Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Breaking News

Media in most of the countries are reeling under lack of freedom. They hanker to get the freedom that Indian media enjoys. But does the Indian media make efforts to translate that freedom into a news of substance for its citizens?

Any news belongs to one of the two categories. One answers the ‘what’ and other answers the ‘why’. The quality of a news channel can be gauged by the proportion of whys among the whats that it helps answer. The purpose of the news should not only be to inform the citizenry of what happened but also dig deeper into the undercurrents and help explain the whys and the trends behind it. Most of the Indian news channel focus on the former and ignore the latter. The only whys they help answering are those of stray murders that they randomly pick up and publicize and earn out of TRP ratings. And if in the process an innocent person is victimized, too bad – for he becomes a victim of the game.

The media has misused its freedom to prevent itself from telecasting genuine news. They make heroes and villains out of stray murders, dish out emotional melodramatic dialogues at the drop of a hat, cameramen practicing zooming on faces – a la ‘K’ serials of Ekta Kapoor (why doesn’t Ekta change her name to ‘K’eta?) follow the reality shows of the sister channels and telecast anything that appeals to the curiosity and amusement of the general laity.

What follows is a sample of prime time ‘Breaking News.’ I leave the floor open for you to comment. Please don’t break your head.

Commissioner's dog captures prime time space

Finally, the dog was found.

What did Rahul Gandhi eat?

Did the Big B sneeze?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Let the World Celebrate your birthday

We know that the population of the world has crossed 6 billion recently. More than 70 percent of the world’s wealth is with 5 percent of the world’s population. That makes for around 300 million very rich people. It’s a long forgone conclusion that the wealth is not equitably distributed around the world. But there are reasons to believe that such people are equitably distributed across space (in different countries) and time (born round the year). Hence there would be an average 821,918 of those rich people born on any given day. On their birthdays, they spend copious amount of cash throwing parties, dining, holidaying and in many other ways that are commensurate with their image in the society. Instead, if these filthy rich people and the rest of us who are better off decide to donate a certain percentage of our earnings to charity only on our birthdays then we would have atleast a million donations happening across the world every single day. The beauty of the idea is that no single person will have to donate too much (just once a year) and yet the NGOs the world over, the UNICEFs and the Greenpeace, the PETAs and CRYs that strive to protect our environment and support the world’s underprivileged will have cash-flows coming in to them constantly.

Since I believe in practicing what I preach, on my birthday my wife and I donated a certain percentage of my salary for a good cause in my hometown. The institution I donated to engages in a lot of social service activities of feeding the poor, educating the young, teaching them skills that make them self sufficient and so on. Scriptures suggest that donation should be confidential and should not be bragged about. With all due respect to the scriptures, I, however, believe it is high time we changed the way the world looks at charity. It is time charity is discussed openly so it becomes a way of life. It is time now that we not only dream about being rich but also about being a rich person that donates, that changes lives, that inspires humanity. Chances are that some of us are already doing this and a few might be doing so more frequently than once a year. If you do, then let us join our hands in making the world celebrate our birthdays. All the interested people may contact me and we’ll see how we can take this forward. The aim is to let all the aforementioned organizations try this idea as a marketing campaign for getting funds. My mail and effort would be successful even if just a few of you can be inspired to do so. But the idea as a whole will not meet its success unless it becomes a way of life the way partying on birthdays has become today.

Let us all strive to give more meaning to our lives. Let us all not just celebrate the number of times earth has revolved around the sun since we were born. For what could be the reason for our celebration if one more stomach can’t be filled through our efforts, if one tree can’t be saved through our donations, if one more drop of water can’t be prevented from getting polluted, if one orphan can’t study due to lack of funds, if one heart can’t melt and feel inspired seeing how we celebrate our birthdays? A birthday that does one of these would truly be a birthday that the world celebrates.

If this doesn’t inspire you, this poetic rendition of my experience might just help.

The Realization

I took an obscure bylane
to reach a nondescript building.
Met my colleagues and friends,
who were already there - waiting.

Together we all waited
for the kids to come out.
About a dozen of them came,
with a hope that would never fade out.

God hadn't been too kind to them.
The kids were bequeathed with misfortune.
They lived, in an orphanage,
a life that played to a discordant tune.

Today was a special day for them.
On schedule was "once in a blue moon" shopping.
They all reacted differently in anticipation.
Some did it by tickling and some by giggling.

We took them all to a shop
to the discomfort and surprise of many shoppers.
But the kids could only have basked in the moment
with a shine on their face that was misfit for paupers.

Unlike other kids, these were a well-behaved lot.
They wouldn't even touch the things they were to shop.
For a long time, I couldn't hear their voices.
Perhaps they never thought life would give them any choices.

I wondered why two kids were very quiet.
What I found made my heart go numb.
As if being orphan was not enough,
those kids were also - deaf and dumb.

We finally droppped them home.
Their hands full with stuffs they had taken.
They waved us a mirthful good-bye
as we left with a soul that was stirred and shaken.

Not long thereafter did I realize
that this was the best day of my life.
I had done something for someone,
who couldn't give back anything tangible in return.

I realized what joy is there in giving,
helping these kids in their fight against the odds.
And since kids are closer to HIM,
this was a subtle way to realize the Gods.

I realized how lucky I am,
to have parents for all the love I need.
Oh Lord, I won't whine again for not having shoes,
for I've seen someone without feet.