Thursday, September 23, 2010

Indian Media, Commonwealth Games and Sainath...

An amended text of an email exchange with a friend: Journalism is a demanding vocation. As appealing as it is, it lays your soul open to the world. Unlike most professions that are becoming micro-specialized and super-skilled, Journalism marries two diametrically opposite skills.

First - Judgment of the external world – all the contemporary events, people, perceptions et al. As a Journalist you are required to see, assess, and judge the world with all its hosannas and gravitas; it’s not easy especially so as you are required to do all that being aware of your own biases and prejudices. You are required to be gregarious, extrovert and open. Any wrong call anywhere in this process, you’ll end up looking a fool. The other skill is writing – how very distant it is from the first. Can you think of any other act that can be more intimate and personal for a human being ? ( Hmm , sex you may say but sex is motor, not cognitive i.e not exclusively human) So, whatever you have seen and assessed, you have to reflect in your own mind, arrange the facts, perceptions and arrive at a judgment. Then you have to express it clearly so others can see what you have seen.

Indian media – We all know the writing / presentation in Indian media is above average for a race whose language is not English. But it is at the judgment they are so poor. It’s not that they refuse to see it, they quite simply can’t see it. My intense abhorrence of them stems back to this - their utter lack of judgment. And not just that, their Indian sense of completeness: they are perfect and beyond mistake.

Many a months back when I passed through India there were enough reports to raise concerns about the shoddy preparations and siphoning scams involved but media failed to mount any pressure whatsoever to get the job properly done. Instead they were all busy covering M S Dhoni’s wedding or yet another utterly unremarkable cricket series in Sri Lanka.

Incidentally as it happens – the weekly I had read in transit in India was the first weekly to carry an article about the games scam. Here are the links for the archives of the three national weeklies:

India Today This is the one I had read. August 2 edition. That’s 8 weeks before the kick-off.

Tehelka Cover Story August 28. Think of it, this is the group which congratulates itself on investigative journalism.

Outlook None that I can see. And hover over April 12 edition. It sounds of singing praises about the game.

Kalmadi and co are old hacks. They’ve built a career sucking off public money. I hold the new Indian media equally if not more responsible. The first report of any mismanagement and corruption came in summer, when the whole infrastructure was scheduled to be finished before summer. Millions had been allotted over more than five years ago and the Media accounts for the public money just two months before the event. But then Indian media is nothing more than deadlines, plagiarism and scratching backs. It is an assembly of semi-educated dimwits who can’t sit down and think. They neither have any influence over the legislature above nor can they touch the masses below. They are an enormous unaccounted waste of ink and bytes.

You have to bear in mind this is not an event that is to be held in a distant no man’s land. These people - the journalists and the politicians, both are mostly based in Delhi and would have been seeing each other regularly – both professionally and socially. Today no one speaks of what media owed the people. If Kalmadi and Co didn’t do their jobs properly so didnt the media. Slagging off Kalmadi is totally useless, leopards and spots. He should have been disciplined long back by building political and public pressure around him. The Media didn’t. Now they just ‘report’ the happenings. Usual Status quo. They deserve each other. Though it’s not something to be proud to state, I don’t hesitate a minute to say I really wish as many countries withdraw from the games. There are many ways of learning and for some the harder way works. It’s just how it is.


Also find this wonderful article about P Sainath during his recent visit to Canada.

Finally, this is a bit dated but still relevant thoughts by perhaps the only man in India who understands the meaning of the world Journalism. Not that I endorse all of his views but I admire that he is serving no one but himself - a fundamental requirement to be taken seriously in journalism. His anger is plain obvious.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The First DSC Prize for South Asian Literature

The DSC prize for South Asian Literature has been instituted by the infrastructure firm DSC. They are also the main sponsors of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

The ten member advisory committee has the writer Nayantara Sehgal (whose mother Vijayalaxmi Pandit was Jawaharlal Nehru's sister), the economist and British MP Lord Meghnad Desai, journalist Tina Brown and historian Urvashi Butalia among others. It is this committee which chose the five person jury. The jury includes Lord Matthew Evans, Ian Jack, Amitava Kumar, Moni Mohsin and the chairperson Nilanjana S Roy.

