Tuesday, December 09, 2008

two worlds in one city

i remember when there was just the times of india, when it's moron-like obsession with the rich was beginning to grate on my nerves. after feeling like a shredded cabbage in pain for the longest time, i switched to the indian express which was kind of substantial but still a bit thin for my taste. i used to rant against newspapers at large. i still do, but now i have a choice - all papers have their problems, but at least the Hindustan Timeses and the Indian Expresses of the world offer deeper stories.

i never thought i'd find my peace with newspapers, but in the face of the annoying, grubby faces of arnav goswami, his lizard henchman (you know the thin, fair guy, i never seem to catch his name), barkha dutt and the like, print - whatever it says - seems a lot more comforting, inclusive and thoughtful.

and then you come across something like this; something that sorts of puts its finger exactly where your pulse is pounding, and you thank the good lord for newspapers.

though we watched the program with daft wanker simi garewal mentioned below and saw her saying all this, there was nothing we could do except stare open-mouthedly. and wonder why no one from the audience or panel jumped up and pulled her by her hair-sprayed bouffant till she shrieked. well, trust a paper to find the space to do so nicely, politely, crisply.

over to mukul kesavan, in an article for The Telegraph called: The Mumbai tragedy and the English language news media:

“Go to the Four Seasons and look down from the top floor at the slums around you. Do you know what flags you will see? Not the Congress’s, not the BJP’s, not the Shiv Sena’s. Pakistan! Pakistani flags fly high!... You know what I think? We should carpet-bomb Pakistan. That’s the only way we can give a clear message.”

Simi Garewal later apologized for this little outburst on the television show, We, the People. She said she had mistaken Muslim flags for Pakistani ones. She had a harder time explaining away her ‘carpet bombing’ prescription. She claimed that she had meant to suggest a covert attack like the below-the-radar missions Americans so often undertake in Pakistan’s borderlands. Carpet-bombing is hard to do discreetly, but we shouldn’t make too much of this because the point isn’t Simi Garewal and her gaffe: it’s the way the English language news media covered the Mumbai tragedy.

The idiom of the coverage of the terror attack on Mumbai was in part shaped by the need to say something, anything, in the face of horror and evil. The need to voice not just their own feelings but the need to be a proxy for the People, to anticipate and echo a public revulsion, seemed to overwhelm reporters and studio anchors...

...it's fantastically-written and there's more here.

kiran nagarkar also wrote about the skewedness of the reportage that he sensed sitting in germany, where none of the international media seemed worried about anything other than white people in big hotels. nowhere did he find figures or details about CST and the poor or middle class who were being felled there like flies. well, the world is obsessed with white people, just as we seem to be with our rich, beautiful and famous.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

is it just me?

am i really the only one grossed out by the media frenzy over the terror attacks? i get the feeling that the old and the breathless - the barkha dutts and the arnav goswamis and all the other little idiot tiddlywinks - really are getting their collective knickers in a twist simply to justify their fat salaries finally. it's mind-bendingly sad and gross and tacky and just somehow so immature.
so bad, in fact, that the govt's finally seemed to notice and has asked for them to stop repeating footage of the attacks aimlessly (today's hindustan times, front page and page 6). i expect the media to go a bit off-centre, to look under the obvious, to somehow be a bit liberal, a bit thoughful. but they've turned out to be real jokers and vultures this time, literally using this whole incident to up their precious trp's.
gouri was asked by some pakistani left-leaning friends as to why the indian media seemed to toe the govt. line so obsessively; why did there seem no independent thinking almost? she felt like replying - and rightly so - that the govt. didn't seem to have as much of 'line' as the media, which seemed to be playing judge and jury in this rather sensitive case.
friends who went to the rally at the gateway said that the only sad thing was the amount of anti-pak feeling and sloganeering. it was overwhelming to see the collection of so many people without an obvious political focus (though the rss types were there too), but with a deep underlying sense of sorrow, anger and disappointment; but it was also scary to see how top-of-mind war was.
this is totally a product of how the tv channels have swung it for us. they've made pakistan and its establishment out to be so evil that if you're watching tv for a lot of time, like many people are, it's easy to get swallowed by their jingoistic tirades. there is total anarchy - here as well as there. how would fighting a war between states help? i really don't know what the way out is, but i do know for sure that if there is a popular push for war, the tv channels are to blame.
here's something small by my favourite author amitav ghosh on the subject.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

he's coming, he's coming. oh darn. he's not...

some days back, these obscene posters were put up all over chembur. huge hoardings for the bhoomipujan of the chembur-sandhurst rd monorail link. they bore pix of manmohan singh, sonia, gurudas kamat AND a big shiny unbelievable long, whizzy and phallic-looking monorail train. each poster had a different monorail train from the other, depending on the ingenuity of the dtp guy and which country his photostock-cd came from. one was yellow, another was red, a third was white and blue. all had 'chembur' written on the train. one was morphed on to an actual flyover above the market - and the flyover was labelled 'chembur railway station'. yeah, right. the gandhi maidan had been cleaned, grilled and painted, roads around it freshly paved (three in all), the footpath blessed with paver blocks that actually fit.

