News Or No News

August 8, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

By

Ananya S Guha

Soon all the talk on floods will shift to newer pastures. There are enough of them in India. In between of course the GST held centre stage and the debate appears to be resolved at least for the time being, not of course without conditions, and prior conditions, and of course a political party staging a walk out. In Parliament we have walk outs akin to sports where we have knock outs. Here it is similar because a walk out in Parliament is like a knock out for a leading party.

News now is a rapidly changing environment. There is no question of sustainability.If you don’t keep track of it your Facebook friends will, and then you will be caught off guard and embarrassed by the fact that you are ignorant of the latest shooting (which can take place any place, anywhere, anytime) or the latest killing of Dalits, or the latest that has happened in Kashmir. In fact, a parallel media (read social networks) is now the best source of news. When Irom Sharmila made her announcement to align with politics, a friend put it up in Facebook within minutes and someone retorted: ”You must be kidding !” Of course he wasn’t and then of course we were inundated with comments ranging from salutations to guarded scepticism. There is no need now to go to newspaper comments and also to read letters to the editor columns. We are all media, editors and readers. Never before perhaps. The media has been so overwhelming in its reportage. It comes from anywhere from the tweet of an actor attacking another to that of a politician impugning another.

So when you read newspapers you feel the staleness and as if rotten eggs are thrown unceremoniously at you. And if you miss the ”shouting matches” on national television your ear drums will keep on humming mournfully till you become an insomnia patient. But if you want to learn the latest lessons in discourtesy and the art of omniscience of course you must view them. They also give you lessons in the art of the theatre. Comedy to be precise.

So, the challenge is to keep updated minute by minute on the latest news, murder, rape, killings (it really doesn’t matter who killed who so long as you are at a safe distance). Floods in Delhi and Gurgaon created some kind of a stir and consternation, because you see, ahem, we are affected, we the people are ‘educated’ and riddled with class afflictions. So there must be a noise somewhere. No murmur on floods in villages, or killing of Dalits. For these also the normally versatile Facebook is also lackadaisical. Doesn’t matter we are all activists- writer activists, theatre activists, political activists, cultural activists, child activists, money activists, the list can go longer and longer. With also the growth of so many websites it is not difficult for our activists to express views, some of them do it artfully in the ”shouting matches” slot.

Then of course the middle classes have enough entertainment in the evenings and Saturdays, by a phenomenon called Kapil’s shows, which make or try to make you laugh, amidst all the oceanic tears that we experience little by little everyday like a dose of poison.

No this is not being satirical, simply realistic. The daunting task nowadays is to keep abreast with the news, which spin rockets sky high, and it is an arduous task to catch it like the elusive twinkling stars. ”Up  above the sky so high.” The Facebook page is the friendliest news source, although some of its proponents need to edit their language. The newspaper, once upon a time chronicler of history (I remember reading in the eighties Madhu Limaye‘s brilliant series on the Indian National Movement) has become passe and the idiot box has been replaced by the shouting box and humour which is desiccated. Thanks!

So the next time someone asks me: ”have you heard (the latest)” my reply will be I’ve been off Twitter and Facebook for the last three days, or better still, I haven’t watched Aaj Taak, or I am reading newspapers regularly. If my counter query is : “what about the India West Indies cricket series?, the laconic comment will surely be : don’t know, I watch only T- 20. We are forever looking for excitement. Ask some of the same viewers who are glued to television sets, or whose acolyte is one of the architects of the ”shouting matches”, who Anirban Lahiri is, the chances are that he would give you a blank, glassy look.

So, let’s wait for the next shoot out. For the floods we will have to wait for one more year. For WCC (World Cricket Cup) some more years, the Olympics are round the corner, but very few Indians are rated high enough to get medals. One doesn’t know of course. Indian athletes are a considerably improved lot. That’s just a few days away and keep glued to Facebook and forget how we have steeped ourselves into the morass of habit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ananya S Guha

Ananya S Guha was born and brought up in Shillong, North East India. He has seven collections of poetry and his poems have been published worldwide. They have also been featured in several anthologies. He is also a columnist, critic and editor. He now is a Regional Director at the Indira Gandhi National Open University and holds a doctoral degree on the novels of William Golding.

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