Saturday, January 31, 2009

Should we put constraints on media for national security?

Hi all,

Been very busy with usual stuff that i have not been able to blog at all. Couple of times it was so bad that i abandoned posts midway.... so here i thought i'll put up something for the sake of continuity, and of course for you to ruminate... this is my speech for the PG Cult'09 elocution competition.

Our Preamble states that India is a sovereign, socialist, democratic, republic and as citizens of a free country we are endowed with certain fundamental rights. The most prominent among them is the right to free speech and therein resides the premise of an independent and strengthened media in the country. Of course, it would be inessential to exemplify the virtues of free and fair media in democracy, a debate long settled by Edmund Burke, when he said looking up at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons, said, 'Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all.’

However, in this cacophony of freedom and fairness, a growing section of the populace has started whispering another word too. That word is: Accountability. The world of media and information has changed dynamically from the good old days of Doordarshan and Akashvani. Predictably, the internet is at the forefront of this revolution but there has been enormous development and repackaging of existing channels, with news channels mushrooming overnight and tabloids raking in readership numbers unheard of. The media has undergone an era of crass commercialization and the emergence of 24x7 journalism has guaranteed that anything and everything under the sun is breaking news in India.

The recent Mumbai attacks revealed this dirty underbelly of Indian media, with each TV channel, tabloid and news forum competing with each other to bring the latest piece of action, much in the same vein of reporting the live scorecard of an India-Australia cricket match. Of course, it didn’t occur to them that revealing key operational details of the mission, committing diplomatic farces like commenting on the nationality of attackers 2 hours into the attack, would compromise the diplomatic and military actions taking place on the ground. If you have the guts to pompously announce that the attackers are watching your channel to get ground level information then where are your sensibilities in regulating what you reveal on the show? When it comes to national security, free and fair reporting is a flimsy garb for sensationalism and irresponsibility.

Unfortunately, it seems that the media has entered into a vicious cycle of generating news and creating hype, for sustenance and only external hands can rein them in. If we can have regulators for content on movies then shouldn’t we ensure that the way the sensitive information is presented to the world also be guarded closely and monitored. Lest of course, ladies and gentleman, the next time you want the attackers to have a free and fair chance at fighting back, the media should indeed be constrained when reporting about issues of national security.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Socialist or Selfish

Its 4.30am and I am reporting from my hostel (big deal huh!!!!!). I have nothing to write but it’s the only thing that’s keeping me going and that has saved me from potential unemployment so I turn to it for some succor.

Understandably (or not… I couldn’t care less) I have nothing to write about except the whole set of things that has caused me so much discomfort for some time. I remember one of the passages from my school days. It’s from the book “My Experiments with Truth” and the passage debates upon individualistic and socialistic existence of men. In other words, to exist for oneself or to live for the society. As is becoming of a good book, it extols the greatness of living for the society while stressing on the right to self fulfillment as a basic tenet of democracy. Thus, I am confused as to where should one should draw the line when it comes to making a choice. Be selfish or be socialist in your attitude.

In this regard, I have a story to relate. Being a student with above average credentials prodded me towards teaching many students in younger classes. One of my students, lets call him Ram, was one of my brightest students. I could never fathom his parents’ obsession of seeking my guidance for their son but I took it up for the money all the same. Ram was like any other 8th grader but with a unique disposition of dexterity at Social Studies and Mathematics alike, and everything in between. That is to say that he was good at every subject and though he wasn’t top of class, he was well recognized for his versatility and innovativeness.

Ram was one of my last students for the day. He is one of the students who need least guidance and cause least mental exhaustion. Ideal for the last batch. But that day he was unusually quiet and his actions were more robotic than usual. When initial prodding didn’t get me far, I tried the hostile I-will-tell-your-parents method to get his part of the story.

Ram: Bhaiya, in 2 days time we have an inspection in school. Since we are an upcoming government school, sirf class 8 tak hi hai na, we need to impress the inspector coming from the department, to improve the stature of the school and to get us more funds for expansion.

Me: Hmmm… that’s good for you and your school. Why are you worried? Don’t worry you’ll do fine.

Ram: Nahi nahi. Not afraid of the inspection. Actually, Mr. Jay called me after the class for a discussion. We had a talk on certain issues for considerable time and I am wondering what to do about his proposal.

Me: Proposal?? What kinda proposal does an 8th grader get from his class teacher?

