Each to its Exclusive

The Mumbai thing is over for the goons and the commandos. The rest of the circus takes over. Patil’s head rolls, Chidambaram is in (for whatever reasons best known to the lady and her faithful PM), Laloo makes statements that Patil should have gone long ago (as if he had been suggesting it like a faithful coalition partner all this time), Sonia is livid with her cronies, Vilasrao Deshmukh does his rounds of the Taj and God only knows why Ram Gopal Verma was with him then.

These are the tangy spices that the vultures have served us post the tragedy – all in an hour of my TV news channel surfing.  Each channel had an exclusive, a word that I am hearing more prominently across the channels than anything else. One did its rounds of conspiracy theories and the Paki connection as an exclusive as if it had personally interrogated the captured terrorist. Then again there were these bunch of news channels that took the tried and tested line of the “resilience and undying spirit of Mumbaikars”. This is a line that Barkha Dutt had already trashed a couple of days earlier on behalf of NDTV’s differentiation strategy (NDTV were the main subscribers to the ‘spirit of Mumbai’ line during coverage of earlier incidents involving Mumbai). And yes, the all favorite, best selling, never out of flavor, easy to use politician bashing. With likes of Shobha De (where is Mahesh Bhat?) being interviewed, this thing sits up there with all the masala next to the soap operas in never ending sagacity. There was this channel that did not spare even a poor bereaving father.  It took the cameras and pokey news guys right into the compound of Late Major Unnikrishnan’s home where his father was seen snubbing the visiting Kerala CM and Home Minister rather harshly.

One thing my brother kept pointing out to me is the difference between the likes of CNN and BBC and the Indian news channels. Not only were there telling differences in the styles of commentary, visuals and approach but also in music. For some reason, Indian news channels subscribe to the notion that Indians will die of asphyxiation without music. Like tomato sauce, music goes into everything an Indian consumes. Even news. They may be alien to the Indian mindset but these foreign channels are more solemn and dignified in their reporting. The Indian channels simply resemble prime time American crime reporting TV. They even panned the Bollywood fraternity viewpoint on the incident. Like we were dying to know what our tinsel duds thought of this whole thing. Some things earn the sobriquet ‘ubiquitous’. Like Bollywood people dressed in all white whenever anything happens in Mumbai and all those people lighting candles for every tragedy. The worst part is not they doing it but the TV channels converting it into an icon.

I might come across as insensitive to the whole tragedy. Well that is how I feel. Even the most seasoned mind would not feel the pain of a tragedy unless it experiences one itself. I have had my own concerns for the past week, as I had to abandon my home and seek refuge at someone else’s place to escape the wrath of the floods following the cyclone Nisha. I am still a refuge as I type this. During my ordeal have seen things that the rest of the country has not seen and that formed a sharp contrast to the whole drama on TV that I was subjected to on the weekend. I will come back to this point later but firstly, I find the whole candle lighting to remember and mourn the dead thing somewhat clichéd and contrived. Especially when it is done as a group thing in full view of national news channels.  To me mourning is not meant to be distributed. It is a prayer in one’s mind, a feeling in one’s heart and a subdued message in person to the bereaved.  For this very reason, I wish they leave Major Unnikrishnan’s father alone. Send him a card or a letter of condolence if you really feel his loss but please do not show it full screen on TV multiple times or live telecast the postman who delivers it and catch the bereaved man’s reaction. Believe me…one day these channels would do this too!

This whole ‘jai jawan’ thing I have been seeing on TV is another thing I find hard to accept. To me, a soldier’s business is to fight…and live. Yes a dead soldier is a martyr, so offer a silent prayer to him and solemnly salute the living one. A soldier kills: something any soldier following orders would choose not to do given his own will. This overt and highly emotional celebration of a soldier’s victory is a sign of weakness. It is a tame acknowledgement of our own inability and reluctance to step into a soldier’s shoes and probably a feeling of relief that we need not do it. We shield these exact feelings beneath our boisterous cheers and emotional display of gratitude. For TV news channels, this is a TRP spinning masala that boring news does not provide. Show it repeatedly and the news channels are indoctrinating the people in the same way those fidayeens had been by their commanders.

Amidst this entire melee, one genuine politician and former Prime Minister passed away. The TRP hungry vultures chose to continue digging for exclusives in the Mumbai mess than spare a minute and remember the man who stood by his convictions. VP Singh stuck to his ideals than the seat on more than one occasion (Bofors, Income tax raids, the Mandal Commission implementation or the arrest of LK Advani)  It was Doordarshan that remembered the man, a channel that is now in control of a government formed chiefly by the very party that VP Singh was forced to quit. 

Finally, I find this whole “resilient spirit of Mumbaikars” ridiculous and too obvious. The single biggest TRP jump any channel would get is from the combined might of Mumbai or Delhi viewership. So with one carefully crafted phrase of flattery these channels easily grab the repeat viewership of the people of these cities. The laggard channels simply adopt this line too as “me too”. I care a dick for Mumbaikar, Delhiwala or Hyderabadi resilience or spirit. I care a dick for Chennaiite’s resilience too. There is no such thing at all. I bet most of them would only be too eager to get out of their sorry homes and continue enjoying their lives than have any real feelings the tragedy. Life is short…getting the best of it – that is what the average man really cares for. Like many things in this country, 24-hour  news channels too are for the haves, of the haves and by the haves. They cater to the haves and seek approval of the haves. So they speak of the resilient spirit of the haves and show it by panning someone like those candle burners! Frankly we have no frigging idea what human spirit or resilience means. These news channels have not begun to dig it even. 

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1 comment so far

  1. Nitin Singh Bhati on

    Critcizing or giving resignation s will not solve the burning issues raised by this attack.the only difference b/w bbc cnn and indian news channel is of rational and irrational.One is not trp greedy because ethics are in the roots other is trp greedy to the extent thAT reportes will let someone die but will not save because they will not get the story.
    i disagree with u about mumbaikars spirit,infact this is one thing which is reasons behind mumbai success after mumbai blast of 1993 and till today


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