So what are you reading?

I was just reading Arnab Greatbong Ray’s latest blog entry about his take on the Maoist rebellion. I have to confess I do not know half the names thrown up in the entry. But I am aware of the core issues being contested here. The incentive structure that directs the show. The parties behind the scenes, creaming the bloodbath in eastern India. But given the purely conceptual understanding I have of the subject, I wouldn’t even dare assume I am entitled to putting forth my 20 cents on the issue. Well, not more than saying that Arnab seems to have done an excellent job of it. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Call me myopic, but the sentence in the blog that caught my eye the most was this:

…(the Maoist issue) rarely captures national attention, confined as it is to largely rural backward areas for which it is pushed to the rear of the news by other things more important to our national life—like IPL, Shoaib-Sania and Kites.

I am ashamed of admitting that I read the glorified tabloid that is The Times of India. In my defense, my mornings are a haze of toothbrushes, towels, clock cursing and religiously swearing myself off late nights ‘ever again’. Given such tight schedules, I get time to catch up with the outside world only during lunch and coffee breaks at work. That leaves me with little choice with respect to the paper I read.

I noticed yesterday’s front page article in the ToI was about the Maoist attack on CRPF jawaans. The headline was “It is WAR”, with the word ‘war’ written in bold red letters for the effect. The index on the front page did promise us a detailed outlook of how hostel girls in Jalandhar are burning Sania posters to register their agony, what Shoaib’s second cousin’s pet dog feels about the whole thing, et al on the ‘Times Nation’ page. But to me, there was one more testimony to the seriousness of the attack. If it managed to elbow the flurry of noserings to page 5, it must be big.

This morning, however, sanity was restored. Shoaib coughs up the alimony for his wife (the word wife still being written in quotes for some reason). The couple claims front page positioning again. The Maoist attack is a close second in terms of word count. Gossip conquers reality. My world makes sense again.

The point I am trying to make among all the distracting derision, is something similar to what Arnab was saying. Where do our sympathies lie, as a nation? Doordarshan told me when I was a kid that we were once a country of thinkers like Chanakya. My parents taught me that enlightened souls like Gautam Buddha came from this land. My textbooks assured me that we gave the world the decimal system that forms the basis of modern civilization as we know it. From a nation which was supposed to be the think-tank of the world, when exactly did we turn into an army of eyeballs?

If there was a cliché award, a strong contestant would be: “What is today’s media coming to?” I am quite guilty of having used it myself. But is blaming the media a good enough excuse to wash our hands off? If repositories of cattle excreta such as ToI and India TV exist, basic economics tells me there must be a demand sustaining it. Remember how ‘lite’ and ‘diet’ versions of our favorite snacks conveniently flooded the market the day we decided it was fashionable to be a faux-health-conscious society? Supply follows demand – basic economics. Something for all of us to think about.

Meanwhile, I have a bone to pick with our admin guy about the press we subscribe to.


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3 thoughts on “So what are you reading?

  1. Oft debated point hain. But the real question you are asking is what are we doing about it? Well for one, we could stop reading these tabloids. And the other, seek credible sources … ala digg, reddit, etc.

  2. Yep… spoke to Vijay.. Trying to get office shifted to HT subscription.. Its amazing that I actually had to explain what is wrong with ToI. And I still haven't gotten through, I'm sure…

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