Ram: Well Jay Sir says that this inspection is very critical for our school as there are many schools vying for aid and unless the inspector feels that the whole batch is good, we would not get anything in aid and our school won’t get the necessary permission to scale up to class X with all the facilities.

Me: Good to see that your teacher is so worried about the school and the students. (And most importantly, about his increment, I mumbled inside.) But that’s pretty simple isn’t it? Just ensure that your best students are showcased in front of the inspector. That way the impression of the class will also be improved and the teacher’s work is also less in training the students, as they will be talented automatically. Just divide the work amongst the best students. Simple.

Ram: I thought so too Bhaiya. Infact when Jay Sir was making the teams for each subject I was worried I would be in atleast 3 teams because he had used the annual exam marks for deciding the composition of each subject’s team. But finally, my name was declared in the list of students, who had to memorize the prayer songs which we sang from our prayer book for our daily assembly. You see, I am one of the few born singers in the class. It seems the inspector might want to hear some prayer songs from us.

Me: Good hai yaar. Now as your tuition teacher, do I teach you prayer songs? And I don’t see any proposal still.

Ram: (Chuckles) Nahi Bhaiya. Prayer song toh I can sing anytime, no sweat. The proposal actually materialized when Jay sir said he wanted to meet me after class. He started by saying that he was sorry that he couldn’t put me in any teams as the head master had restricted him from placing students under excessive stress and placing me in any one team would be undermining my proficiency in any other.

Me: So, he left you with the prayer songs?

Ram: Shayad. But he promised that I will get to contribute in individual team preparations for their subjects. The teams will make use of my notes for the inspection and take my help in ironing out few additional answers. But I am not supposed to volunteer for giving any answers as I generally do. The answers will be given by students handpicked by Sir. Only they are supposed to raise hands for a particular subject. In lieu, of course, Sir has said he’s going to think of me as a great team player and keep me in mind for his future plans.

Me: Ohh… so you are going to be in all teams, rather coordinating all teams, with a centralized consultant kinda role. That’s cool.

Ram: Uff Bhaiya. Nothing like that. I am still part of prayer team. Of course, I will be making significant contributions to the inspection preparation and play a critical role in the development of the school. Isn’t that cool!!! Besides the central coordination roles were already decided while I was away watching “War of the Words: The Great Debacle” last year, which had our school seniors in the finals so wo place to gayi na.

Me (Now it’s going beyond my comprehension): So you are basically rattofying the prayer songs while slogging your ass off for other teams to do well.

Ram: Aisa mat bolo, Bhaiya. Look at my contribution to the school’s expansion. That’s going to be cool right. Tomorrow if the school gets a permission to expand up to high school, I can proudly say that I was part of the team which did it.

Me: But what if he didn’t ask for the prayer songs. Then your contribution is zero isn’t it?

Ram: But Jay Sir to jaante hain na.

Me: Haan theek hai. But high school ki scholarship ke liye headmaster hi nominate karenge and he’ll give it to some person who answered Mathematics questions brightly or to someone who supervised the preparation of all the subject teams. Not someone who memorized a bunch of prayer songs. Hai na?

Ram: Hmmmm wo to hai. Anyways its late now, I need to leave now and I can’t come tomorrow. You see I need to sit with various subject teams and prepare with them, besides the bunch of prayer songs. I hope that’s not a problem. Perhaps we can do an extra Sunday.

Me: Theek hai. But just think over what I said. School ke liye fight maarna hai ki apne liye scholarship ka scene banana hai.

Ram: Ok Bhaiya. (And he left…)

Two days later, when the inspector asked a question about equations, 5 hands went up in the class. I don’t know if one of them was Ram nor do I know what I would have done if had I been in his place. Even if I had known how would I know that it’s the right decision.

Is it ever possible to know what the right decision is?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ouch!! I can’t write about S….E….X

Well its 3.30 am and I am writing in my hostel room, simultaneously cursing the LAN-ban in our campus. Another usual B-school day will come to an end for me, in say about an hour. Reading before classes is certainly a first for me, so I have to get accustomed to it pretty fast, besides there is the usual din of totally useless activities in hostels that you get addicted to here. Eating in the night canteen for instance.

