Monthly Archives: October 2010

Obama mania

Atithi Devo Bhava( Guests are like God), but  Athiti Dev naahi( Guests are not God).

The first one is an age old adage, which the tourism department uses these days most often, whereas second is a piece of creativity (rather the lack of it).

Well  one of most influential figures (and I call one of intentionally) in the world, president of the United States of America, Barack Obama is all set to visit India.

Welcome sir, be our guest.

Going by the build-up of the visit it seems that media houses, business houses and politicos have forgotten the first of the above mentioned adage and towed on to the one that doesn’t exist.

Power houses in national politics cite (as claimed by the prime time anchors of national broadcasters)one of the reasons that Maharastra Chief Minister wasn’t sacked despite being involved in housing scam is because the ‘Change’ leader of 21st century is coming so we can’t change our CM.  Change of guard brings a bad name, is what the word is being floated around political circles.

Bad name? Wonder if Obama by weirdest stretch of imagination knows who the hell is Maharastra CM and what difference does it make if it is some other Marathi Manoos instead of Ashok Chavan. If it doesn’t matter to Obama, I wonder if it ever mattered to average Maharastrian who their CM is? So why not change, given a chance.

Politics aside, I was taken aback by a report in The Times of India that Tata Group Chairman, Ratan Tata will host Obama at the Taj Mhahal hotel Mumbai, “the site of 26/11 terror attack,” and show him around. Well wonder if our news channels left anything unseen for anyone, leave aside Obama. The ‘Live’ coverage of attacks and the comments flowing already showed to the world what the site was like and later some lifestyle channels have shown the reconstructed hotel more times than the time taken to put the place back in shape.

To me this looks like a pathetic PR exercise, something uncalled for. Obama will visit the attack site and meet some survivors. Well if my memory doesn’t let me down there were other hotels too which were attacked, but they don’t get chance to show Obama around or at least don’t get coverage like the stalwart Ratan Tata. Later Taj will host Obama where he will meet the likes of Mukesh Ambans and Azeem Premji. Wonder how Premji will greet the guy set to destroy his shop( Outsoursing business, if you recall say no to b’lore and yes to Bufallo)

While all this is being done, the fourth pillar of democracy (media) is being painted by colourful features on where will Obama stay, whom will he meet, what will he eat, will his beast (the most secure limo on planet) move on our Indian roads,  I would say will the beast survive the monster of Indian roads which are being patched up.

Media has gone berserk with Obama visit, they covering everything about it in detail, except the agenda of course. There are dedicated sections like ‘Obama visit’ links on websites , photogalleries, debates on what will he eat where will he go and all, but very few space to issues over the hands.
Which reminds when will he get to discuss the issues and with whom, November 6(Day 1) statement at Taj on 26/11,(followed by guided tour by Ratan tata), visit to Gandhi Museum, back to Taj for A meet the top brass of business hosted by RT.

Day 2 Diwali celebration with some students, talks on how much US loves India (Only in papers it seems) and some talk on agriculture. Off to Delhi. Visit Humayun’s tomb and dinner with the Prime minister.

Day 3: Gandhi ji again at Rajghat, joint statement with PM, (from dinner table to Press conference), Meet Madam( Sonia Gandhi) , then address the poor MP’s( bet half of them won’t get what he utters). Poor MP from Pali and many like him can’;t understand what MMS speaks , Obama stands no chance.

After lots of talking, meet President before flying off to Jakarta next morning.

With loads of socialising to do, wonder when will time will come for serious questions like threat to outsourcing, immigration rules, lack of coordination on passing intelligence information, US support n aid to Pakistan, etc will come and be discussed.

This looks like Obama’s happy Diwali outing, kind of meet the PM visit.

Time we wake up as a country and stop sucking up to the likes of these guys.
When a leader comes calling, treat him/her, greet them , but for heavens don’t suk up to them.

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Sposors come of age

It was heartening to see Saina Nehwal getting much deserved sponsorship and limelight.

