Life is not a holiday.

Media: An Albatross in Times of Crisis?

“I am confirming once again, you are on the first floor of the old Taj building. There are two hundred people out there.”

The day – 26th November; the year -2008; the city in the spotlight – Mumbai.
The man on the other end of the line was a member of Parliament who was hiding from the armed terrorists who had taken over the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai, and the Indian journalist, Arnab Goswami’s above statement, proclaimed in his signature booming voice, reverberated on several television screens across the world, including, possibly, that of the terrorists’ handlers.

Six years after the attacks, the events of the night still haunt the victims, their families, and the credibility and reputation of the Indian media.

Shockingly, frustratingly irresponsible reporting took place during the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai, and the culprits were some of the most senior journalists in the country. The terrorists were inside the hotel, their handlers were outside the country, yet the Indian media supplied them with information that ensured distance made no difference.

Transparency is key for the media, and the Indian media had never been so transparent. Failing to to anticipate the trade-off between the ‘breaking’ news they were broadcasting and the safety of the hostages trapped in the hotel, all information was indiscriminately shared with the public, from the most recent strategies of the security forces to the hiding places of hostages. What was not told was shown on camera, which only made matters worse.

This media debacle clearly revealed the dangers of live news reporting. With no editing and no censorship, the journalists on screen had complete power, and “with great power comes great responsibility”, something the Indian media clearly forgot on the fateful night of November that year.

This, however, was not the first instance when journalists’ desire to fill up the hours after a crisis with content related to it, relevant or irrelevant, overtook the responsibilities that they had as members of their profession. The Indian media has a penchant for becoming a bit of a joke every time there is a crisis. It is well known that the public, after a terrorist attack, only wants information related to the same, and news channels know that, in order to keep up with their competitors, they must supply this information, first and fast.

It is essential for the media to learn from the mistakes made during the 26/11 attacks, and others like it, to wake up and realize the duties it has towards the people. Journalists need to be conscious of the fact that their reporting, in situations of crisis, has the ability to impact events and the resolution of the crisis. The media must also ensure, especially in such situations, that the profit motive doesn’t take over their ethics and responsibilities to the public. The consequences of what they reveal must be considered before the revelation is made, and reporting, above all things, must be smart and honest.

To Love or Not to Love?

“But for my bonny Kate, she must with me.
Nay, look not big, nor stamp, nor stare, nor fret;
I will be master of what is mine own.
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household stuff, my field, my barn, 
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything;”

                                                                                           -The Taming of the Shrew

I’ve loved Shakespeare ever since I first read an abridged version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Then l watched a Globe production of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, a Shakespeare play I knew very little about, and once the show was over, I was left wondering whether or not to love the play, and consequently, the playwright.
Can you love a play which is all about taming a woman who is everything the quintessential woman should not be- a woman who speaks her mind and refuses to bow down before the man who married her?
But why can’t you?

I loved Disney cartoons when I was younger. I watched ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Snow White’ several times, never once realizing that all the women in them seemed to do was chores and wait around for their Prince Charming to come and sing them off their feet.
I mentally devoured every single ‘Famous Five’ book when I was growing up. Then I realized all Anne ever did in it was make boiled eggs and play with her dolls, while her brothers and tomboyish cousin went out and had all the fun.
Even so, I continue to love the Disney Cartoons and Famous Five books.

But I refuse to stand for ‘Twilight’, the biggest offence of which is also that the female protagonist seems to do nothing most of the time except dream of her vampire boyfriend and wait for him to save her when she’s in trouble.
I also, despite enjoying them at one level, detest the basic ideals that films like ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ are based on- wherein women belong in the kitchen, even if they are well educated, and all unmarried women are desperate, malicious, cunning villians.
What is it that makes me despise certain works in cinema, literature or art for the same ideas that, in others, I prefer to overlook or just accept?

I think a major role in these decisions is played by the times in which these books or films were written or made. Art, including literature and cinema, has always been a reflection of its times.

This is why I can forgive Shakespeare for the otherwise offensive premise on which ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ is based. This is why I can love Anne despite the fact that she is exactly the kind of girl I never was or wanted to be. This is why I love the older Disney princesses despite the fact that they seem like silly, spineless women compared to what I imagine the modern women of today to be. It’s because these works are a reflection of their day and age that what they portray is acceptable- on a stand alone basis they wouldn’t be, but when seen in the context of the society and culture of their time, they make much more sense and can be forgiven their offences.

