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.


Banno said...

I didn't do much TV watching after the incident. So did not see Simi Garewal. But whatever little I saw of the news, etc was revolting. Sitting in Goa, I wondered if I was the only one feeling that way. That I was pretending revulsion because I did not want to watch! But yes, this Telegraph piece puts it all together so succintly. What the *&$#

Roopesh said...

You hit the nail with that last para.!!! THe white and rich rule the world , the pretentious world we live in.

Btw: Kavita recomm'd your site to me.Gr8 work, keep on writing

Sampath said...

What you say is so true. Look, nobody wants to downplay the tragedy by any means, and this may sound callous, but 200 people (the death toll in the Mumbai terror attack) die 'routinely' in most of our train accidents and floods, and we scarcely ever see such a display of (TRP-driven) horror on those occasions. The idea, i presume, is to 'catch the pulse' of your audience - and the TV mandarins had decoded this mythical pulse as 'implacable rage' and went with it.

Let me just add something that puts this in perspective. During the very 60 hours that the terror siege of the 5-star hotels lasted, there was a cyclone and floods in Tamil Nadu. My parents in Chennai were caught in a siege of their own — chest-deep water in their locality, no electricity (and so no phone, and their mobiles ran out of charge), no water, no way you can venture out of the house to buy food or provisions, and not one millimetre column space in Mumbai's newspapers.

Luckily my parents lived on the first floor and weren't so badly affected as others, but if you were living in Mumbai, you wouldn't have known that there were floods in Tamil Nadu, in Chennai — i didn't, till my father called me to reassure me that they were okay. (Just imagine that we are under 'house arrest', he joked). This is the state of our media — print, electronic, the whole shebang.

And last i checked — this was more than 10 days ago - more than 60 human beings had died and 10,000 rendered homeless by the floods in TN. It is anybody's guess how many have lost their livelihoods. In case you were wondering why there was no Barkha standing in knee-deep (okay, make that ankle-deep) water to report on the terrible tragedy of the floods, the answer, my friend, is floating in the puddle: all the five star hotels in the state were unaffected and no white people had perished, or were inconvenienced in any way.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Thank you! couldn't agree more. In the 10 minutes of live coverage that I saw on TV, Barkha Dutt asked a white man as he was getting out of Taj, "Sir, will you come to India again?" Can you possibly suck up to another human being any more? I honestly felt that was very insulting to those who were trying to come to terms with this nightmare.

Also, the media forgot to cover constable Tukaram Ombale who caught the lone attacker. Ombale died with 30 bullets in his body. The "laathi" that the state gave him was of no help when he faced the automated gun holders.

Anil P said...

The English language television did leave a lot to be desired, a lot.

Can you blame them though, for on the scene 'the press' is the person delivering news or reporting a story and will reflect his or her understanding at a personal level.

So unless you are sure whom you want to select as a journalist you'll keep seeing what we saw during 26/11.