The world no.3 has done the country proud recently by winning the gold at Commonwealth games and taking us past England to the second spot. Not just the CWG, she has been consistently performing at the world level.

But what makes the her triumph larger than life is the junction at which came across, it has not only given India a new sporting icon, but taken the game, its following to a next level. She has managed to do what Prakash Padukone’s feat of winning the All England Open in 1980 or Pullela Gopichand’s triumph at the same event in 2001 couldn’t do. Get the game a following and make people come to watch the game.

Interesting enough Padukone, took the game to its zenith for the country in 1980, three years before India won the Cricket world cup and the event turned the game into what can safely be said as an ‘unofficial national obsession.’

But nothing seemed to challenge crickets popularity, following and the money that poured in.  The nation got an unlikely and unassuming hero in Olympic gold medallist Bindra, but it wasn’t something that could get the masses going after the sport. Though the fight club of boxer boys from Haryana and Delhi wrestler Sushil Kumar did attract some youth to take up sports other than cricket, but the media apathy and lack of support takes their sheen off.

Olympic bronze medallist Vijendra Singh, did give some consistent performance in the ring and outside(in TV and ramp shows) but missed the trick. And this is probably  where Saina has outplayed others, consistency has been her middle name, barring one early exit in recent times, she has won major tournaments and the fact that her name resembles once tennis sensation Sania Mirza Malik(if I can write so) and how starkly opposite she has been to her got her the much needed media glare.

Her efforts paid off and she has bagged a sponsorship of rupees 1,00,00,000. This came in as a much needed shot in the arm for her career, it also signified that corporate houses looked beyond cricket and glamour. In a very unaccustomed and humble way she acknowledged getting the sponsorship (something our cricketers would never ever talk) and said: “This (sponsorship) will ensure that I can focus freely on my game  and not worry about putting resources in place.”

The remark showed urgent need for the sponsors to come forth and dedication to the game. I wonder if any of our cricketers who get truckloads of sponsorships (at times even while underperforming) caught her interview and thought are they worth their sponsorship and applause.

If the emotion did not appeal, they should think about their market strategies, for a stiff competition is for sure on cards.

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entertaining the purists

News as entertainment?

Simple yet highly debatable question that has kept me engaged over the weekend and is still intriguing. Was going through the 15th anniversary edition of Outlook magazine, some of the heavyweight thinkers and writers did apply their minds to what is happening today in the media, some remembered the days of yore, when editors would pick jewels from around and give the best to the world at large and some came down heavily on news becoming infotainment that they had to quit media.

Sharp reactions from thinking brains, but can’t help ask a simple question- what about the platform they were expressing their views from?

No questions about Outlooks credentials as a newsweekly. It rakes up serious issues but is it not party to the entertainment or rather infotainment gang in some way or the other?  They are and nothing wrong with it.

Though I am not a qualified enough or experienced enough to rub the purist or stalwarts the wrong but a simple question, can pure journalism ensure the fire in kitchens of journalists in today’s time?  Are circulation volumes enough to drive home the media companies and the bulk of journalists they employ?

Media critics or purists at times become stagnant in their thoughts, they I feel forget the basics that news is ever evolving. A noted BBC anchor Tim Sabestian writes in the outlook edition and I quote, “People ran, tempers frayed, there was passion and energy—all sadly missing from the sanitised and silent newsrooms of today.” Wonder how true is that?  The newsrooms have gone more hi tech, far more buzzing with news coming in from all quarters and have become organised to putt it.

To blame marketing or technologies for all the wrongdoing is ridiculous.

When it comes about newspaper running on marketing octane, The Times of India for many becomes the punching bag. Draggers are drawn on its marketing gimmicks, curbing reports, saving its advertisers and the more recent paid news and the list continues.

Having taken all into account it still manages an enviable readership of approximately 13.3 million nearly double of the closest English rival Hindustan times at 6.39 million. It still is a platform that drives the point of its writers to the maximum number of readers.