And this is also exactly why ‘Twilight’ offends me, because it is based in today’s world. The protagonist is supposed to be a school-girl who youngsters her age would, at some level, connect with, and even so, she seems to belong more in the times of the Disney princesses. She may be educated and have much more freedom, but her core is the same- she’s just another girl who spends most of her time swooning and dreaming of the man she loves, waits for him to rescue her each time she’s in trouble, and who goes a step beyond the Disney princesses by attempting to kill herself when her vampire glitters out of her life- not exactly the ideal inspiration for the girls of today.
Sooraj Barjatya movies, including ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’, belong to the same category as ‘Twilight’. They pull women back by several years, once more shutting them up in their homes and leaving them waiting for their to-be-husbands to come home after a hard day’s work so that they can press their legs and serve them dinner.

I loved the ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, I loved the characters, and I loved the coarse yet intelligent humor. But I was deeply offended by the basic premise, and these wounded feelings led to a lot of thought, and to this post, because

‘My tongue will tell the anger of my heart, or else my heart concealing it will break.’

-The Taming of the Shrew

The Daily Post: Ready, Set, Done

Once Upon a Giggling Goswami

There is only one thing worse than a screaming Arnab Goswami.
A giggling Arnab Goswami.

I gave up on Times Now when the world gave in to Arnab Goswami. I prefer to have the news read out to me, not hollered at me, and I like to watch panelists expressing their opinions in a discussion rather than watch them watching Arnab Goswami giving his gems of wisdom.
I prefer a show rather than a show within a show.

Even so, a couple of weeks back, I paused on Times Now instead of just flicking past it.
Because a couple of weeks back, the impossible happened – the Miss Trunchbull of television a.k.a Arnab Goswami, giggled.

That giggle aroused my curiosity, and the redder his cheeks became, the more concerned I became, wondering if he was actually laughing or choking on his own pearls of wisdom. Unfortunately, it was the former.
The punch line apparently, was provided by the only person who makes Chetan Bhagat look like the talented writer he believes himself to be- Shobhaa De. The phrase that led to the laughter- “Let’s admit it, it’s all about sex!”
And going by Arnab Goswami’s undoubtedly guilty giggles, it most certainly is.

The topic of discussion on that eventful evening was what occupied the minds of all patriotic Indians everywhere- was Anushka Sharma actually responsible for the Indian team’s loss against England in the latest test series?
How, you may ask, does Anushka Sharma figure in the Indian cricket team at all? Because, the answer would come, she bowled Virat Kohli over by batting her eyelids, hence, taking his wicket.

The panelists discussing this crucial issue, apart from esteemed gossip columnist and self proclaimed writer, Shobhaa De, were former Indian cricketers Atul Wasan and Surinder Khanna, Shailendra Singh (Percept) and Bimal Soni (Rajasthan Cricket Association).
And the people whose opinions Mr. Goswami felt were most relevant and informed, were Shobhaa De and Shailendra Singh, because really, what do cricketers know about cricket. Psshhh.
Asking a cricketer about cricket would be like asking Arnab Goswami why he insists on screaming his head off every night for one hour- how does he know? Ask Rajdeep Sardesai.

So anyway, while innane arguments were made regarding this critical issue, Shobhaa De just kept up her extremely daring and progressive (wow Shobhaa Jee you are toh like us young people only) rant of “It’s all about the sex.” A panelist speaks, Shobhaa De says “it’s all about who you’re going to bed with!” Another panelist speaks, Shobhaa De says “Let’s not cover it up, it’s all about sex.”, sending Arnab Goswami into a fit of giggles each time, a fit of giggles that seemed even harder to suppress than his screaming (aisa bhi hota hai).
It didn’t matter who said what. Every panelist who was on the program was there to incite Shobhaa De into saying sex, hence causing Arnab Goswami to become unfit for conversation because of persistent, uncontrollable giggling, which gave Miss De more time to elucidate her ideas about the fact that everything is about sex.

And that’s how it went for as long as I watched which, to be honest, wasn’t very long, but it was long enough.
It was long enough to figure out the one and only way of shutting Arnab Goswami up.

Not the act, just the word.

If the world had figured this out before, this is how interviews could have gone.

“Miss Meenakshi Lekhi, never ever, ever ever say anything so ridiculous!”
“Miss Lekhi, never ever, ever ever, ever ever..”
“…Ever ever ever ever..”
“Arnab I will say..!”
“..ever ever ever ever…”
“Arnab SEX!”
Giggles Lol

“But Mr Kejriwal that’s what you said.”
“But let me speak!”
“But that’s what you said.”
“But let me speak!”
“But that’s what you said.”
“Fine, SEX”
Giggles Lol

Arnab Goswami’s panel discussions are never discussions, they’re Arnab Ki Adaalat. The voice that dominates the Newshour is his, the people who are lucky enough to get a few minutes of dialogue in are the people he likes or agrees with, and the people he dislikes or blames for something get just about enough words in for him to pick up a couple and pass judgment on them based on those.
There’s a fine line between objectively anchoring a news program and allowing your own ideas to influence it, between presenting facts and interpretations before the public, hence allowing them to form their own opinions, and forming their opinion for them. And somewhere along the way, Arnab Goswami crossed that line, so that his show now seems more about verbally punishing everyone he believes is wrong than about getting the truth or reality into people’s homes and minds.

