OPINION

Bomb Blasts, Social Responsibility, and Baazigars

July 07, 2008
tunnelvision

On the 13th May, 2008 at 7.30 PM in Jaipur, the first bomb planted by terrorists went off at 7.30 in terribly crowded streets of the Pink city and by 8.00 PM nine blasts had spilled the blood of hundreds of innocent people. About eighty people died and above two hundred injured lay crying in hospitals.

Concurrently, at 8.00 PM, in Kolkata, the IPL Cricket match between the Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Dare Devils began. Kolkata Knight Riders' co-owner Shahrukh Khan was present. His team won the game and he danced at the victory of his team. He had millions of reasons to dance and not even one reason to show concern for ordinary people who go crazy even to have a look at their idol. The cricket match was planned long back and couldn’t have been cancelled.

That is reasonable but consider the horror of seeing cheerleaders dancing in Kolkata as Jaipur lay bleeding. Some would say that they are paid to dance and they did their job.

Die-hard Shahrukh fans will opine that he is a very busy man and he couldn’t have known about the horrific events folding in distant Jaipur.

It appears increasingly impossible to look for such elusive sensitivities from our icons. He was perhaps so terribly focused with his maniacal concentration looking forward to a win, he lost contact with other matters. Like a latter-day Arjun, he focused all his energies on the cricket match. In today’s connected world it is unacceptable and unthinkable that he, his staff, or his resourceful associates didn’t know of the horrific bomb blasts.

It’s horrendous to know that nobody bothered to suggest toning down the victory celebrations and displaying concern for the dead and wounded as result of the terrorists' attack. At least, it was expected that he could have avoided dancing at the end of the match and had mourned the terrible event in Jaipur.

Other Baazigars of 100 plus TV channels gleefully continued to beam glamorous advertisements and laughter show promos while continuously reporting the bomb blasts.

It seems that the media is the biggest gainer of natural and unnatural calamities befalling helpless people. We must know by now that these Baazigars don’t have any sensitivity left along with zero social responsibility.

To talk about the concept of social responsibility of our icons is perhaps totally insane and useless as they have not heard and/or understood it.

About Me Education: Mechanical Engineer & M.B.A. Profession: Businessman and Management Consultant. I have been active on stage as an actor and organizer, a serious hobby since student days and still would love to act if I can manage time. It is my first endeavor to write a novel, an outcome of being a cold war movies and thriller buff. I have loved traveling through - Holland, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Monaco and England. Comments from writers, readers and literary agents about the novel are welcome. The draft of the novel is being edited. Interests: Innovation, Leadership, Interpersonal Relations, Literature, Theatre, Contemporary Socio-Cultural-Political issues. Favorite Movies: "The Hunt for Red October", "Ronin", "The Spy Who Loved Me", "TheGodfather", "Dr. Zivago", "The Bicycle Thief", "Ryan's Daughter", Gandhi, Benhur, "Pather Panchali", "Jalsaghar", "Masoom". Favorite Books: "The Hotel Riviera", "Delhi", "English, August", "The Interpreter of Maladies", "A House for Mr. Biswas", "The Devil's Wind", "And Then There Was None", "Delhi Is Not Far", "Night Train at Devli".
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#1
temporal
URL
July 7, 2008
10:30 AM

welcome to desi:)

here is an easy riddle:

402

+

159

=

tunnelvision

;)

#2
Chaitanya S
July 7, 2008
11:19 AM

One of my American classmates said there was a blast in an Indian place starting with "J". My first reaction was Jammu & Kashmir. I assured him that such things were a regular occurance there. After logging on much later, I realised it was Jaipur.

Quoting our ex President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's speech regarding his vision for India.

"I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was this day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert and into an orchid and a granary. It was the inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE?"

With all due respect to your post, do you feel we should welcome "negative" journalism ? I know it sounds selfish and negative, but do you honestly feel a spectator in Kolkatta would actually be concerned with what happens in Jaipur or Mumbai ? In that case should we always tone down our celebrations because of catastrophies in the North and North-East ?

Shouldn't we be a bit more pragmatic before we express our utopian yearnings ?

#3
Chaitanya S
July 7, 2008
11:20 AM

One of my American classmates said there was a blast in an Indian place starting with "J". My first reaction was Jammu & Kashmir. I assured him that such things were a regular occurance there. After logging on much later, I realised it was Jaipur.

Quoting our ex President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam's speech regarding his vision for India.

"I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was this day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert and into an orchid and a granary. It was the inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news. In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime. Why are we so NEGATIVE?"

With all due respect to your post, do you feel we should welcome "negative" journalism ? I know it sounds selfish and negative, but do you honestly feel a spectator in Kolkatta would actually be concerned with what happens in Jaipur or Mumbai ? In that case should we always tone down our celebrations because of catastrophies in the North and North-East ?

