Sunday, January 29, 2006

Media Jungle

“Do I climb the ladder or go up the rope?’ I read this somewhere in a handout about a play, I think. Isn’t it so relevant for people like me - wondering what the hell to do with life?
An outlook journalist gave a talk at college yesterday. Generalizing on outlook I thought he must be those journalism is infotainment with not an ounce of social responsibility types. Thankfully he wasn’t and had a lot of interesting things to say. One of them being that it’s not all about low waist jeans, butt cleavage and donating one’s youth to M.G road and Brigade road. This made my friends and me cringe in a bit of well deserved guilt.

Anyhow there was some talk about whether newspapers will soon be extinct in this age of technology. He said firmly that they will not. However the print media will constantly adapt to competition from the broadcast and internet media and cater to shorter attention spans at whatever cost. Whether its sms alerts or shorter articles change will be rapid. In the west there are free DVDs etc for subscriptions which attract readers. Unlike in India where newspaper sales are booming, they are on the decline in the west.

Talking about the aggressive marketing strategies of the Times of India, he said that they employed this strategy he termed as dumping-conquering as much advertising space in a town as possible. Another strategy is, he said, cost cutting. A dealer would probably make more out of a bag of newspapers from the raddi wallah than actually selling it. This is obviously possible because of ridiculous amounts of advertising revenue from elsewhere. An advertising manager from TOI who quit apparently told him that he wouldn’t trust the TOI with is daughter .Interesting.

Then, again, I don’t think journalism is all serious stuff and intended to bore us to death. True, it is a valuable tool for democracy and its purpose is to create awareness. However,
The fact is that it has to inform in entertaining or at least reader/viewer friendly way to get the attention of the masses. There is obviously a thin line between sensationalism and good ethical journalism. Also there is a thin line between boring drab journalism and good ethical journalism.
About the tehelka tapes he felt, they were needed. The media is accessible le only to about 10% of a largely illiterate country. The tapes left no room for doubt about political corruption. What were the larger publications doing then is a valid question he asked. Has the print media become complacent just churning out the regular day to day stuff?

Outlook man felt the most boring journalism came out from Bangalore and Chennai. Possibly.
Anyhow what did I start with? Ya, the ladder and the rope. I’ve always been attracted to journalism. Now, I feel overwhelmed by the jungle the media is beginning to sound like As a journalism student it seems unnerving to enter it .

Thursday, January 26, 2006


What is prejudice? Why do we educated urban people assume we are beyond prejudice?
In reality all of us are biased about economic class, alma mater, religion, brands and God knows whatelse . Everyone does however have their own prejudice. Some are unaware of their prejudices. Some are afraid to admit it even to themselves.
To have prejudice is to pre judge and to generalize. We did a valuable component on the nature of prejudice in my 7th std class. I know it is assimilated somewhere into my thinking but can’t remember the details now. My school didn’t believe in teaching s details of the numerous pacts and other History History things. Though I am quite clueless, I am glad about that.
Anyway the point of all that was that one of the abstract chapters we did was prejudice.

Recently, I traveled from Jammu to Delhi by a night bus. It was the first time I was taking a bus alone and I was the only female on the bus. For some reason, my mind turned all bitchy and I was shit scared of all the men in the bus. They probably were looking at me because they were letching or because they found it odd that I was traveling alone. I don’t know. Suddenly I began to have thoughts I was ashamed of .I didn’t even know I had such prejudices in me . Once, a friend had told me Sikhs in turbans were very trustable and I found comfort finding one on the bus. I was very suspicious of the Muslims and didn’t feel like trusting anyone in general because they were Men. Is it because I felt that my identity as a woman was threatened? In the sense that I felt unsafe being the only woman in a bus in some unknown town. Do prejudices pop up when one’s identity is threatened?
Anyway, I turned my head to the moving moon and distracted myself from vague thoughts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

15 , Park Avenue

I just watched Aparna Sen’s 15,Park Avenue. It is about Mitali(Konkana Sensharma) who suffers from schizophrenia and how her disease affects her and the relationships of those around her.
It is interesting because it brings into focus the schizophrenic’s point of view. What is reality anyway? Whose reality is more real? Meethi’s world of saddam and him helping her escape to her husband’s house where her five children are? .Or Anjali’s (her sister played by Shabana Azmi) world of being a physics professor and day to day life?
‘How would you feel if I told you, you were not a professor and you were imagining it’? , Meethi says making even the self convinced Anjali pause for a minute.
The film explores how such an illness affects people around the patient. Anjali feels responsible for her sister and has put her own life on hold, caring for her sister, leaving no time even for self pity.

