Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Shouldn't journalists be only reporting?

Before writing this post, I was just checking the definition of a journalist. Wikipedia says
A journalist collects and disseminates information about current events, people, trends, and issues.
This means that a journalist should convey the train of events in a manner that they have occurred. A journalist should not be colouring the report with his or her own opinions or political leanings. That, I guess would be the forte of a good journalist. And the job of colouring events with opinions should be left to analysts, is what I feel.

But now-a-days, journalists are trying to become analysts themselves. News channel reporters go over the top in making conclusions in less than 30 seconds. The Times of India is known for its pro-Congress stance. Being pro-Congress is fine, but it is anti-BJP. And hence, its reporters, and probably editors too, try to paint every reaction of a BJP leader in a way so as to prove that Congress is much better than the BJP. Just see this headline-
Congress did not initiate anti-Sikh riots in 1984: Gadkari
The headline meant to say that the BJP has exonerated the Congress from its role in the anti-Sikh riots. Subtly, it means that the BJP is withdrawing from its earlier stand, which maintained that the Congress party members actively supported the riots. And hence, trying to show that the BJP is a party which flip-flops on its stand.

But, read the interview carefully, and you will realise that Nitin Gadkari has never made such a statement. The statement Gadkari made, in reply to a question was

"Look, some people might be involved in those riots but it would not be entirely correct to say that the riots were initiated by the government."

This statement never ever has the same meaning as the headline. While the journalist writing this report may feel that the headline justifies the content, it is his/her opinion. And that is precisely what a journalist should not be doing. That is a columnist's job. Leave that to them, else they will have to find new avenues to work. But will our media, affected by the "breaking news" syndrome, ever improve? They do not have to go too far. Just read BBC's website and see how they write their headlines. No sensationlisation at all. And the same is true about BBC News. The reporters are one of the most objective ones, the news readers never take sides. But our media is trying to model itself along the Fox-News type of reporting. More sensation than content. And the print media too, is going along the same lines. The fourth estate of the democracy should not be influenced by political leanings, but should be objective in its work. Let people form their opinions. You need not force yours onto them.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Shabbirbhai Biryaniwala: Matheran

Matheran, the small hill station nestled in the Sahyadris, is famous for its "wala". The builder of the Matheran Hill Railway, Abdul Husein Adamjee Perbhoy, was famous as the Matheran Railwaywala. The Adamjees shifted to Pakistan with Jinnah, but left behind the famous Matheran Railway.

This weekend, I and my parents went to Matheran over the weekend. While we wee walking back from Sunset Point, my mother, being the ever enthusiastic and interested lady about local "specialties", asked a local shopkeeper about good restaurants in Matheran. And depending on the type of food you wanted, he reeled out a few names. And, being associated with engineers for quite a long time, my mother decided not to build a statistic from one observation. When we came back to the main market area, she asked a few more shopkeepers who reeled out the same names. Satisfied that we were on the right track, we decided to go to Shabbirbhai Biryaniwala, whose name was suggested to us by all shopkeepers.

Shabbirbhai's restaurant is situated a little away from the main dazzle of the markets. Hence, for tourists who are in Matheran for the first time, it might be difficult to spot it and they might completely give it a miss. The restaurant itself is small, can accomodate atmost 30 people at a time. But Shabbirbhai's biryani is too good. Infact, most of the restaurant's preparations were tasty. Actually, to be safe, we tried Chicken Masala, but I now regret that we could have been more adventurous. It would require a word stronger than "tasty" to describe that dish. We were licking our fingers and hoping for the taste to linger for longer. Ofcourse, we couldn't leave the restaurant without the biryani. We ordered for Chicken Biryani. The quantity was sufficient and again, the taste awesome!! This time we were licking the spoons!