Shouldn't we be a bit more pragmatic before we express our utopian yearnings ?

#4
AN
URL
July 7, 2008
02:18 PM

Chaitanya:

I wonder if we have relatives in Jaipur would we want to know if there was an earthquake there or if there was gentleman planting trees and making granaries out of the desert in Rajasthan. While the latter is very inspirational and positive it is plainly distracting. News and journalism have genres. A major newspaper's front page headlines should probably draw attention to the most pressing issues, which is why they are headlines.

As someone who constantly wonders if things are ok back home I'd go nuts if newspapers have details about cricket victories and film premiers when stuff like which trains on which route got hit by a bomb in my home city is buried in some obscure section. In India news has turned into film gossip and commercial propaganda instead of focusing on political discourses, disaster relief or updates, economic chronicles etc. I am not sure how that is pragmatic. Simply packaging the positive to uphold national spirit does not really do anything. It simply creates a short-lived illusion. people who want to know about an earthquake or flood will have to dig through the rubble and find information or miss out on it because it wasn't spelled out clearly.

Being pragmatic would require that we know the facts at hand. Positive, inspirational headlines don't reflect the true status of a nation. When Hurricane Katrina happened news media generated the maximum response and civilian charities rushing to aid a devastated city. Same for the earthquake in China and the disaster in Myanmar.

While I do not agree with the author about superficial demonstrations of concern such as toning down celebrations I do believe that Dr. Abdul Kalam's vision is far from pragmatic not to mention that Israeli newspaper he quoted seems to have had some sorry priorities.

#5
smallsquirrel
July 7, 2008
02:25 PM

AN.... no the Israeli newspaper did not have "sorry priorities" as you refer to them. See, an isolated terror attack or a sudden situation is very different than a perpetual issue.

In Israel there is a determined effort to not pay an over-due amount of attention to terror attacks. Since they happen on a weekly, and sometimes daily basis, making them the center of attention does nothing but promote terrorism and encourage a culture of terror.

(I am not here to talk about who is right or wrong in the Israel/Palestine issue, btw... we're simply discussing the coverage of the issues by the media)

You guys are comparing apples and dishwashers.

#6
Chaitanya S
July 7, 2008
05:12 PM

"Other Baazigars of 100 plus TV channels gleefully continued to beam glamorous advertisements and laughter show promos while continuously reporting the bomb blasts". If it weren't for these ads, unfortunately there would be no news channels to criticize. Kindly do not ignore the economics. What solution would you suggest? Show no ads and lose sponsorers? Hats off if someone would do that. This idea might work for a few altruistic individuals. These individuals want to sit back in their armchairs, switch news channels and blame the reporters on the site for not showing what they want.

"When Hurricane Katrina happened news media generated the maximum response and civilian charities rushing to aid a devastated city. Same for the earthquake in China and the disaster in Myanmar". So why do you feel news channels don't do their job ?

Blasting Indian news channels is just a fad. I feel they do their job whether you like it or not. They are driven by market forces as well, so you can't watch only "elitist" news. And if people really dislike them, there is an option of turning off the tv and logging on for news from some "reliable" websites.

#7
AN
URL
July 7, 2008
09:13 PM

Chaitanya:

"And if people really dislike them, there is an option of turning off the tv and logging on for news from some "reliable" websites"

:D yeah right, because everybody in India has internet connections and computers at hand.

Blasting Indian news channels is a fad?! :) Why would blasting Indian news media be a "fad"? Is it like an entertaining thing to do after having to watch 120 hours of Aishwarya-Abhishek wedding proceedings? They couldn't have had an Entertainment/ Bollywood gossip segment and reserved the rest for real "news"? Dismissing valid criticism as a "fad" is a fad too now me thinks.

There is a difference b/w adding commercial material to journalism to increase its saleability and making it entirely about the commercially viable subject. While the former is practical (business-wise) the later is dishonest and flippant journalism.

You don't think a segment focusing on the nation's changing economy, job market, technology etc would be as inspiring as that Jewish man who built an orchard in a desert? But I honestly never once saw anything remotely like that during my visit to India. It was all "scandals, Bollywood gossip, film premiers, crime". The words "sansani khez" were attached to every news piece, that I remember :)

By claiming that honest and broad journalism is "elitist" (versus "populist") you are indirectly suggesting that our nation's majority is dumb or unworthy of rich journalism and wouldn't want a news channel that highlights a range of subjects: economy, politics, disaster management, education, development etc. and would just want film or Bollywood related gossip.

You know what I think thats like? Its kinda like Bollywood producers claiming that they constantly make run of the mill, naach-gaana-style, plotless films to cater to a tasteless audience. And then one day a maverick filmmaker proves them wrong.