Matthew Hayden retired today but I could care less. I never liked him anyways and that has nothing to do with his relationship with Bhajji. He is a typical example of a struggler, who fought his way back in to the Aussie squad after being dropped. He is not a purist’s cricketer and he is big, burly and remorseless, quite unlike the batsmen I like, for example apna Tendlya, small, vulnerable (by the looks… not his cricket. That’s another debate) and emotionally charged.

Of course, it would take a certain degree of ignorance to completely dismiss his contributions to Aussie and world cricket and I, infact, do salute him for his achievements though I’ll still say I am pleased to see the back of him.

My latest GTalk signature says: “Love is the answer, but while you’re waiting for the answer sex does raise some interesting questions. ” Woody Allen

As soon as I changed it, I got a few pings about it. Like all normal things, the reaction was mixed and I couldn’t pick any reaction extraordinaire amongst them. What it set me thinking on was why we attach so much attention and connotations to the word “SEX”. I still remember a particular incident from graduation. Final year, when we were learning the art of drafting our resumes, there was a section regarding personal information. This is what our faculty had to say about it, “And finally, kindly use the word GENDER and then write MALE or FEMALE, please do no use the word S….E…X”". Yeah, that’s what she did. She didn’t say “… do use the word SEX” but “… word S…E…X”. Just the individual letters not the word. As if uttering the word would destine her to the deepest and hottest cauldrons of hell.

Final thought, Indian attitude towards SEX is akin to the American attitude towards Outsourcing. We both don’t like to talk about it but we seem to have no hassles in practicing it. With our huge population and their huge cost cuttings, we have proof enough.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

Hurray... Time for yet another SOM Rocks!!!

Reporting from room number 307 of hostel A in SIC campus.
Cosy room, cosier blanket and the perfect time for garama-garam chai and pakode. Well, i aint here to enjoy the hospitality though. I came here yesterday, about the same time of the day, for participating in a marketing event Out2B in the business festival of SIIB, Ignisense. Eventful journey to say the least, we worried about missing the event because of the delays caused by the bus-wala. Anyhow we didnt have to face our worst fears and managed the reaching the campus and registering in time.
We had a 20 minute presentation and i was supposed to present it. But guess what, I haven't even seen the slides more than 2 times and not one rehearsal. So Sachin made me do a couple of practices with the slides and I guess I really need to be thankful to him for ironing out a few chinks in the armour.
We risked being late rather than being shabby at the event and it paid off handsomely as our presentation went off well. We were applauded for our well thought out and prepared presentation and that for me was battle won. However, we still had to answer a few tricky ones from the judges and I think really Sachin did a great job at that. We got off stage with a general feeling that we have done a pretty good job if nothing exceptional.
Some of the participants were really good with their product ideas or market strategies, however I felt they missed some major point or the other while making their presentations. These things came back to haunt them during the question and answer round.
The results were out shortly after that and we were declared the WINNERS of Out2B!!!!!!!!!!!!! This culminated our continuous slogging over the past 2 days and after a round of congratulations, we moved for lunch.
After lunch, with not much to do for the day, I went to meet Neha, my friend from school. Reached her flat around 4.30, nice place I must add. Usual round of gappe-shappe over Frooti and Haldiram's khatta meetha followed by a quick nap for me. I was woken up with some wonderful coffee and another round gappe ensued. I left her place around 8.30 after a dose of some Roadies action and a meal of 2 aloo paratha and anda bhurji with dahi. It took some effort to reach campus, especially because I could not figure out the rationale behind the pricing strategy of the autorickshaw drivers in Pune. But after some time, my body didn't have the patience to stand and argue with them so I just took what seemed to be the least exploitative price and headed back.
Reaching campus, I heard there was a fashion show at 10 and I had reached in time. But could my body take any more exhaustion ? Yes Sir, it could. So I went to the show, had a nice time for about an hour and came back to my room for the first proper sleep in 3 days.
That was when I was sleeping. Got up at 9am. The SIIB guy put up with us in the room was supposed to get up at 5 to help with the event but its 11 now and there are no signs of him getting up. Pleasant surprise at breakfast was the meeting with Harsh Maskara (The Mask) of I know Harsh as he had come to campus a few days back to do a writeup on SJMSOM. Interestingly enough, yours truly has also been mentioned in the article for one of the many wisecracks during our interaction.
Thereafter its been boring, so now I am planning to move out of the room.
Next post will be from Mumbai...
Tata !!!
And yeah ... SOM Rocks!!!