The food was "reasonably" priced. You may find it expensive, compared to what that type of restaurant would charge in the city. But remember, it is Matheran, where goods are hauled up from Neral and then brought into the town on horse back. And, it is a tourist place, where people can earn only during the season time. But then, sometimes, the taste matters more than the price. Shabbirbhai's restaurant is on such place.

I couldn't take any pictures, as it was dark and the lighting in Matheran isn't like Mumbai, where we can't differentiate between day and night. But, next time, when in Matheran, try out Shabbirbhai's place.
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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Mahatma vs. Gandhi: Dinkar Joshi

What happens, if fate decides that you be born into a family of stalwarts? And again, if fate or you decide that what your parents, ancestors did is not what you want to do? And what, if a lifestyle or a way of life is forced upon you, just because your father follows it and thousands others too follow it out of respect for your father?

Mahatma vs. Gandhi is the tussle between Mahatma Gandhi and his eldest son, Harilal Gandhi. While the Mahatma has given up on worldly pleasures and is leading the life of an ascetic in Phoenix, South Africa, Harilal is not yet ready for such a life. But, he is forced to do so by the Mahatma for two reasons- one is because he (the Mahatma) believes that this is the true way of living life and two the Mahatma wants to maintain his self-righteousness in the eyes of the people.

Young Harilal respects his father a lot. Infact, at one point of time, he joined the Satyagraha movement in South Africa. But, unfortunately, he was labelled as "Junior Gandhi" and thus lost his identity as an independent Satyagrahi. Coupled with this were the expectations that he should follow the Mahatma's step in letter and spirit. But, Harilal saw a lot of contradictions between what the Mahatma said and did. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi forbade his sons from taking education in government schools. This meant none of them could get a matriculate and graduate. But Bapu himself was a barrister and had taken the highest quality education in England. Then, why should his sons be deprived of the privilege? And when Harilal himself promised to rejoin the Satyagraha after completing education. On top of that, to maintain his impartiality, Bapu picks up Chaganlal for a scholarship offered by a certain Dr. Mehta to any person living on Bapu's farm to pursue a barrister's degree in London. To insult to injury, Chaganlal goes back to India without completing his degree.

From this point, the relation between Harilal and Mahatma starts degrading. At every point in his life, Harilal feels that the Mahatma has betrayed him for the sake of maintaining his good image. The book Mahatma vs. Gandhi, written by Dinkar Joshi, captures these events in Harilal's life. The degradation in their relationship, the callous ways of Harilal, his sincere attempts at redeeming himself, his failures in doing so, because of lack of conviction are well chronicled. Despite all this, he still maintains respect for Bapu and his mother, Baa. Once, Gandhiji and Kasturba were travelling by train. When the train stopped on a station, the crowds were waiting to have a glimpse of the Mahatma. And when he came to the door, the crowd erupted in slogans "Mahatma Gandhi ki jai!!" As the train was about to leave, a small group chanted "Kasturba mata ki jai!!" This group was led by Harilal, who felt that a lot of injustice was done to his mother because the Mahatma never respected her feelings and imposed his decisions upon her. What would have happened, if Harilal had not fallen out with the Mahatma? In the words of his own nephew, "He would have been another Mahatma Gandhi, if circumstances were different."

The book may appear like a collection of various episodes, rather than a continuous story. That is because, this first appeared as a series of articles in Gujarati newspapers. Each "episode" captures the slow degradation of Harilal's life. From abandoning home to abandoning responsibilities, his addiction to alcohol and the slow death that it caused. Even death wasn't kind to the son of a great leader. Harilal was found on the verge of death in Mumbai's red-light area (Forase Road). And he died in Sewri hospital, where his body was claimed by his grand-nephew and nephew. Harilal died a few months after the Mahatma. There was one Gandhi, whose funeral was followed and attended by millions and by the greatest leaders of the country. And there was another, who died in penury and whose cremation was a low key affair, where only a few close relatives attended. Apart from them, it did not dawn upon a single soul that the two Gandhis were related.
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