Archive for the ‘Media and Journalism’ Category

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New media with/or New Idea

January 16, 2008

Delhi Bloggers and New Media Society had it first meet at a farm in Shivaji Marg on Saturday, 12/1/2008 . I had not heard the word New media before that.

Though new media may be the term for different types of internet enabled communications, the word also brings memories of the recent sledging controversy for which Harbhajan Singh has to face charges for calling Andrew Symonds a monkey. From all accounts, it seems that even if he said that, he must have been provoked by Symonds. Apart from cricket, Australia has been a force to reckon with in Tennis and even hosts one of the four grand slams this time of the year. If sledging were allowed in Tennis, it would create such a funny situation if players were to shout obscenities after every shot or whenever they feel like. In doubles it would be even funnier as the players at the net can really get intense in the exchange of words when they feel like it . It would be even more amusing in sports like wrestling, judo, golf etc. The only reason why the cricketers get away with sledging is that they are not audible; one report even suggested that they deliberately say nasty things when they are away from the stump mikes. If that is correct, another form of “New media” should be introduced; what is to stop the ICC from forcing the players to carry a small microphone(new media) on their person. If that is not embarrassing enough for the players, whoever abuses should be chucked out for ten games straightaway unless we want to permit sledging in the name of “gamesmanship”. This way it can be new society with new media at least on the cricket field. One must appreciate cricket writer Peter Reobock for using the term “ a bunch of wild dogs” for the Australian team and demanding Ricky Ponting’s resignation – that is the gutsy new media of a different kind.

New media also reminds of another issue. Recently, when Amitabh Bachchan’s mother died, both the Times of India and Hindustan Times flashed pictures of a distraught Abhishek and Aishwarya on their front page on the same day. It reminded me of what Mr Bachchan said in an interview some years back” Even if the color of my beard changes, it makes front page news. I don’t know what to do”. In the late seventies and early eighties when Mr Bachchan was the reigning superstar, he replied when asked about the desirability of performing certain roles, “If eight hundred million people want to watch this, what can I do? “ There maybe a point there but I don’t think that the readers of Times of India or Hindustan Times want to know about the personal occasions of filmstars on their front pages. I am sure that represents a tremendous opportunity cost and a tremendous opportunity lost. It would not be out of place to mention here that one journalist even made it to Mr Bachchan’s bedside when he was sick sometime back. Time for introspection, time for new media.

In general, it will be the day when new media follows up on an issue instead of following the policy of “loving them and leaving them” where news stories are concerned. There should be a pending issues section in newspapers where issues for which no solution has been found are continuously displayed. That apart, when any media, whether it is mainstream media or web media, is able to bring about the kind of transparency and accountability in politics that is there in both sports and films ,that would be new media indeed. New media is not just about new technologies but new ideas as well.

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Test Cricket or Hit Wicket ?

October 21, 2007

Yesterday(20/10/2007), 20/20 World Champions India won the solitary 20/20 match against one day World Champions Australia which prompted Skipper M.S.Dhoni to declare with an air of conviction, “This proves that the World Cup victory was no fluke”. Considering that India did practically everything right and dominated throughout the match and that too against Australia, one cannot but agree with the captain.

The world cup and this victory should pave the way for a 20/20 revolution in India. Even before the world cup victory, Indian Media baron Subhash Chandra of Zee Telefilms knew what he was doing when, while introducing his India cricket league, he was focusing only on the 20/20 format. He had probably foreseen the potential and the popularity of these kind of matches which were earlier played only in South Africa and England. Even in a typical one day match, the real fireworks begin only in the last one- one and a half hours in most matches. Why not focus only on that? Management is more about leveraging which implies getting more for less and it is high time that the cricketing authorities woke up to popular demand. In a market economy, that is the ultimate arbiter. It is a good thing that the BCCI has announced the Indian premier league and I hope that it proves a death knell for test matches.

Frankly, after watching the 20/20 world cup, the one day matches appeared to be more like Test matches which test the spectator’s patience more than anything else. The first one day international between India and Australia was washed out after the first innings got over. Had it been a 20/20 match, both the innings could have got over and the spectators could have got their money and time’s worth in the first three and a half hours itself. Even from the vagaries of nature point of view, it is better.

One strange complaint often repeated about cricket that it brings the whole country to a standstill and people don’t work which is also shown in the recent, wonderful movie on cricket, “Iqbal”. If a 20-20 match beings at 6 pm, it can still finish around 10 pm and resolve any such complaints. It would then be like watching a movie which would prove to be a very good alternative form of entertainment apart from taking care of work-life balance.
Much before India started playing 20/20 in the world cup, I had suggested in another forum in an article on “Lateral thinking in cricket” that since one-day cricket was far more popular( which is why the current Australia-India test series has no test), there could be a best of five or best of three one day matches at each playing centre instead of test matches. Now I feel that only 20/20 should reign. It may seem now but one can even have two matches in one day which would be so much better than boring test matches which tend to put people off to sleep. It is quality and not quantity that matters.

Though cricketers are of the view that Test match is the real cricket, the contest between the bat and the ball, the contest of both mind and body, I have always believed that one day cricket is another type of test. In test cricket, stamina and endurance are tested but here temperament, quick thinking and pure stroke play is tested, which, like alacrity in fielding, may not be every cricketer’s cup of tea. In one interview, Dhoni admitted that 20/20 drains both the mind and the body because of its intensity. It is like an exam where one has to finish the paper within a given timeframe and therefore cricketers have to be on their toes all the time.