Rahul Bose does a fairly good job playing the fiancĂ© of Meethi who leaves her when he realizes he cannot be with a ‘woman he only feels pity for.’ A chanced encounter while on holiday in Bhutan eleven years later presents him Mitali who doesn’t recognize him. And yet believes herself to be married to him.
The most disturbing scene is indeed the rape scene. When on a journalistic assignment outside Kolkata, Meethi is attacked and gang raped by political men. Needless to say this aggravated her to a point of no return.
The scene itself is not as rape scenes in Hindi movies are portrayed dramatic. It simply shows the latching of a door and people walking in and out and moans. At the end of it Meethi I hurled outside bleeding and vulnerable.
It was terrible and made me think about how woman can never be free when the ever present threat of rape lingers around the corner .jojo’s reaction to the rape incident is shocking but real. One part of him wanted to hold her and the other was too repulsed to even touch her again.
That’s how things are?
The movie ends rather abruptly. It is open ended .But, I can’t think of any other ending that would have done justice to the rest of the film.

This is by no means a review of the film but Konkana was as always brilliant. Shabana , I felt was schoolish in some parts and the rest did a fairly good job.

Monday, January 09, 2006

fooling around with photoshop


Like in all tourist places, Mcleodganj has locals for whom tourists are part of a culture. It is as you know where the Dalai Lama sought political asylum after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. It is now his home and the exiled Tibetan government is here.
For Tibetans, their occupations revolve around their country. Whether it is selling antiques, traditional attire or T-shirts with Buddhist Mantras written on them, their day to day life revolves somewhat around selling bits of their culture.
As soon as one gets off the bus, hotel owners hound you claiming they’ve had a lot of “Delhi students’ stay with them before. From what angle we were assuredly Delhi students to them, I don’t know.

We were already tired of being cheated so we chose a room in a nunnery which was really perfect and had a terrace attached so it was lovely to see the snow capped peaks gleaming amidst the night’s darkness. For anyone interested in the concept of culture, Mcleodganj is the place to visit. Majority of the population is Tibetan and the rest of the inhabitants are migrants from North India or Nepal. The tourist population is largely Western or Israeli people in search of nirvana or drugs. There are of course the weekend trippers from parts of Punjab who just come for ‘sight-seeing’ (Oh, How I loathe the term).There was a lone mallu shopkeeper as well, longing for the coconut trees conspicuously missing (for him) in this mountainous confine. These mallus, I tell you, are everywhere.

According to the ‘other’ communities, the Tibetans are lazy because they get aid from Western organizations ‘fooled by’ pictures of ‘sad eyed’ children.’ They are, says, D, a Rajasthani, living on charity’. Following the alleged rape of a Tibetan boy (thought to be a girl because of the long hair’) by a Drunken Punjabi man, Punjabis have been looked down upon, says R, a Kashmiri. He warned us to stay away from them. The Tibetans however told us not to trust the Kashmiris and so did the Rajasthani. Another well meaning Indian tourist from Delhi told us not to trust the foreigners. The Indians resent the fact that Tibetans are so well off, even as refugees. According to some of them, the monks are leading luxurious,’ immoral’ lives ‘sporting expensive watches and getting pregnant’. Female tourists are harassed often.

Mcleodganj, in this sense is a cultural mess.
At the Dalai Lama temple, there is a beautiful sense of community as monks and punks sit together and pray and share meals.(No I am not saying that for corny rhyme value, I am referring to those guys clad in extremely baggy pants(gravity’s slaves) ,psychedelic colored T shirts and lots of (non- prayer ) beads. The monks and the chuba clad women carry those prayer wheels rotating them rhythmically to Buddhist chants. We were the only Indians there really, but they were very friendly and invited us to eat with them. We really felt like we weren’t in India and the meat in the soup was making my loyal vegetarian self very paranoid. I couldn’t obviously waste food that has been so graciously offered to me in near foreign settings. It turned out to be Tofu. Phew! (and yea , I was shameless enough to ask.)
There is a vibrant young crowd one meets at TIPA (Tibetan institute of performing arts). Whether it is preparing for Tibetan opera shows in Darjeeling, designing colorful traditional costumes or playing the Tibetan guitar and offering classes for tourists, the students here are an interesting lot. Enrolled for a five year course, they specialize in one aspect of the Tibetan opera in an institute that is struggling to preserve an ancient oral tradition. The 20 something guys playing the drums to western music, on hearing that we were from Bangalore, claimed proudly that when they came here, they hung out at Forum and Brigade Road.
Tibetans are in many ways facing an identity crisis. There is a little known past, the Indian identity and Western influences all merging into the modern second generation Tibetan identity. For the article on this that I wrote , go
here or click on link above

The foreigners who come are mostly here for yoga and meditation following the new nirvana seeker brigade to ‘incredible exotic India’. There are many yoga, meditation and Tibetan Buddhism centers around town .In Dharamkot; there is the famous Vipassana mediation centre. (The course requires you to shut up for twelve days and eat very little and the other intricacies of Buddhist tradition, I honestly cannot do justice to.)
Perhaps the troubled Western psyche is used to market a lot of tailor made courses that advertise freedom from indecisiveness, stress, negative thinking and the like. Some of these courses, people claim are money making techniques. The Tushita meditation centre and The Vipassana centre, I gather from all the people who went there are very good.
For regular, tourists, there is not much to see except the dirty Dal lake, the Dalai Lama temple, pretty paths in the hills with mountain streams, meadows, amazing views et al.