusing questions asked by the intrigued French and initially seemed to be harmless. But on the one occasion that a French policeman tore my Indian driving licence and bad mouthed India, I felt the discrimination. When a friend, whose car was burnt by French hooligans was asked by the French police if he had set fire to his own vehicle to claim insurance; I confirmed that brown skin was not looked upon favourably.

A couple of years ago, on a business trip to India, I met with a British professional who had decided to come to India and gain some work experience. It was a voluntary decision and there were no personal or professional pressures that prompted the decision; but apparently her decision was making her very unhappy. In her few months in India she concluded that nothing in India worked, no one cared about the surroundings and that it was all doomed to the end. Her lamenting went on for twenty minutes, after which I had to bring to her attention that if she waited for two weeks for an internet connection in Mumbai, in London too it takes three weeks. If the cable set up in Mumbai happens in 3 days, in London it takes 5 working days. If she felt salespeople were too pushy in Mumbai stores, in London they were sometimes apathetic. On the other hand, if she fell ill in London, she would probably have to manage on her own; in Mumbai, however, an unknown neighbour would readily help. If in London she wanted to meet friends, she would need to book her slot; in India though she could just go across. If in London she needed groceries immediately, she would need to go in person; whereas in India she could have them delivered at the doorstep for no charge!

Each nation has its own sets of strengths and weaknesses and if everyone would learn the best practices of the rest; the world would be a better place. To balance my own blog, I will increase the positive coverage of India, Indians and our rich history and culture. If I do not sell our strengths, I cannot expect others to acknowledge them. If I want to have the right to find flaws publicly I must recognize the strengths more openly. This is my resolve and I hope I live up to it.
PS: As there are those who moan about India, there are those foreigners who appreciate the country and the culture. I would like to thank all my friends and the strangers, who over the years have brought to my notice the richness of the country that we live in

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Indian Media - A Sprained Fourth Limb?

Media industry empowers its workforce to spread awareness, generate opinion and induce change; whether it is positive or negative impact that is created depends on the content carried. In the race to make money, it seems like Indian media has thrown caution to the winds. Analysing from across the seas only a small aspect of this carelessness was evident, but a closer inspection at home brought me face to face with the significant amount of violence, sex and glamour that spans news media; without thought to the probable influence on the adolescent and the impressionable young. Indian media also carries unabashed biased content on criminal offences, jeopardising fair trials, if audience coverage increases.

Recently, a popular English daily of the country carried a column titled “Water Cooler Moments” with explicit content on flogging, spanking and violence as increasing “bonding” during sexual activities. The piece mentioned “research” that corroborates such indulgence. Sex in India is not an openly discussed topic either in schools or at homes. However, there is a lot of exposure that teenagers have to sex via media. This intrigues teenagers who are increasingly engaging in different acts of physical intimacy without much thought, understanding or safety. Imagine the impact that columns such as the one under discussion, on “increasing pleasure”, can have if youngsters really try to attempt “bonding in bondage” either consensually or forcefully (especially in cases of forced sex).

This column is supposedly meant to bring forth overheard “interesting” conversations, but such content is blatantly lackadaisical. Furthermore, this column is regularly published right next to the “Open Space” column, which has a large young reader base. Having content as it did, almost positioned the piece to target the youth as the prime audience! I must admit that I had not read the newspaper and was pointed to this article by a friend. I was horrified and on pointing out the objectionable content to the newspaper’s editor, I received no response. It is really sad to know that Indian media professionals are abusing their privilege of “freedom of speech and expression”, a constitutional right, without acknowledging that they are capable of shaping the nation’s future.

The recent rape case of the American girl is an incident that highlights media’s liking for creating frenzy. (I would like to admit that the reports also agitated me). The first few days post the incident Indian dailies carried front page articles on this issue. Pre and post facto details, the statement of girl and suggestive comments by parents of the accused; were all published without censorship. Additionally, the accused’ statement saying that they did not flee the city as they did not think that the girl would “cry rape” made bold headlines. Printing such statements could signal to youngsters that it is alright to commit crimes as long as they are not caught; but on the part of media there was no curtailing. Once the news had lost its initial excitement, all coverage was dropped. The victim’s sufferings, the accused’ innocence and the police’s findings; nothing was deemed important enough to be brought out in the open.

There was no balance in the reporting of this incident. Responsible journalism would have been in reporting the facts in full, producing complete statements of both the victim and the accused (as opposed to publishing just the victim’s statement), refraining from publishing the strong opinionated comments of parents of the accused and then following through with the case. I also opine that the identity of the accused should have been protected until the case had closed. If found guilty, the media should have then increased awareness of the punishment meted out and promoted the judiciary’s efforts of setting an example in order to avert such horrifying crimes in future.

The legal luminary, Fali S Nariman had once said, “Free and robust reporting, criticism and debate contribute to public understanding of the rule of law, and to a better comprehension of the entire system. It also helps improve the quality of that system by subjecting it to the cleansing effect of exposure and public accountability.”

The gigantic Indian media is providing apathetic exposure to the youth and publishing without any responsibility itself; thus it remains doubtful if it will perform its function of improving “quality of the system”. With a weak “fourth limb of a democratic system”, media as called by GN Ray the Chairman of the Press Council of India, will this democracy be able to strongly stride and take on the world is a question that we need to address. Just as India needs to demand accountability from its politicians, Indians need to ensure that media begins to acknowledge its duties. The nation needs to awaken and smell the coffee!
PS: Maybe I spoke to soon, there was an aricle in the Mumbai Mirror on the rape case this morning. The balnced view is still questionable as the language still sensationalises the issue. The piece can be found on http://www.mumbaimirror.com/article/15/2009050420090504031227495d8b4e80f/Party-pics-boomerangon-TISS-rape-suspect.html. Interestingly, Mumbai Mirror calls itself a tabloid newspaper!