Only genuinely good cricketers can do well in both forms of the game- Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar have scored 34 and 37 centuries respectively in Test cricket but in one day cricket, Gavaskar has only one century against Tendulkar’s 40 centuries. The difference in class is obvious. Even considering the fact that Gavaskar played only 108 one day matches, considering his stature, he should have scored at least 10 in one dayers. That apart, since he is an opening batsman, there is no excuse for not performing well in the one dayers which to my mind is equally real cricket on different parameters and considering the fact that the world cup is played in one dayers and now 20/20. What is real can change with the times and preferences of people..

Since I grew up on Gavaskar, I was a great fan of his but in the context of instant cricket, one can only say that while one can appreciate his phenomenal powers of concentration or the Wall Rarhul Dravid’s longevity on the wicket, would one want to spend one’s time and money to see all that? Tennis star Martina Navratilova had once said in the context of concentrating “ I just concentrate on concentrating” and that is what happens in a test match which is more like an art movie and one has to have good concentration to appreciate Gavaskar’s concentration. On the other hand, in a 20/20 match, concentration is spontaneous and is there straight from the word go when one is assured of Dhoni or Yuvraj’s blitzkrieg by one cricketer or another While comparing, former captain Kapil Dev correctly pointed out “Who would want to see a one day match when one can get more from three and a half hours than what one gets in eight?”.

I would extend the same philosophy to test matches which are no match for 20/20 where return on time and money is concerned. I read in an article that one of the persons instrumental in starting test cricket was a man of wealth who did not have to work for a living. No wonder they are so long. Contrast that with today’s world where even a genuine connoisseur of the game cannot sit through the whole test match unless he is retired. Consider the opportunity cost. If there is even a best of three 20/20 matches at each centre, it will not only ensure more cash collections for the BCCI, but ensure adequate return on time and money for the spectators. If it rains, the rest days in between can be utilized to fill up the gap rather than watching boring test matches being washed out which can be even more irritating. Considering their disadvantages, they are bound to die a natural death anyway.

I read somewhere that since around 60 countries play hockey and around 160 play chess(recently Vishwanathan Anand also became world champion), as only 20 countries play cricket, being world champions in cricket is not that great an achievement. While I do not entirely agree with that, I do feel that the 20/20 format because of the time element and excitement is more suited to getting other countries interested in cricket and who knows, in the era of globalization, cricket may prove to be a prime example. Who better to promote all that than India, current champions and a nation where cricket is passionately followed. Even from an international perspective, it is better.

One can always have one test match instead of three to satisfy the puritans just the way there is a critics award and a popular award. As for job satisfaction of the cricketers, 20/20 could be made tougher to make it commensurate with a test match. Some cricketers even say that if one has a good technique, one can do well in any form of the game. If true, they should not crib about 20/20. The most ridiculous argument that I have heard against 20/20 is that sixes will lose their novelty if they are hit so frequently. I don’t think that “familiarity breeds contempt” applies here’ Yuvraj hitting six sixes in an over is a case in point. Sixes have improved in degree(they are really huge now) and frequency and one can never have enough of them. The cricketers can be encouraged to play with technique and could be given special recognition so that both them and the “cricket buffs” among the spectators are satisfied. It could be a win-win situation for all.

Another criticism leveled against 20/20 is that it is too much against tradition; it is too unorthodox. In my view, that is what makes it appealing and successful and coincidentally happens to be the reason behind Reliance’s phenomenal corporate success- ‘Being unconventional is the biggest convention in Reliance.'(For those interested in details, my published article- Thinking out of the box). It would not be out of place to mention here that there used to be a Bollywood movie in the late seventies called “Khubsoorat” which had actress Rekha singing a song “Saare Niyam tod do(Break all the rules), Niyam pe Chalna Chod do( Forget convention)”. That is what 20/20 represents and that is what makes it new and appealing(lkhubsoorat)

There are some people who will argue just for the sake of argument but the fact remains that continuing to play more tests when the same time could be used for 20/20 is a huge opportunity cost and opportunity lost especially when we are proving to be so good at it. Test matches should played the way art films are made- more an exception than the rule. Now, it seems that the one day matches strike the right balance.

Former England Captain Nasir Hussain had said before we won the world cup “Cricket being so popular in India, with millions playing gully cricket, India is bound to do well in 20/20 ”. Every person plays to his strengths. So should every nation, especially one in which Cricket is deemed a religion and which has a spiritual legacy. Spirituality implies impermanence and non-attachment which now needs to be practiced with Test cricket. Not doing so would be like shooting oneself in the foot or in cricketing parlance, getting out hit wicket, a situation which does not augur well for Wold Champions. Arriving can prove tougher than striving and we should try and sustain our success instead of it being a one time “flash in the pan” affair. We ned to focus where we excel and towards test matches, we must adopt the attitude of “chuck(leave)de, India”

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Who watches the watchdog?