Also, I did add that I do NOT agree w/ the author's perspective (about toning down celebrations, advertisements etc)...I just don't think irresponsible and lax journalism qualifies as a long-term business strategy in a progressive nation at all.

#8
AN (Aditi)
URL
July 7, 2008
09:55 PM

Hey smallsquirrel: I concede that the Israeli paper probably had its reasons to do what it did (I don't know details apart from the ones Chaitanya mentioned in his comments). I am not comparing anything in my comment. I'm not even familiar w/ Israeli journalism. I can understand if newspapers in J&K took that very strategy to lift the thick veil of gloom descending on the cities due to constant terrorist attacks....but the ubiquitous context in which Dr.Kalam used it I thought was utopian and suggestive of illusive/ irresponsible journalism. Hence my comment in response to #3. If I woke up knowing that there was a bomb explosion in Jaipur and the headlines were about a cricket victory I would find that incredible irresponsible among other things.

I disagree w/ US style coverage too where disasters/ terrorist attacks are harped about for days until everybody is too scared to go to their own bathrooms but at least I would never see KoJo criticizing Halle Berry's new hairdo on Ander Cooper's show. I just think there has to be a balance.

#9
Seema Dhindaw
July 7, 2008
10:06 PM

Seema: "Overdue attention" would be to have news channels or newspapers harp about the attacks for days...not have headlines describing the incident the day after. That is just reporting incidents.

#10
Seema Dhindaw
July 7, 2008
10:07 PM

Ooops, I meant to address above comment to smallsquirrel :D...typed my own name instead.

#11
Chaitanya S
July 7, 2008
11:10 PM

"By claiming that honest and broad journalism is "elitist" (versus "populist") you are indirectly suggesting that our nation's majority is dumb or unworthy of rich journalism." Dumb and unworthy are very strong words which have been used. I had no idea some people thought on those lines. Varying tastes is what I had meant. Just because someone's taste differs from ours doesn't make them "dumb" or "unworthy".

"subjects: economy, politics, disaster management, education, development etc. and would just want film or Bollywood related gossip". Well we are in luck ! :-) There ARE such channels ! It's just a question of patiently surfing channels without throwing a tantrum at the first sight of a film star or song.

"Is it like an entertaining thing to do after having to watch 120 hours of Aishwarya-Abhishek wedding proceedings?" Well I had the privilege of personally seeing the crowd thronging outside Prateeksha. Believe me, the wedding was the talk of the town and people were genuinely interested. Film stars wouldn't be rolling in money if nobody wanted to see them. Just because we don't like it or feel the journalism is going overboard, we should remember we are not the target audience.

"everybody in India has internet connections and computers at hand (sarcasm)". I am sure those guys make an extra effort to surf channels to get the news they need.

The only saving grace of this biased post is the author's depiction of SRK as a modern day King Nero who fiddled while Rome burnt ! :-)

#12
AN
URL
July 7, 2008
11:29 PM

Chaitanya: I clarified more than once that my point was not congruent with the author's. I don't agree with him/ her about how media can cater to both their own business interests and fulfill their social responsibility.

It is undeniable that people do not have as much access to computers as they do to television sets.

Yes, there were crowds outside Pratiksha. I know how people fed on every bit of the wedding news. There were also plenty others who didn't.

My point however remains very simple: there are genres of journalism. There is ample room for all sorts of discussion. The Indian media doesn't need to pigeon-hole their role by converting major headlines into quick-selling catch lines which is what they are doing right now.

Its a reasonable expectation I think.

#13
tunnelvision
URL
July 8, 2008
08:27 AM

This is an emotive response to the terrible events and must be taken as such.
I wonder what kinds of benchmarks are being referred to, about the concept of social responsibilities?
Do we accept insensitive, crass commercialism and be happy tolerating whatever the media is dishing out?
Don't they have any possibilities of improvements? Are they conscious enough to address some sensitive issues?
Look how the media has generally reported Noida Double Murders.
And yes, it's become a fad to label as fad any criticism, muted or accentuated.
What I felt nauseating were not the advertisements they have sold out the time for, but the utterly excited, hawking demeanor of smartly dressed boys and gals on TV, reporting deaths, showing blood and perhaps waiting for more tragedies.
And please, we all know about the dynamics and economics of television and for that matter any other business venture. But the media and its moguls have to do some soul searching and device few codes, for god's sake.

And we are terribly obsessed with cinema and cricket stars and our love for make-believe perhaps has few parallels.

#14
tunnelvision
URL
July 8, 2008
09:04 AM

Temporal: Thanks a lot.
I didn't get the riddle though.