and now, all that is over. without even a whisker of our dear pm's beard landing at the domestic airport. nearly all the posters have come down. luckily the roads and footpaths haven't been dug up yet in a fit of civic pique. what saddens me is the overall ad-hoc-ism and expeditiousness of our approach to everything. i think this marks and mars each of our institutions, our responses and our processes.

the pm is coming, so quick, patch up roads on his route. don't do anything about the bad roads all over chembur in general (forget about the rest of mumbai); the broken paver blocks that people trip on; the homeless slum dwellers struggling in mandala; the noxious dumping ground in deonar and the colonies next door; a simple thing like the rusted, broken play equipment in diamond garden and other public parks - and so much more. i'm only talking about a few of the issues in our part of chembur because it strikes me as funny how even in this tiny microcosmic area, the pm's visit-that-wasn't did not bring anything more some pots of paint, and repairs to three roads.

this ad-hoc band-aid type approach of ours is everywhere. amit's mns friend was telling him about the numerous people he saw dying at cst when he happened to be there that fatal night - the cop, a friend of his, who told him to stay inside the chowky and stepped out only to be shot instantly; the street child who took a bullet to his brain; the overworked cop who wrote 600 panchnamas in one night and got them photocopied at his own cost (i believe cops have to do this, only to be reimbursed - sort of - when they retire. no wonder they are easily bribed); of the rusty jammed revolvers our cops use (and we all know about the hockey-goalkeeper-type bullet-proof shields they are given, don't we?). his stories are profoundly moving. and i wonder if he sees the irony in all this. just last month the mns was holding the city to ransom - beating up people, killing them. it was interesting to watch an interview with Mr Zende, the vt station announcer who saved many lives. his hindi-speaking UP colleague was with him that night, and while zende spoke, he switched off the lights in time and helped the continued broadcast of messages. NOW do parties which polarize people - the mns and the shiv-sena-bjp - see how stupid and petty they are? will the bjp ever see how myopic it was and is? how religion, ethnicity, language - nothing in the end is more valuable than or matters more than human life? and how easy it is - when you're having a good time kicking someone small - for a larger boot to find you and kick your head in?

i doubt that would have been top-of-mind when advani, munde and modi zipped to their various assignations in mumbai on what, the day after the attacks? they stood outside the oberoi and the chhabad house looking like idiots and daft wankers, causing near-riots. but votes are all, right? and what about so-pretty-it-hurts rahul gandhi who spent the whole of thursday - 8 hours of the actual hostage crisis day - at some party where among other things, cricket was played? wow.

another example of our immaturity is the rash of vaguely unsettling sms's doing the rounds - the anti-raj thackeray ones specifically. i hate the thackerays as much as the next rational person. but that message had this weird, sinister quality to it - it was annoyingly petty where it could have been a lot more profound. as if the mumbai cops (marathi or otherwise) who fought valiantly to reduce the damage - some of who died doing it - didn't count; that somehow being 'sons of the soil', they were simply cannon-fodder. i mean how small is that. why must we - in our attempts to be witty - sink to the level of idiots?

though i've totally rationed my tv-viewing, i watched a bit of times now last night, and the channel's coverage had me shaken. another instance of how quickly and easily we resort to wrong-doing. they seem to have 'exclusive' coverage of kasav the terrorist's confession and some more 'exclusive' cctv footage of the cst shooting. tell me, did all of that come for free? no bribery happened to oil that footage, those words out of there? now isn't corrupting officals for the sake of trp's expeditious and wrong? doesn't it ease the way for the next set of bribers to come in? the tone of their reportage as well - i think arnav goswami is a self-righteous little prig, but that fair, gaunt guy they have? he sounds a 100% bigot, and simply way he spoke could bring up the communal pitch. he went on and on and on about 'madrassas spewing hate' so much that i wanted to ask him if he'd heard of the rss.

the whole of our terror porn - starting with our dear star-struck cm - frightens me. when the nsg guys were requesting tv channels not to show their strategies on air, these same self-righteous announcers didn't care to respond. and they kept showing stuff - never forgetting to add those magic words 'exclusively brought to you by your channel, ...' - in this breathless, semi-orgasmic way. it all shows me that between our daft politicians and our trp-hungry channels, we haven't a hope.

the few things that do give me hope are peoples' reactions, the anger of the bereaved. Mrs Karkare's refusal of modi's tainted bucks, for one, and Sandeep Unnikrishnan's father yelling at the kerala cm (i mean, it doesn't get more humiliating in malayalam than poda patti). it's that pitch of post-bereavement rage, when your loss is so huge that even the smallest thing will drive you to anger beyond despair - the white-hot fury when you feel that with everything gone, you have nothing left to lose. i know because i felt it 8 and a half months back.

there's no hope for us, really. not unless someone funnels some wisdom into our heads in small trickles.

or does an obama on us.

(ps: after i posted this, i read paro's piece, and i think it says a lot that i felt as well but couldn't articulate... please to read. also look at the first post - her friend's comments on what she feels is wrong with the media. very taut and again, manages to focus my anger the way i couldn't!)