September 7, 2007

Today it came in the papers how Sachin Tendulkar had to repeatedly clarify that he was not contemplating retirement because of the controversy sparked by his one statement ,” At 34, it is difficult to recover after a one day match” . The report said that how some Marathi newspaper stated he was contemplating requirement and then how he, the manager Rajiv Shukla and Rahul Dravid described the report as completely false. What a waste of energy!. About a couple of months ago, it happened with Saurav Ganguly. I don’t remember what the issue was but in the end Mr Ganguly was telling the journos ,”I can understand that there is tremendous competition in the media but at least you should have checked with me. I was just a phone call away”

In recent times, the Jessica lall case is one case where one can really be proud of the media. One wonders why it has to resort to all this. I was in Rajkot about a month and a half back where I asked a very reliable source about the case of Pooja Chauhan who had roamed the streets of that town half clad to protest against dowry. While there is some element of truth in the story, we learnt that someone from the media encouraged her to do that. That’s being really proactive.

When I read Hindustan times editor MR Vir Sanghvi’s lucid articles and a lot that is written in newspapers and magazines, one really wonders whether the so called communication revolution can bring about a change for the common man or is it all a sham or intellectual fun.? There were so many articles about the common people favoring Abdul Kalam continuing as President and even the fact that had there been a direct contest, Mr Kalam would have won hands down. Yet, the elected representatives were able to thwart democracy or the voice of the people. How is then, the common man any better off than his ancestors with all the communication hullabaloo ? Even Internationally, Mr Bush went ahead with the Iraq war with practically the whole world against him.

Now, the Times of India has started a leadership lead India campaign. They are encouraging young people who “have it in them” to apply. One of the surveys says that a majority of people believe in honesty as a trait. That is obvious but if I shout from the rooftops how I honest I am, after the way Satyameva Jayate failed, is it going to make a difference?. How does one monitor honesty while the person is in office. Going by the old saying “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” and the fact that the future is not always an extension of the present, how can one ensure that somebody continues to be honest. How does one judge the honesty and competence of politicians ?.

Instead of running after Sachin and Saurav, the media should also report why the board President is not appointing a CEO to run cricket affairs as promised. It is strange that Sachin is accountable to Mr Pawar and the nation for a poor world cup performance but nobody bothers about how the board or its President performs. That is why we have only symbolic presidents (Pratibha means talent in Hindi) instead of performing Presidents( Mr Abdul Kalam)

A day after(8/9/2007) writing this post, it came in the papers that the sting operation on Delhi govt school teacher Uma Khurana maybe a fraud. This only vindicates what is written in the post above. Then during the last one day international between India and England, Sachin Tendulkar was again given out when he did not seem to be so. What is use of technology and the third umpire then? That is also kind of media and one is not proactive when one supposed to be.

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Being wrongly critical of the Shilpa-Gere kiss, what all critical issues we tend to miss?

May 1, 2007

A lot has been written about Richard Gere’s peck on Shilpa Shetty’s cheek. Prominent journalista have cautioned against the excesses of the moral police brigade; one journalist even went on to suggest that propriety would also depend upon the kind of kiss and no big problem with a harmless peck. Advertisement Guru Prahlad Kakkar said that what the magistrate said was not the voice of the majority. When the magistrate passed orders against Gere, prominent lawyers spoke of it as a cheap publicity stunt. Very true. Shilpa had herself said that the episode had been blown out of proportion and in pursuing the matter like this, India would make itself the laughing stock of the world. It came on TV and the papers that Gere had apologized for “offending” Indians. That is really the height of things- Richared Gere is a “rich” in charm and I am sure from him nobody would mind hugs, kisses Vagere Vagere(etc, etc)

One wonders why the moral police or even the mainstream media for that matter stand up for issues that really matter and show the kind of reaction that was witnessed when Shilpa was insulted on the Big Brother Television Show. Consider some issues:-

1) After the debacle in the World Cup, the cricket board imposed a strange penalty on the players that they could do only a certain number of commercials in a particular year. Nowhere in the world can such a penalty be imposed on sportspeople. It is not the board’s business(prerogative) to determine what the players are doing in their free time and as some former cricketers pointed out, if they are not performing, just drop them. Did it not do a world of good to Ganguly ? If one has to monitor them, one can make sure that they practice regularly but that too would be ridiculous. The autobiographies of former cricketers Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar reveal how the board tries to manipulate captains and players to its advantage so that no one player becomes too powerful. This too is a stupid ploy in trying to be an autocratic boss in such a transparent sport. It is fundamentally wrong and deserves to be condemned strongly.

2) Talking of Cricket, in the Sunday times that former Australian Captain Steve Waugh(he was in India recently) and former Indian Captain Kapil Dev had criticized the way the cricket match telecast was impeded by the influx of advertisements on Television. Thank god some celebrity spoke up because one always felt that the way the ads were inserted when some interesting/critical moment was to be shown, it was like putting the cart before the horse. Waugh has rightly commented that it is Advertisements that are supposed to promote cricket and not the other way around.. He said that vital comments are missing and the Telecast is plain “Unwatchable”. Kapil’s words are more revealing “Critical moments are lost to Shampoo Ads. At least for the finals, the sponsors will not mind making a little less money so that we can see the whole thing”. Since the sponsors pay the board and this is a perpetual issue, how come nobody speaks against this? Is the board prepared to lose money for something obviously wrong.?

3) There has been a lot of discussion in the news lately about the autonomy for IIMs and how the reservation issue was getting out of hand. Thank god the supreme court intervened because reservations are plain and simply wrong. Meritorious students cannot be made to pay the prize of populist politicians not having the foresight to create more educational institutions. A more practical solution would be online education. Not only this but all vote bank politics should be stalled by the media or the judiciary. Politician bashing has become a full time hobby but there is not enough action to curb their activities strongly. In the UP elections, populist politics is in full swing. Why does not anybody speak about this- is that morally right?