A lot changed for me when I saw Arnab Goswami giggling.
I realized sex was his “Shut up Arnab.”
I realized Shobhaa De had actually done something worthwhile by bringing this fact before us.
And I found myself suddenly missing Arnab Goswami, the banshee.

Keh Diya, Bas Keh Diya

Meet always-teary-eyed Nandini.


The only mother whose mamta can give serious competition to Mamta’s mamta.


Nandini has two sons.

Rahul, the older, is adopted.


They found him in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and decided to adopt him, along with half the cast of that movie.

And Rohan, the younger, is pretty much unwanted, but he doesn’t care.


Nandini’s husband, meanwhile, is Yashwardhan Raichand, who is also married to parampara.


                                            You funny!

The Raichands are a rich, happy, sanskari family because as Babuji once said, “the family that prays together stays together.”


But things go drastically wrong when the Raichands realize a couple of things have changed since Rahul’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai Days.

The first, thankfully, is his dressing sense.

Before: Does my look need a bit more colour?

                             Before: Does my look need a bit more colour?

After: Totes cool.

                                            After: Totes cool

The second is his taste.

Before: Tina> Anjali

                                     Before: Tina > Anjali

After: Anjali.Tina disguised asNaina

                          After: Anjali > Tina disguised as Naina

Rahul fell in love with Anjali when he saw her doing what all girls do all the time in Chandni Chowk, or in Karan Johar’s Chandni Chowk anyway, Bhangra.


His father, however, refuses to accept Anjali, claiming she will never be able to understand their parampara.


Sidenote: Parampara is the Rebecca of this movie – she is always referred to, she constantly messes up everyone’s lives, but you never actually see her.

But Rahul marries Anjali anyway, leaving them with no choice but to run away


They run all the way to London, taking with them Anjali’s little sister Pooja and Rahul’s mother from his Kuch Kuch Hota Hai days, who also happen to be Rohan’s best friend and his Nanny respectively.

Because, as mentioned, no one really cares about Rohan.

This isolation makes Rohan sad and he drowns his sorrows in kilos, losing a tremendous amount of weight and turning into this

So thin yet so sad

                                              So thin yet so sad

When he finishes college, Rohan sets off to find his brother and bring him back.

So he takes a flight to London, with a stopover at patriotism.

Remember how once upon a time the British ruled over India? Well Karan Johar avenges all those years of suppression in just one song.

First, the Indian Flag is all over London, everywhere, literally.


Second, street dance is Bharatnatyam.


Third, they took our freedom, we take their ice cream,


And their soother.


Once he’s done with vengeance, Rohan gets in touch with Pooja, played by Kareena Kapoor on a Yaadein hangover


Dancing in bed-check


Satin nightclothes-check


Longest beauty regime in the world-check


Totally worth the effort- check

Rohan and Pooja exchange sad stories


And then Rohan enters his brother’s house as a sushil and sanskari paying guest


He then keeps poking his flaring nostrils into the family’s business until Anjali and his ex nanny figure out who he is


Rohan then decides it’s time to put the cherry on his tricoloured cake of patriotism as well

So he makes a whole class of British children sing the Indian national anthem


And the national anthem unites the two brothers (Awwww).

Rahul finds out who his paying guest really is, leading to this


And then this


And once enough tears have been shed to solve all of India’s drought problems, this


Because really Rohan, no one wants you.

Mr. Bhagat and Biharis

I made the terrible mistake of reading ‘One Night at a Call Centre’ back in school. Chetan Bhagat had just taken the nation’s youth by storm at the time, and I read the book to see what all the fuss was about. The hype was, I soon realised, undeserved. Even if you overlook the fact that his story ends with a phone call from God (modern day enlightenment?), the truth is there is nothing exceptional about the book, nothing to warrant all the applause and accolades that it received by the public. A lot of people would argue vehemently over this with me, and Chetan Bhagat would undoubtedly be leading that group. But that is one of the things that really puts me off-Chetan Bhagat. I detest smug people, and he is their king-what else would you call a man who himself goes around  saying ‘(look!) I made a nation that doesn’t read, read’?