#15
Tanay
URL
July 8, 2008
10:54 AM

for #1 and #14, methinks, the numerals represent the number of words for the first half and the second half of the post :)

but tunnelvision, do get the confirmation from temporal

#16
commonsense
July 8, 2008
07:13 PM

Tunnelvision's favourite movies: (I should have taken up that editor's job!)

""Pather, Panchali"" = Pather Panchali ,

"English August" = English, August

"Interpreter of Maldives" = The Iterpreter of Maladies (and NOT a movie, yet)

"A House for Mr. Biswas" = not a movie, YET

#17
smallsquirrel
July 8, 2008
09:04 PM

and I am sorry but what in the name of all that is good and holy is the movie: Ten Little N***ers???

#18
Aditi
July 8, 2008
09:38 PM

It is the inflammatory and edited name of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. It went from being Ten Little N***ers to Ten Little Indians :) before it came to the US and was changed to And Then There Were None. I didn't know anybody even used that original title anymore for how it sounds in these times.

#19
tunnelvision
URL
July 9, 2008
02:14 AM

Chaitanya: The spectator is much more concerned and intelligent than what is generally believed. But I do understand strains of increasing unconcern, with who cares -I must have my fun attitude, some of us love to display.
And even a mention of it generates amusement in some quarters.
The example of Israeli newspaper is perhaps out of context here. And even there eight blasts and over sixty deaths must have been reported prominently.
What are we trying to learn here?
Is it a benchmark to be attained?
If showing concerns for eighty deaths and foray of deadly terrorism to new area were utopian, I would love to be.
Some don't want their fun to be spoilt, is that pragmatism?
I have no problems with advertisements at all. What I felt nauseating were not the advertisements they have sold out the time for, but the utterly excited, hawking demeanor of smartly dressed boys and gals on TV, reporting deaths, showing blood and perhaps waiting for more tragedies.

Any way we might have different perspectives, thanks a lot for taking time off and making an impassioned comment.
Warm regards,

#20
tunnelvision
URL
July 9, 2008
02:38 AM

Commonsense: Thanks a lot for pointing out the typos.

These are favorite books and not movies; perhaps you have missed reading the sub heading.

#21
tunnelvision
URL
July 9, 2008
04:41 AM

AN: Thanks a lot for agreeing partially. I do not know how idea of toning down cricket victory celebrations due to death of eighty people is termed superficial. To me it was bizarre to witness extravagance dancing and euphoria as people were dying.

#22
smallsquirrel
July 9, 2008
08:26 AM

yo, TV, you need to proofread your stuff. your subheads list the things we discussed under MOVIES.

and yeah, get rid of the N word. It's really offensive.

#23
commonsense
July 9, 2008
08:52 AM

TV,

I can see the sub "favourite books" now...not sure if it was there earlier. Maybe it was.

BTW, it IS still "The Interpreter of Maldives"! The book has nothing to do with maldives.

#24
tunnelvision
URL
July 9, 2008
10:06 AM

Commonsense: Thanks a lot about pointing out Maladies turning Maldives and the subhead was there before too.

#25
tunnelvision
URL
July 9, 2008
10:13 AM


Smallsquirrel: You are right and btw I read with N title, still have the book. Thanks a lot.

#26
tunnelvision
URL
July 9, 2008
10:27 AM

Tanay: Thanks a lot.

#27
Aaman
URL
July 9, 2008
11:31 AM

We don't edit the subheads, but perhaps we should:)

#28
AN
July 9, 2008
03:39 PM

tv: Toning down cricket celebrations due to death of 80 people is superficial because it is merely politically correct and demonstrative without consequence. Think about this: the Beijing Olympics were not canceled in lieu of the earthquake. Instead the city will make money from the sports event and resulting tourism which will in turn hopefully aid disaster relief. After Hurricane Katrina, various music stars held concerts to help raise money for the event. Similarly the IPL if I hear correctly donated a significant amount ($1.4 million) for the relief of Jaipur blast victims to the state government. That is more important than "not dancing at a victory" half an hour after the blasts at a cricket match across the country. It is quite possible that the details of the blast had not made its way to Kolkata when the IPL match was in session. The blasts happened at 7:30 and the match was in session at 8:00 pm according to your article. This is not insensitivity it just suggests that maybe people in Kolkata were not aware of what had happened in Jaipur half and hour ago.

The aim of terrorism is to terrorize, bring life to a halt. The only way people can fight back is by not allowing this to happen.

My point of dissent was regarding the role of media. Media I believe serves as an important informational vector in addition to being a reflection of national sentiment regarding events.It cannot and does not have to be one or the other. It can do both. A newspaper or news channel can inspire a public through story segments however substituting headlines and information about disasters with such inspirational stories would be a blunder.

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