Despite all the allegations it is one of the first to bring forth the scams like the ones in Common Wealth Games, The Indian Premier League (despite getting aweful lot of ads from the event). It is something that every media house wants to be but don’t accept.

Without drifting away would like to bring forth the other reading of the weekend, Tehelka. The magazine which brought to light one of the biggest scams in the history of independent India.  Credibility and ambition clear as a crystal, after going through all that it should have not gone through in principal, when in its bid to restructure itself when it went looking for advance subscriptions it could manage mere 15,000 , which in a way is good, but given the credible work it has done wasn’t great.

Its circulation it claims has reached around 171,000 copies when you look at that figure nationally its not much. The magazine according to its website is being read by families with monthly income of Rs.60,000pm. Awful lot of money in the Indian context, class personified and nothing close to mass reading.

The magazine despite all good intentions and seriousness for the cause can’t reach masses. For their investigations they use tools like youtube but the whole packaging is such that it does not appeal.

What if and I mean what if the management just bends the policy, adds a dash of entertainment to the bouquet can it not work wonders for them. Doing this they can relate to mass audience.

Also the purist should understand that sometimes the simples of the things are the hardest things to do, it is no easy task to convert a complex bit of information into informative, simple and entertaining bit of news. This way the message has a far more wide appeal and serves the purpose of journalism more effectively.

Not only being in the infotainment business helps you reach masses, it also helps you develop varied platforms to put your thoughts across and be more effective.

In the end it all boils down to something as simple as “there is no news if the news does not reaches the people it ought to.”

High time the purists join hands with promotions and propagate their messages across

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Poles apart

India gets an extreme portrayal in the world media, largely in the west.

On one hand the billion dollar house of Mukesh Ambani gets almost a full page display in dallies like the ‘the guardian’  or the $ 50 million donation that Ratan Tata gives to alma mater Harvard University is glorified on BBC.

Whereas the on the other end of the spectrum are the  dingy lanes of Azamgarh or Bulandsher that show the harsh face of poverty or  reports of malaria claiming over 15,000 lives in the country of almost 118 crores that make headkines.( not saying the deaths are justified in any way, just count the scale)

These two diverse situation portray India to the world.

The uber ‘class and media’ globally are awed by the irrepressible riches of the Indian, whose indulgence and generosity cross the limits of imaginations of many. The fascination of these very people for the underprivileged lot which in absence of any benefits from the government fight daily for their survival is beyond explanation.

Amidst this what goes unnoticed as a consequence is the endeavour of those who from the latter aspire to inch towards the former.

Though they all might not succeed in building another Antilla they create their own space, their own identity. They live for not only for their own self, but make an effort to pull a few like them out of the dingy lanes.

This burning desire to grow despite facing all odds that exist and under normal circumstances would break a common man’s dreams is the tale which goes unnoticed.

New age entrepreneurs like Irfan Alam from Begusarai who is working towards improving the livelihood of

sarath babu with children in South chennai

cycle rickshaw pullers, auto and cab drivers across the country or Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) alumni Sarath Babu who left a six digit corporate job to start his catering business to give livelihood to others like him who came from a not so privileged background just become this another story for many scribes locally.

Not taking anything away from the Ambani’s or TATA’s feats and fancies, the mention of Alam and Babu become important for they are the reality of today’s India. It’s the media apathy towards individuals and small efforts like theirs which makes foreigners say “I know what India is like, I have seen Slumdog Millionaire. Good movie, but the place was dirty and  crowded. Is it really like that?”

Yes, it is really like that, it is dirty and crowded in outlook, but ambitious and hard working in approach. Its where a poor mother sells idles(rice cakes) to ensure that her son gets educated at the premier most institute in the country without any financial help and grows into a professional who supports over 400 families along with his own.

It’s a place where people dare to dream and without much (or hardly any) administrative support bag top honours and make it to top.

Its time when the world realises there are many more Alam’s and Babu’s in this country and they are our flag bearers. More than the foreign media, people back home should not treat these real heroes as one story wonders. Scribes working for foreign media in India should come out of the closet and look beyond the beaten track. There is more to the country than what meets the eye.