4) There are several mainstream media magazines reporting on how Rahul Gandhi is bracing for the UP battle for better things ahead and some still speculate on who among the Gandhi siblings “Priyanka/ Rahul), who would be better to lead a hundred year old party. All this dynastic politics business is mainly because a significant chunk of the Indian population is still illiterate and is swayed by the Gandhi name. That one can understand but why does the mainstream media has to go overboard in giving them coverage unless it is on true merit. The former editor of Economic Times Swaminathan. S. Venkata Iyer while acknowledging the fact that dynastic politics was rampant, dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s claims of Gandhis acting decisively. The facts that he gives about Nehru’s Vascillation on Kashmir, Rajiv Ganhi’s stand etc on Sri Lanka clearly show that the decisiveness was restricted to the Bangladesh war. The mainstream media should take a cue from Mr Aiyer.There should be some mechanism of detecting and promoting political talent instead of blindly following political families. Could Rohan Gavaskar succeed Sunil Gavaskar?- is sports more significant than politics. How come nobody talks of these issues? Is it because politicians are powerful?

5) Talking of political talent, Hindustan times editor Vir Sanghvi, in his Sunday column has written how we are obsessed with old age where politicians are concerned whereas people the world over look for Dynamism and youth. That is true to some extent though like in cricket teams, there has to be a blend of youth and experience. Why does not the moral police take up such issues- development , needs of society, etc. Once the elected representatives are elected, nobody knows what they do for their constituency for five long years. Why can’t they have immediate accountability for politicians the way they have for cricketers. It is ironical that a politician is heading a cricket board and has penalized the cricketers strongly for not performing in the world cup. Is performance in a sport more important than governing the country.? Why not a similar rule for them? Why doesen’t any moral police outfit discuss issues of develpment, progress, education, infrastructure etc instead of taking up frivolous issues

6) In the corporate world, I have failed to understand one thing. The world over, there is a credit rating system where each individual has a credit history which can be bought for a few dollars. This ensures that nobody fools around with his credit . In India, small companies are always scared of big company not paying their dues and sometimes are scared of even expanding their businesses. This is in direct variance to all this talk about economic progress and making India a so- called “superpower:”. Why doesn’t the moral police or the media take up this issue.

( A day after this post was written, it came in the papers that 400 VIPs owe crores for their illegally occupied bunaglows from all political parties. Why does not the moral police take up this- it is not a kiss but a rape of the tax payer. The media will also sleep over it till someone like one former governer of Bihar is kicked out of his bungalow for non-payment)

Actually, the point is that we all wait for Jesica lalls to be killed or Priyadarshini Mattoos to be raped to force the politicians and courts to perform. There must be millions of emotional and mental rapes because of case delays in the courts of India, there are countless cases suffering because of autocratic bosses and other injustices, some cannot help but put up with shoddy customer service(Cust-se-mar- Customer ) vagere, vagere(etc etc.) The moral police of the media should create a ruckus on such issues- the kind of response Shilpa got because of her insult on the “Big Brother” TV show. What is the use of the so called communication revolution otherwise? We all know how Mr Bush flouted the United Nations and against a majority of world opinon, went on to wage a totally farcical war in Iraq. Why doesn’t the moral police and the media take up such issues?- how are we any different from our ancestors if we cannot use the communication tools to our advantage to prevent an injustice as what happened in the Jesica lall case?. Why should such episodes be sporadically restricted to major injustice?. The way our courts function, every minor injustice becomes a major injustice anyway.

Then why give so much importance to Mr Gere(he should also be judged overall- his association with Aids and Dalai Lama instead of creating an unnecessary hungama):-

In being obsessed about Mr Gere’s and shilpa’s dance,
What all critical issues we leave to chance
What all we choose to publicly miss
By giving too much importance to to a private kiss.

In a lighter vein, it would do our ladies no harm
For them to be swayed by a man of Gere’s charm
Through prose and poetry, let it be heard
Only a nerd would be averse to such activities of Richard.

( Perhaps I should also add that many are proabably envying him including yours truly)

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Sham Jhoothmalani(?) aur Justiceca Hal(?) (Jessica lall)

November 12, 2006

I would like to say at the outset that whatever is written here is only in the context of Jessica lall’s case. One sparrow does not make a summer and therefore an entire life should not be judged by a single act. I would rather not name the concerned lawyer(CL) here though it is obvious whom I am referring to. Though I have been an admirer of his for the bold stands he has taken at times and his professional skills, in his latest avataar, an ordinary citizen is perhaps better off by not referring to him directly. I am not making a sweeping statement but only talking for this particular issue.

This has reference to articles on this issue written by prominent journalists Vir Sanghvi (Editor of Hindustan Times) and Barkha Dutt( NDTV anchor). While calling the CL a friend and lauding some of his past achievements, both have questioned his stand on the Jessica lall murder case. They have tried to convey that while some his past “Houdini” acts- rescuing people like Kehar singh (accused in Indira Gandhi murder case) and Professor Geelani(accused in the parliament attack case) were admirable extrications, Manu sharma who is the accused in Jessica lall simply does not deserve such a release from perhaps the finest criminal lawyer in the country. Here are the links to the articles:-

Barkha Dutt’s article- Ram and Manusmriti

Vir Sanghvi’s article -Lone ranger in white shoes

Another interesting article is by Namita Bhandare which states that even the CL’s family is unhappy with this decision-

Namita Bhandare-Devil’s advocate

Some views of Mr Vir Sanghvi are worth repeating:-

“Some weeks ago, in context of the Mohammad Afzal case, I wrote, on this page, that ordinary people believe that if a rich and powerful man commits a murder in full public view in the middle of Connaught Place , a smart lawyer shall still get him off- so unfair is our legal system. I did not know then that Ram would actually accept this brief and try and get Manu Sharma, a rich and powerful man accused of committing murder in full public view, off.”