Then I saw him on television one day, expressing his opinion on a panel debate about the FYUP program in Delhi University, and I just felt sorry for him. What else do you feel for a man who goes around on national television harping about how it is time all Indians stopped sending their children to public schools and universities and turned instead to private ones? What else do you feel for a man who claims and actually believes that Indians have the money for that sort of a thing and declares that instead of using their wealth to send their children abroad should send them to private universities in India? What else do you feel for a man who has to actually be told what I, at the age of eighteen, already knew- that only a very small section of the Indian population has the kind of money needed to give children a private education or to send them abroad?

So I grew up, and I realized it wasn’t entirely his fault. He wrote books of questionable quality, but he only continued doing it, and taking pride in it, because people appreciated him for it. His first book was a bestseller, so he wrote another, and that became a bestseller too, so he wrote another, and so on.
I don’t like the plots of his novels, or the way they’re written, but I can still understand why some people would enjoy them- it’s a difference in taste and opinion.

But what I really dislike about Chetan Bhagat’s writing, and find unacceptable, is the incessant stereotyping that is repeatedly portrayed in the guise of profound statements.
For example, here the writer, in a newspaper column, gives women advice on how to avoid stress:
“…do not ever feel stressed about having a dual responsibility of family and work….It is okay if you don’t make four dishes for lunch, one can fill their stomach with one.”
Followed by:
“don’t get competitive with other women…your neighbor may make a six-dabba tiffin for her husband, you don’t – big deal.”
While Chetan Bhagat’s intentions here may be noble, his statements are not and, more than anything else, they only reinforce patriarchal stereotypes.

After all that, I woke up to this on Tuesday morning.


Chetan Bhagat, I believe, only used half his brain when he thought up the plot to ‘Half Girlfriend’. He only used the part of his brain that gives in to, and goes along with, public opinion. So he came up with the idea of a ‘Bihari’ boy who doesn’t speak English. Originality obviously isn’t a word in his dictionary. I’d love to say that the fact that the boy is Bihari and doesn’t speak English is purely coincidental, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t.
It’s not coincidental, it’s a stereotype, and it’s a stereotype that Mr. Bhagat has absolutely no problem propagating because, let’s face it, the most appreciated works of art in this country are those that conform to stereotypes- like Chennai Express- where people can, for just a few hours, feel superior to the fictional characters whose lives they are reading about or watching on screen. These ‘artistic’ stereotypes really add to the pockets of those who came up with them, but they also add to the already rampant ignorance of their audience.

I’m not surprised to come across yet another stereotype about Biharis. I’ve dealt with them for years now. My first introduction to this mindset was back in school when a teacher declared before the whole class that “these Bihari people come and corrupt everything. They’ve taken all the government jobs and now they’re practically hereditary.” Needless to say, someone never managed to crack the UPSC.
I remember being horrified, but as time passed, it just became a part of life, something I deal with regularly, in real life and on social media.

Social media is, really, one of the best places to see how ignorant people can be. It’s a place where every second day I come across a post where people write things like “I was travelling in the Bombay local and these Bihari type men started bothering me.” If you ask these people to define ‘Bihari type’, they probably wouldn’t have an answer to give, or not a sensible one anyway.

The Biharis I’ve met, and I’ve met quite a few, being one myself, defy most stereotypes associated with them. We don’t all chew paan, or have hair sticking out of our ears and, contrary to popular opinion, we work hard to get where we are-whether it’s a government post or a corporate one. Bihari girls are treated well and given as much importance as their male counterparts- they’re progressive, educated, ambitious women who look to be independent rather than wait around for men to come and sweep them off their feet, or marry them anyway. What I’ve come to learn is that the world places far too much emphasis on physicals, and that’s something I believe  most Biharis know better than to value. So while the ‘uncool’ tag is pasted on people from Bihar because of the little effort that is made in the physical and superficial factors and departments, when it comes to the mind, which is what really matters, we’re as good as anyone else.

I think its time to realise that there’s a lot more to people from other states, and nations, than we give them credit for. If you’re going to take Lalu Yadav as the archetypical Bihari, or Raj Thackarey as the typical Maharashtrian, your outlook of the world is going to be so bleak you’ll end up killing yourself. It’s important for people to realize that not all Biharis are the same, not all Maharashtrians are the same, heck not all people are the same!

So every person who’s an immigrant isn’t a criminal, every immigrant who’s a criminal isn’t a Bihari, and every Bihari isn’t incapable of speaking English.

The fact that Chetan Bhagat’s protagonist is a Bihari may, it can be argued, have nothing to do with the fact that he doesn’t speak English well, and I would be delighted if that’s proved right at some point. But it’s mentioned in the first line of the first promotional venture of the novel itself, which indicates the opposite.
Freudian slip maybe?


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