My interest in ‘news’ and the political events across India (and the world) is sporadic at best. Most times, I am off the radar – I hear everything I want to know through friends who are better-informed – until such time as something happens that prompts me to sit up and do some reading on my own. Initially, I thought this was because most news in India is political and criminal, and both of these events are predictably depressing. I thought I didn’t read them all the time to keep myself sane. Of late, I have understood that is not all. What makes me go away every time if not just the news by itself, but what constitutes news, and how that news is communicated.
Take, for example, this beautiful speech by Raghuram Rajan.
The first impression one forms is of another anti-Modi tirade, which is the last thing this article is. This is a very balanced, thoughtful speech, and the only thing that the headline successfully indicates that the author of the article never read or listened to the speech.
How low media has sunk is probably best judged from the notorious ‘Aunty-National’ headline by Telegraph for Smriti Irani. A lot of questions came to my mind when I saw that headline – the one I uttered out loud was – what on earth were you smoking? Who are you mocking – aunties, journalism, my sense of humour or the tree that was cut to print this piece of shit?
And (at the risk of losing all the right wing love), I cannot forget the popular and convenient Rajiv Chowk metro station photo. For I cannot help but wonder – what makes a journalist dig up an old picture and use it to malign an initiative that might actually be good – even if they don’t think so? What made AajTak share it so shamelessly and what made Sardesai retweet it without a fact-check? The fact that the photo tells the story that you think is true? Or perhaps, that the photo proves your point, telling a story you want to be true?
But what prompted me to really write this article was this headline I read sitting today in Gurgaon.
‘A Guru of India’s rich and famous’? Really? I wouldn’t try to defend a Hindu Guru on any forum, Allah forbid, but to call him a guru of the rich and famous is insensitive as well as just false. What’s worse, however, is that this World Cultural Festival which is to host 3.5 million people from 155 nationalities would probably have never been newsworthy but for this controversy (unlike certain chicken bones and used condoms found in the same region).
You see, I think of myself as a story-teller. I see stories all around me – in people, in pictures, in politics. And this story of India’s story-tellers is the most disturbing story I see in India. These story-tellers are deliberately callous, misleading, mocking, even hateful, when what they should be is sensitive, true and thoughtful. Very much knowingly, these folks set the mood, paint the characters and decide the protagonists of their stories. Their stories, though, often become the only stories told, heard and remembered. And that is very, very disturbing.