“But my words now seem eerily prescient. Lawyers tell me that Ram is conducting Manu’s defense so “brilliantly” that he may well get him off. He has already found a sex angle and has told us that the real murderer was a Sikh. Perhaps, in a week or so, he will tell us that Manu was not even there and that Jessica was killed by Navjot Singh Sidhu/Rabbi Shergill/Manmohan Singh.(all of them)”

After all these years, saying that a Sikh killed Jessica is almost like saying that Kashmir is in the south and Kanyakumari in the North of India or should we say that the CL works in the film industry and Hema Malini is fighting criminal cases. It cannot even pass off as a sardar joke. The CL claims that he is not taking any fees for this- wonder whether that qualifies as a joke since Mr Sanghvi has also stated that this time the person whom the CL is defending is not somebody who is weak and poor and therefore defenceless.

At another place, Mr Sanghvi has stated that the tag of “smuggler’s lawyer” never harmed the CL despite his having defended an assortment of characters who maybe regarded as “murderers, smugglers, gang bosses and desi Mafiosi”. Ironical- One would be normally be inclined to think that a lawyer was supposed to protect the Rams from the Ravans if not for anything else than for the fact that he happens to be his namesake as also the fact that he happens to be “Maryadapurshottam”

In my lage raho Munnabhai post, I had given Gandhiji’s thoughts on a lawyer’s profession which are worth repeating:-

” As a student, I heard that a lawyer’s profession is a liar’s profession. That did not influence me. I had no intention of earning either position or money by lying.” “I have never resorted to untruth in my profession and since a large part of my legal practice was in the interest of public work, I charged nothing beyond out of the box expenses and that too I met myself”. “The true function of a lawyer is to unite parties driven asunder”.

Gandhiji was practical enough to admit though that “Truthfulness in the practice of a profession cannot cure it of the fundamental defect that vitiates it”

One cannot expect anybody to be as truthful as Gandhi was but does one have to go to the other extreme? Even while writing the Munnabhai post, I knew that Gandhigiri was a passing fad. This was revealed last week when the Times of India had headlines of “Gandhiriri gives way go Goondagiri” when traders went on a rampage in Delhi against the imposition of Ceilings of unauthorised properties. In practical life, things happen more in confirmity with the other movie “Maine Gandhi ko nahin mara” which conveys that Indians remember him more is letter than in spirit and that too during his death and birth anniversaries. From another perspective,while Munna(bhai) was cute, can the same be said of Manu? At least here, should we not follow the apostle of truth, our “father of the nation”?

Coimng back to the professional context, I had mentioned in the post how the so called professionals(in all fields) do exactly the opposite of what they are supposed to be doing which is so well expressed by one of the all time great songs of Hindi Cinema. In this context (CL), if the guardians of law behave like this, what is left for the common man? The song is worth mentioning again here:-

In the BMW case, when a rich man’s son got away scott free after bunping off several people with his car, it was mentioned that the practical situation could be described as “show me the man and I will show you the law”. The way things are happening, law seems to have become like a five-star hotel, only for the rich people. Mr Sanghvi has also mentioned the same case in the article and stated how the “justice was available only to those who can pay for it”.. My fahter-in-law is a non practicing lawyer and a jain who would not even harm a fly. Even he has expressed serious reservations about the law time and again.

One day after writing the post, it has come in the Times of India that in the context of implementing the Ceiling, the Supreme court said “”Those who govern should know how important the rule of law is. If there is no rule of law, there will be nothing left in this country”. This is obviously true not only for this country but all countries but should it also not all apply to all parties and not merely restricted to “Those who govern”. What matters eventually is the motives with which the law is implemented but not law-per se. I recently read on some blog how the domestic violence law could be subverted by women with dubious motives.

Mr Sanghvi has used the expressions “deeply flawed justice system” and “ how little faith people have in our legal system” apart from “unfair legal system” mentioned earlier. The common man is so scared of the delay in justice that the judicial system is seen as a remedy worse than the disease. Considering that Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and Jinnah were alll lawyers, they can be proud of the fact that lawyers had a pivotal role in making India Independent. Isn’t it a strange irony that in Independent India, the ordinary man feels stiffled by the law and is almost under siege by the judicial system? If this situation continues to prevail, people might start taking the law in their own hands the way it was shown in the movie “Rang De Basanti”.

One should focus on the brighter side- the Priyadarshini Mattoo case where there are hopes of justice after the recent verdict in the victim’s favor. There again, the day after the verdict, both the Lall and the katara families(fighting similar cases) while welcoming the judgment said that it was late. They feel the pinch because it is they who are fighting and have to go to the courts on a day to day basis. I am sure that the murderers in those cases too must be thinking of approaching the CL.

