Sunday, December 23, 2012

Oh for that Merry Christmas! When caste, suicide, rape were never today's monsters

I’ve always loved Christmas and the season surrounding it. The best part of the year. In Calcutta, we had quite a few Anglo-Indians as our neighbours. Other Christians as well. We would receive plum cakes without fail every year; we would listen to Christmas carols and, of course, to Jim Reeves. There would be innumerable walks down Park Street and past Flurys once I grew older. It would be quite like a season of dreams. There was nothing that worried us. It was an all-too-beautiful world.

I never knew what caste really meant when I was in school, except knowing there were certain communities classified under Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe. My classmates were children of all hues. We had a Muslim class monitor, Jilani, who sadly died in an accident. He had great felicity of style, could write legibly with both hands. Then there were Noor Zaman and Noor Afzal, brothers, who dazzled on the football field. Vincent Das used to sing Kishore Kumar songs behind my desk even as class was on. Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian, it just didn't matter. I would visit the school chapel regularly and spend a few minutes in meditation. Today, no wonder, I have to rack my brains to try and understand what a ‘caste Hindu’ is!

I didn’t know what a ‘suicide’ was until a family friend’s son decided to take his own life as a student at IIT-Madras. Far away in Calcutta, all I comprehended was that  his family members had gone numb and were not even talking. It was one of those rare occurrences. There is hardly a day today where the newspapers do not mention a suicide in your city. 

I never knew what ‘rape’ meant; do not remember having even heard the word while in school. Frankly, I do not ever remember having read reports on suicide or rape in The Statesman city pages. Or may be, I was just too naive. 

So, what has gone so horribly wrong, I ask myself. Many of my generation and the ones before must be asking the same questions. Has the Indian man changed? Or has the Indian woman? Have we become more ‘animal-like’? Perhaps it’s not appropriate to use that phrase – even animals behave better, much better.

The girl who is in hospital… what karma had she done? That’s what my sister asked me last evening. Even if she were to survive and get back home, how many deaths would she be dying each day?

Death penalty is really not the answer. The challenge is to get people to respect each other, to make it possible for anyone, women included, to go to a police station and file a complaint, to have policemen do a proper job, to bring criminals to justice in the shortest possible time, and have justice delivered. Utopia, you’d think. But it’s true.

Seeing the scenes unfold in Delhi, a day before Christmas, I have a horrible feeling that unless a miracle happens, we will slide slowly towards anarchy and disaster. A banana republic, or a country fragmented.  Much like the Mughal times. Sometimes, it’s a scary thought that this may not be too far away.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Journalism: on the cusp between what it was once and what it is now

It’s been quite a long hiatus…. this blog, I mean. Sometimes, or perhaps more often than not, you seem to think there’s little motivation to keep it going. So many things have been happening in the media, I sometimes wonder whether I did the right thing, switching over to journalism from a cosy job in the insurance industry. If I was still with United India, I might have been chief manager (which is saying something) and if I were with a private insurance company, I might have, well, been vice-president.

That is what some of my batch mates are today – why, there are one or two of them who are directors, so VP is really no big deal. The salaries can be mouth-watering for somebody like me. Most of my mates in the private sector draw not less than Rs 2 lakh a month! Well, it might not compare with the likes of a Sanat Hazra (Rs 2.7 crore a year) or a Jaideep Bose (Rs 4 crore-plus), both from The Times of India stable, but without a doubt you are in orbit.

Like V.S. Maniam (now settled in the US of A), formerly of The Statesman, who writes in his book, A life in Journalism, I have been a rolling stone gathering little moss. Now, of course, it’s a little too late in the day to salvage anything… but perhaps there is still a bit of pride left.

The Hoot editorial says it all. It’s a shame that Journalism has come to this pass, and I'm not talking about India alone. What the future will be, is anybody’s guess. But frankly, it’s like your honour is at stake. The lead articles that appear in the latest issue of The Caravan will not inspire those who are ready to join the profession. What’s television come to? Theatre of the absurd? I don’t think I'm interested in watching Arnab Goswami and News Hour any more.

May be I should put my energies and something worthwhile. Like, for instance, when the father of a friend of mine died suddenly a few days ago. He was past 80 and died a natural death. Yet, no ambulance was ready to ferry him to the hospital. And no doctor was willing to certify him dead. It was finally a relative’s friend, a doctor, who agreed to come by. Even in death, there seems little peace. The man hadn't harmed anybody, had done no wrong… yet. When will newspapers/ television devote their time and energies in covering such stories? 

The real India is oft forgotten or given a go-by. Why? Everywhere (save The Hindu, the Express and The Telegraph), and not necessarily in only The Times of India, the stature of the editor has diminished. It’s sad when you come to think of it. It’s perhaps indicative the way the world has changed. A journal such as Grassroots that I edit, is now closing its printed version because there are not enough advertisements. A shame really. Stories in every issue of it will warm the cockles of your heart. That’s life, it’s the sad truth we are faced with more often these days.