The award is for English novels from South Asia.

The longlist for the first DSC Prize has been announced. It consists of fourteen novels. Here they are, in no particular order:

From India:

Amit Chaudhuri's 'The Immortals'

Chandrahas Choudhury's 'Arzee the Dwarf '

Upamanyu Chatterjee's 'Way to Go'

Rokkaiah Salma's 'The Hour Past Midnight'

Anjum Hassan's 'Neti Neti'

Tania James' 'Atlas of Unknowns'

Manju Kapur's 'The Immigrant'

Sankar's 'The Middleman',

Jaspreet Singh's 'Chef'

Aatish Taseer's 'The Temple Goers'

From Pakistan:

Ali Sethi's 'The Wish Maker'

Musharraf Ali Farooqui's 'The Story of a Widow'

H M Naqvi's 'The Home Boy'

From Sri Lanka:
Ru Freeman's 'A Disobedient Girl'

What can one say? May the best work win. That's all.

p.s. One must add that it is pleasing to see a USD 50,000 literary prize for South Asia.

Source: Outlook Magazine. Click here

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Notes from America

Terry Jones has chickened out on time. Rauf wouldn't give a hoot for his proposed quid pro quo. In the end, a few flags were burnt and angry rallies came out in familiar places shouting slogans like "rasist America v/s victim Muslims".

The talking heads went into a tizzy right from white house to the basement blogger introspecting on the bigot within, need for bigger concessions and chiding ignorant Joes and Bobs for their misplaced fears. From the right, speculations of global religious war carried a little more space than usual. The casualties this time have been the stand up comedians sense of humor and the average Joe's right to ignore the bigotry and carry on with his everyday dysfunctional debt ridden life in the time of regressive economy.

Even on the day of another memorial of September 11, its interesting to find how the debate invariably is about the secular credentials of the other, including religions and agnostic ideologies, but not about the intolerance and fanaticism of Islamic belief. It is always about the heightened sensitivity of every believer, but not the indifference of its majority when the passionate few among them assaults humanity in grand expressions of cruelty. Why there is never any movement from the "moderate" to fight the political and killer ideologies of its extreme member? Why is it easy to hide behind the status of minority and scuttle dialogues within the community or outside of it, even in the west where security and freedom of speech are held in higher standards?

Fundamentalism is always about the measure of the others liberalism until it vanquishes the other. Modern discourses and philosophies find it hard to counter fundamentalist ideology of Islam. Christianity and Communist ideologies went through intellectual and moral turmoils over centuries through inquisitions, church-state strife, world wars, collapse of states and on and on. However with Islamic ideology, there is no space for introspection or conversation. Its practitioners reject any critique and tactically attack all of it by bringing (amoral) equivalence of similar bigotries committed by the ideology or religion its critic purportedly stands for.

It is this turbulent True-believer syndrome, deafening rejection of dialogue and reforms from within make Islamic faith potent that seeks to carry the entire planet to a regressive monolith through great bouts of neurosis and pain.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Serious Men by Manu Joseph

I remember reading many well written articles by Manu Joseph in the Indian weekly Outlook edited by Vinod Mehta. Serious Men is his debut novel and has a Brahmin astrophysicist and his Dalit assistant as "the interdependent poles" (New York Times).

And this is from the review in The Independent (UK) by Peter Carty: "Manu Joseph's first novel elegantly describes collisions with an unyielding status quo, ably counterpointing the frustrations of the powerless with the unfulfilling realities of power. With this astute comedy of manners he makes a convincing bid for his own recognition as a novelist of serious talent, the latest addition to a roster of Indian writers who are creating fine literary art from their country's fearsome contradictions." Click here to read the review.

It will be interesting to see how his first novel fares.