These cases have come under the limelight because of media and public pressure but there must be countless others languishing in courts because of delays of various kinds. I can remember annother all time popular song from yesteryear’s super comedy “Chalti ka naam gaadi” “ Oh Mattoo, tera tau hua lekin mera kya hoga?” . In the original song, it is not Mattoo but Manu and if the CL succeeds in the Jessica lall case, we can revert to the original song with a slight variation “ Oh Manu, tera to hua lekin justice ka kya hoga?”

Though both Barkha Dutt and Mr Sanghvi have written very well and the media as a whole has played a very constructive role in these cases(even if for their TRPs), one wonders wether the role of the media is that of a watchdog or a bloodhound? Everytime a prominent case emerges, there is a lot of noise about delay in cases but nobody does any follow up and takes the issue to its logical conclusion- why the delay?, what can be done to expedite justice and what is the latest situation? If everytime a Jesica lall has to happen to arouse the consciousness about delay in cases, all the noise about it whether by the mainstream media or the bloggers is nothing but a lot of intellectual masturbation. Even in the Lall case, why did the media wait for seven years and for the verdict to go against the victims? Why can’t the justice system be made faster as in the other great democracy- the United States.? Even in Tennis and Cricket, the follow through is given its due importance. Practical corporate management is impossible without “follow-up”. Why not get to the root of the problem and effect a lasting change?

Both the Journalists have described the CL as the “lone ranger” against injustice. In reality, it is the common man who is the “lone ranger” against the flawed judicial system. Barkha says “ Much is being made of whether media trials have substituted or, at the very least, weakened the judicial process. I disagree. “ She is absolutely right. In a country where the politicians are perceived as corrupt and the judicial system inefficient, only the media can save the common man’s skin . The common man in this context is more like that famous bespectacled character from R.K.Laxman’s cartoons- looking baffled but genuinely confused and helpless.

As for the CL, since he happens to enjoy the stature(more or less) of cricketer Sachin Tendulkar in his field, it’s worth repeating what Tendulkar said in an interview once “ No matter how big a player is, nobody can be bigger than the game ”. In legal lingo “ Be you ever so high, the law is above you” –here, I am talking from a laywer’s perspective . Purely by coincidence, I happen to be reading “Why pride matters more than money” by Katzenbach. Though I am only half way throgh the book, it seems to be all about sustained motivation in the long run coming from pride in one’s work and profession- it states that though money may entice somebody to join an organization, in the long run, it is only meaningful work and pride in performance in one’s work that motivates an individual towards individual and group excellence . The CL already enjoys an enviable reputation in his field and hopefully, this is only an aberration. Barkha has mentioned in her article that the CL does not have to do all this for money anymore and behave like a typical professional(all maynot be like that) which reminded me of an artilce I had written some years ago- Is money the god and profession the religion ? .

Mr Sanghvi has concluded the article by stating that the next time the CL claims to use his legal prowess for the national good to help the weak and powerless, all of India will laugh in his face. One should hope that it does not come to that. There are many of the view that as it is, we already have plenty of entertainment from some politicians.

It would also not be out of place to mention here that some artists have spent a lifetime of poverty despite being very good in their respective fields- Hindi novelist Premchand and Hockey wizard Dhyanchand among them. Others like the famous painter Vincent Vangoh and Shakespeare became posthumously famous. Therefore, Professional prominence should never be taken for granted. People in the wrong profession have described it as “Spiritual suicide” and “lifetime imprisonment”. Therefore, one should have the highest reverence for one’s profession as it sustains both emotionally and financially for a majority of waking hours.

{ Nobody is disputing anybody’s right to hire a lawyer or any lawyer’s right to take up a case. This is just an expression of concern(which I think the journalists too are doing) if a smart lawyer is misusing his smartness. It is also an appeal to his conscience)

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Are bloggers failed writers and half-wits or for professional journalism, is this the pits?

October 3, 2006

Today(10/3,2006), under the heading “Failed writers and half-wits populate the blogoshpere“, Shobhan Saxena has many disparaging things to write about bloggers in “The Times of India ” :-

Net result:Failed writers and half wits populate the blogosphere

It is surprising that there is not one positive thing mentioned about bloggers or the blogosphere( Extracts from the article in Italics).:-

“Everyone has the right to express an opinion but a lot of people confuse it with meaningless fuming and ranting. Everyone has the right to be stupid but some people abuse the privilege”

I am no professional writer but having written sporadically for The Times of India(seven small write-ups; coincidentally one is under “Mind,body,spirit and you ” today itself)and a couple of reputed magazines(four write-ups), I have to concede that when you work with professionals, it improves your focus tremendously and enables you to separate the wheat from the chaff in content. I am grateful to all my Journalist gurus for that more than anything else. However, to consider focus more important than the ideas is clearly putting the cart before the horse;what are you going to focus if the ideas iself are not there and ideas come from the unconscious mind- nobody has patent rights on them. In this context, being formally qualified can actually be a liability because it builds up the ego which is the biggest impediment to cretative ideas.

What I feel is that a professional should be circumspect in using certain words and adjectives( like “stupid” above) with amateurs in particular. Sometimes I feel that that the article written by Saxena is the kind of article I used to write before I interacted with journalist professionals(my association with all of them has been pleasent) – a one sided diatribe without perspective with expressions beginning with the title itself best avoided .

The whole tenor of the article is such that one wonders at the motives behind using certain expressions and statements such as :-

” A lot of people are sick of being nobody. A lot of people’s lives have been reduced to inconsequential chatter with inconsequential friends. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions and their lives are a second hand mimicry of others’ lives.”