Few days back while writing about the great arrangements at the commonwealth village a reporter from The Times, London ventured out of the village and crossed the road leading him to the first dingy neighbourhood in the locality. There he met a daily wage teenage labourer Rakesh, who told him that he after working at the village managed to save some money from which he bought two sewing machines which are operated by his friends and that he plans to expand his business and reap profits. “When I see these big cars zooming past, I dream to own one,” Rakesh tells the reporter.

This power to dream big in adversity and turn it into a reality is what today’s India is which misses the eye.

pic courtesy: http://www.sarathbabu.in

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Life n style in Londonistan

Life n style, for someone coming from India in London has a lot of style – but no life. The place has the best of everything from brands, to hotels to pubs, you name and it’s there, but Life is elsewhere.
Everything here works on a set pattern, from people to the London underground that takes you across the city. Its start, move and stop sans emotions.

For the ones used to living in lively and at times interfering neighbourhood of New Delhi, or late night birds used to taking the past midnight local in Mumbai, London is an absolute shocker.
Wonder what is the reason, but the city and its residents just mind their own work. Hardly will you chance upon a friendly chat travelling in the tube.

In the suburbs life comes to a screeching halt at around six in the evening when most shutters of majority of shops are down, people back in from work and roads deserted. It’s difficult to shop on weekdays, for by the time one reaches the mall by after days work, the game is over.
In the last one month haven’t seen people venturing out of their homes, with the lone exception of an elderly couple who took their dog out for a walk one evening.

Seeing three souls in flesh and blood walking around 8.30 pm on road was nothing sort of a picture perfect Kodak moment.

The only place to find humans is the tube station or bus stop.

Travel into the heart of the city and you see some buzz, but people just walk straight and the shutters are down by eight. So the late night shoppers just go wandering and find it extremely difficult.
The usually reliable underground, dozes off half past eleven… Remember guys, Early to bed…rhyme.
Might be this is something to do with the law and order or security.

Talking about security, strangely, I think London is the CCTV capital of the world, it’s difficult to find a place not under CCTV surveillance, the BIG BROTHER is keeping an eye on everyone and no one seems to be objecting to it. This believe me speaks a lot about law abiding sincere people. Try the same in India and see for yourself the results.
Glitz, glitter and Razmataaz, but still something seems to be missing, at least for me…

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Cosmopolitan anyone?

Speak in German to be able to live in Germany. Speaking at Potsdam German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, ‘multiculturalism’ is dead. The Germans and foreign workers couldn’t live happily together.

Strong views towards immigration laws hinting that coming to Germany to make a living in years ahead won’t be an easy task. Well, Merkel is well within her rights to declare so and regulate whom she wants in her country to come in.

Another European neighbour of Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy has been treading similar path, he in fact returned Roma Gypsies who according to European Laws can visit France without going through immigration formalities. Sarkozy has been notorious for his views about Turbans for Sikhs and Burkha (veil) for Muslim women.

The hard-line stands of these national heads remind me of vandal Thackery brothers (Raj and Udhav) back home. I think Marathi Manoos Thackeray’s can look for an alliance here, one of their USP’s have been fighting the immigrants from UP and Bihar.

The examples back home and outside makes one think, where we are heading towards. What is it that our leaders have to offer us? Instead of leading the people to a globalised world, these people are taking us back to small colonies.

While Germany and France have been harping on language, race and faith, United Kingdom I feel is adopting a policy of only rich invited to an extent. The way visa rules have become stringent and money/ maintenance funds becoming integral part of one’s entry and to the country. Even for students the same applies.

And the ‘change’ leader Barack Obama for the last twenty months has been crying hoarse about threats from east. I read somewhere recently Obama saying students in US to study or else they will lose their jobs to someone from Bangalore. He is making it tougher for the companies who outsource from East for simple economic reasons, high taxes and what not. Say yes to Buffalo no to Bangalore, sounds crap.