This could be true to a significant extent but “inconsequential friends” is a highly objectionable expression because no human being is inconsequential. Some bloggers may have opinions that are more insightful if not original than that of a journalist and some of them may have genuine first hand experiences to share from their own lives which maybe far more interesting at times than what a journo has to say. There is no point writing about “inconsequential chatter “ but psychiatrists advocate social outlets as a means of overcoming mental and emotional problems and blogging serves as a good one. In fact writing is viewed as a kind of catharsis in that context.

Some months ago, on my other blog, I had spoken about the urge to write as a genuine need for some people- While stating that some famous writers-Horis-karl Huysmans, Henry Miller , Herman Melville, Sir Arthur Conann Doyle, Anthony Trollope ,Anton Chekov , Somerset Maugham all lived dual lives(as writers and their other occupation) , this post gives Indian examples of people from different occupations who were very keen to write. One person explains that “It is not so much about the inner need to be a writer as an inner need to write.” Every journalist may not become a good writer or vice-versa but if people from other occupations can succeed as writers, there is no reason why some can’t succeed as Journalists as well.:-

Schizophrenic existence of budding writers.

That apart there is a saying, “ I write to know what I think”. The so called inconsequential chatter becomes very consequential when one starts writing and exchanges views. Writing is actually a very good way to clarify your thoughts and even be centered..

There is then no justification for making statements in the article like:-

They think they have something to say. They want to be read and heard and seen”.

Some of them may actually have something to say. There is nothing wrong in being wanting to be heard and seen if you have the talent for it. One of India’s foremost filmstars said in an interview ” It takes a show off to be a show on”. I read about one writer who used to sing and dance on the roof to attract attnetion;what could he do? There was no blogging in his time. Isn’t blogging one of the most powerful means of self expression? During my nomadic excursions through the blogosphere, the creativity that I have come across at times is mind boggling. For instance, some of the cooking blogs- the pictures and the content is so good that this seems nothing but a labor of love since they are not being paid for it. They appear like professional cooking websites rather than personal blogs.

What are programs like “Nach Baliye” and “Indian idols” or for that matter “Laughter Challenge” doing? There are several sides to a human being’s personality and the chupa rustams(latent talent) in them comes out only when there is a transparent platform. One of the judges in the musical show “Indian Idols” wrote in an article how much new talent was emerging and how it was giving the established singers a run for their money. Similarly, blogging is a transparent platform for writers and it is only a matter of time before the hidden “Khushwant Singhs and Shobha Des” emerge. Why should they not be seen and heard.?

Digressing a little, I would like to say that excellence in any field does not necessarily have to be a corollary of formal qualifications. Neither Amitabh Bachchan nor Rajnikanth are formally trained actors but have been long enduring superstars. Dhirubhai Ambani was not a naturally trained lateral thinker(to the best of my knowledge) but his out of the box thinking was brilliant. Japan, as a country did not have a formal business school for a long time but during that period, that tiny country gave the Americans a run for their money. In the recent Movie “Krishh”, Naseeruddin Shah while complimenting Hrithik Roshan’s abilities tells him ” Others are trained but you are gifted” Therefore a gifted writer though not formally qualified maybe more than match for a journalist where sheer writing skill is concerned.

Elsewhere, it is written that “it looks like the revenge of the amateur who dreams of becoming a professional. And that’s a cause for concern”. At another place it is given ;” The pace at which the blogoshpere is getting cramped with half wits, religious maniacs, failed writers, sociopaths and cold blooded killers is scary” . I feel that this is a one sided view. One wonders whether the people described above are the rule or the exception. Is that scary or is something else scary?

Why should “dreaming of being a professional” be a cause for concern? It happens in the management world all the time. If a company in the unorganized sector like Nirma can take on a giant like Hindustan lever, what is so sacrosanct about Journalism? Management history is replete with stories of how lean and mean small companies(mouse) gave the established companies(Elephants) a run for their money. It seems more of a nightmare for the professionals – a fear of competition from unknown quarters.

Some formally qualified journalists may have the natural ability to excel in other fields as well and similarly some people in other fields maybe more gifted writers. To throw light exclusively on the negatives in the blogoshpere is an article without perspective in my view.

The expression “failed writers” or “Nobody” can be quite deceptive. The renkowned Hindi writer, Muinshi Premchand and even the great Shakespeare got posthumous recognition years after they died. Were they failed writers or the audience failed to give them their due? Who knows what could have happened had blogging been around to showcase their skills? Why discourage budding Sakespeares and Premchands with such articles ? Talking of commercial success, Govinda maybe far more commercially successful than a Naseerudin Shah but it is the latter who is deemed brilliant. Who decides success or failure and on what criteria?

“Their(bloggers) aspirations are blocked by the obnoxious monster called the editor and their high voltage facts mixed with slam dunk fiction with a lot of typos and commas and semi-colons in the wrong places, go down a drain called the editorial process”.

One cannot deny the importance of the right punctuation but the most important thing in writing is creative ideas and expression and to give undue importance to commas and full stops would be missing the wood for the trees The book literary humor puts things in the right perspective ,”Commas and full stops are a convenience rather than an integral part of the language; its nuts and bolts rather than girders. Some very eminent writers have been careless in this respect- Somerset Maugham could not handle commas, Jane Austen got her quotation marks in a twist; Geroge Orwell hated semicolons so much that he wrote an entire novel without any. Gertrude Stein ignored punctuation. ”

Similarly, the book states that many writers of the most elegant prose have been shoddy spellers- John Cheever, Ezra Pound, Scott Fitzgerald etc. I am not suggesting that this is excusable but more emphasis should be on expressive ability which comes from the depths of the soul:-

“Of all the arts in which the wise excel, Nature’s chief masterpiece is writing well”

In the book “Editors on editing”, eminent editor David Davidar says ” The writer is the artist and editor the craftsman; the editor must never lose sight of this fact.” Elsewhere, it is given that “Editors must reconcile themselves to anonymity, no matter how great their contribution to a text.” This clearly puts the relationship in proper perspective. The blogosphere may have good writers all of whom need not go down the drain. On the other hand, many successful editors may have “gone down the drain” in the writing process or maybe some excelled at both. George Bernard shaw said once “Those who can, do. else they teach.” It was further expounded by Steve Norbdy :-

Those who can do.
Those who can’t teach.
Those who can’t teach train teachers.
Those who can’t train teachers write teacher training textbooks..

Some editors may not be good writers but very good editors. Why give over importance to the editorial process? Sometimes, a free for all write up can be more charming and cute like the raw talent of a natural cricketer like Mahendra singh Dhoni for instance.

“Blogs are an online stream of consciousness written by people who believe that they are under orders form someone to change the world”. Blogging and websites are the only mass communication tools directly in the hands of the individual. Some of the greatest leaders in history like Lenin for instance orchestrated their movements from abroad. Gandhiji in his autobiography expresses surprise at being so popular in India for the work that he did in South Africa. Had blogging been around at that time, it would definitely have facilitated their work. Ghandhiji was a lawyer but has been described as modern India’s greatest writer and editor in “Editors on Editing” and complimented on his mass communication skills by no less a man than Alyque Padamsee, former chairman of Lintas. Who knows what else he could have achieved with a mass media tool like blogging directly under his control?

“Bloggers claim in their hifalutin tones that they want to give a voice to the voiceless and replace the papers with their journalism. It sounds good but look at the way they are doing it. Their vision is apocalyptic and their language is acidic. “ This maybe true in some cases but all bloggers are not like that. Newspapers have been an enduring institution and even satellite television has not been able to replace them. Why be vary of the poor little blogger? Some elements from the media have been criticized for sensationalization but that does not imply that the entire mainstream media is irresponsible.

In my view, bloggers and the mainstream media can share a symbiotic relationship in the spirit of you scratch my back and I scratch yours but not in a derogatory sense. In his book “Differentiate or Die”, the author Jack Trout states how essential it is for every established brand to continue to differentiate itself. National and international issues are well reported and hotly debated and there is not much scope of differentiation there. In a country like India where the judicial system is perceived as “ineffective”, local issues being highlighted can go a long way in helping the affected party( the way it helped Jesicca lall) and also help the mainstream media differentiate itself which is where bloggers come in as the media cannot reach everywhere.

This reminds me of a scene from the famous “Yeh Dosti” song from movie “Sholay” where the side car attached to the motorcycle separates from the main body and then after straying in the wilderness merges with the main body on the main road.There maybe separate actions(bloggers and journalists) on certain issues , go it alone on certain issues and even joint action on certain issues. This may seem far fetched now just as a 24 hour news channel was deemed ridiculous when first introduced Who knows how a medium may evolve in the future? Some professional journalists have spoken in favor of “citizen journalism”. The journalist gives news( at most times), the blogger gives views. Where is the conflict?

Even the song itself is not exactly a misplaced expression of what the relationship between bloggers and Journalists could be:-

The article states correctly that Learning and mastering good journalism is tough. You learn it is libraries, on flooded streets, in front of a rioting mob, in the middle of ceasefire between the milita and the military,in war trenches, in the corridors of power and in the hamlets of deprivation. Sometimes, a reporter walks for miles in an area ravaged by a tsunami to get one quote from the man hanging on to a tree for a week. “ This is wonderfully written and very correct and Journalists and Journalism should be respected for that but then the Journalist should also respect bloggers right to self expression instead of only being highly and blindly critical. It would not be out of place to mention here that Journalism is no rocket science, impregnable to outside perspectives.

The article continues ,”Bloggers don’t worry about such inane things. They can learn history and politics from google. They can get their facts from newspapers and slam them with their half baked opinions”

That is exactly what I am doing at the moment but whether the opinions are half baked or not again is a matter of opinion. Everybody does not have to have hands-on experience. Some people do well as financial investors. Can you tell them ” You must run companies and not merely invest in them”

Rather than use such expressions, Journalists should look at bloggers with a big brotherly attitude. Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar has given a lot of credit for his success to encouragement by his elder brother,Ajit when he started playing cricket. Looking at the results, we hardly have much to complain out. To only see the negative side of a little brother is not correct- Shobhan, yeh aapko shobha nahin deta.

Now a giggly little, sweet little, little baby brother will only use google because he can hardly be expected to face the challanges faced by a formally trained big brother. Just the way the cute antics of an innocent child or the high sounding words of a management trainee(Fresh MBA) amuse , journalists as big brothers could pull the cheeks of us tiny little fellas and say “Kuchi kuchi koo” or “Gili gli gili” instead of some of the condescending, reprimanding and nagging wife kind of expressions used in the article.