For markets to be global I feel the workforce too will have to be global. You can’t survive in isolation, if you want to keep anyone out, beat them on merit.

This sets the mind ticking as on as to one hand leaders talk about globalisation in the market place and localisation on ground level with special pockets for affluent. Is that not against equal opportunity concept popular with the western world? Is this not ‘class ‘categorisation of masses at large?

Can Merkel make her stand clear on bigwig immigrant investors like L.N Mittal, who are creating thousands of jobs across in Germany for Germans and foreigners alike. I hope Mittal knows German but what if he doesn’t or many high profile men in his team don’t, will they and their likes be asked to walk towards exit?

Not pointing at Merkel who is just one leader of the herd, but the leaders across the world should understand and appreciate that in today’s times we need to keep our minds and hearts open for a better tomorrow else we might end up as isolated pockets.

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Tale of two broadcasters

A month in London and I safely say that I have become BBC addict. I catch my quota of news on http://www.bbc.co.uk, watch the news programmes and clips online, and if I miss out on something the BBC news alerts on twitter keep me in sync with what is happening around me and elsewhere in the world. If it is newsworthy it ought to be on BBC.

It’s the way the public service broadcaster (PSB) in the ‘ad-mad’ world has ensured that it remains in sync with changing times in terms of content and technology has taken me by surprise. If it’s on BBC, it must be accurate, objective and balanced. It gives one the sense of news which means free of speculations and taking sides.

Most of its revenue is generated from yearly license fee levied on each television set sold in the UK. The other streams including commercial businesses, overseas content providing and government grants, which do form a small part of the funding, BBC’s is in no way obliges those in power.

Its due to an approach like this, browsing through the BBC has sort of become second nature.  The more I dwell into the ethos and way news is handled at the BBC, the more I am fascinated by it.

During a discussion with my wife last evening news was a regular milieu and she asked how’s it compared to our public broadcaster Doordarshan(DD). The question took me by surprise, for last I have thought about the existence of DD must have been in the last century. How can the BBC establish itself across the boundaries of UK, was the next question.

The question set me thinking, for back home news to majority of urban Indians is anything but what is shown on DD News, despite having everything going for it and being one of the largest public service broadcasters in the world in terms of infrastructure, nothing seems to be working for it.

Seeking an answer after spending nearly eight years in the business of news I visited the DD news website for the first time and it looked like an amateur piece of creativity by some like me. The news was dished out as if there were no readers, in the era of flash players we were happy with the Jpeg images of smaller resolution and all it had was government speeches and news without any treatment. This was about the website and of whatever little I have seen of its news channel the same can be applied there.

The broadcaster has been marred by propaganda obligations of the ruling forces and has been merely reduced to be the mouthpiece of the incumbent government.

She asked can the national PSB be transformed. Well in theory yes it can, for the charter establishes it to be a public service unit, but the apathy that we viewers and those who run the show at DD show towards the channel is such that in less than two decades it has lost most of its viewers to private broadcasters.

Despite having an autonomous body prasar bharti as the governing body the management hasn’t done something to revive the fortunes of DD. Concerns are that while BBC can be objective for it is funded by the public hence owns its responsibility to them; DD can’t have such a privilege owing to low average Indian household income levying a license fee won’t work. But DD is free to take ads which the BBC isn’t taking. Owing to its reach and network the national broadcaster gets rights to cricket matches and other ad cash events being held in the country.

At the helm of affairs at DD are country’s senior journalists, who I wonder have turned a blind eye to the agenda of development. Breaking news, or seeking exclusives have become a thing of past (I wonder if they were ever).

In my opinion there is no dearth of funds, or talent with the broadcaster, which still has the highest reach (If reports are to be believed).   But the security that it gets from government aids and compulsory obligations it gets from broadcasters makes it placid. There seems to be no threat to its existence and as long as that is not going to happen, the sleeping giant won’t simple wake up. But , this seems to be just wishful thinking right now.

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