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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ms. Dutt, if you are listening...

I am not so sure if I want to 'express' this. But I feel compelled. During my growing-up years, television journalism was synonymous to Prannoy Roy's 'World This Week'. He covered Bill Clinton's presidential elections and I felt this is bringing news to our doorsteps. He covered the 1993 Mumbai blasts and I still remember his comments on how people lined up at the blood banks to donate blood the day after the blasts. When Barkha Dutt covered Kargil War in 1999, she seemed to be the most natural addition to Prannoy Roy's 24 X 7 entrouge. But somehow Indian television changed.

Today I strongly feel that Barkha Dutt is digressing from her responsibilities as a journalist. Yes, when incidents as strong and as numbing as Mumbai 26th November happen, we all feel compelled to express our views. Express them but please oh please Ms. Dutt do not put words on people's mouth. Please do not direct interviews so blatantly that you start to look ridiculous. Today, as I followed Barkha Dutt's coverage on NDTV from in front of the Gateway of India and her repeated attempts at putting 'words' in the mouths of those whom she interviewed, it disappointed me.

Media in India, we cannot deny, had always played a significant role in the politics of the land, whether it is Indian Express printing white pages or NDTV covering water-logged Mumbai, but the power that media gets from the endorsement of its readers and viewers must not be misused. Ms. Dutt we have loved you once, but please do not misuse the love and force words out of us because you want to hear those aloud. Please do not ask Mr. Santanu Saikia 'How he feels when his wife is missing.' - not you ma'am with so many years in the media.

Here's to TAJ Lands End, an icon and to Mumbai - my first love and muse:

(c) Durba Gupta.

My writing is not about what happened in Mumbai. My opinion from my living room is insignificant. But I do care if we turn to a group that just appears to be 'aware'.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rokte Amar Agun dhorai, neshai kolkata

(You fire up my blood; you are my addiction, Kolkata - Nachiketa Chakraborty)

The queue was long. Hot and sweaty – Durga-pujo Kolkata. We were all trying to beat each other in the queue to reach the coveted spot. "May be my hand is a wee bit more outstretched than the uncle standing next to me." "Probably I am ahead of him." "I will be noticed first then" - these were the thoughts running through each of our minds.

Nope, the long queue was not for any pandal. We were sweating it out in a ‘xerox’ shop. We all needed photocopies. We had our changes ready. You never know, when it comes to changes, in Kolkata, in all probability you may be denied services if you fall short of it. The photocopier (not the machine) was working with inhuman dexterity. Organizing the copies, calculating the dues and handing over the originals.

Then, he came. He wore a long panjabi, typical of Bangalis during the puja season. He had a letter and an envelope for photocopying. His voice exuded confidence that made me turn my head. His smile gave it away. The letter came from School service commission appointing him as a teacher of Bengali in a secondary school in Burdwan. I slowly stepped back and gave him my place. He probably did not notice.

Today, in the IT and outsourcing world, at one end of the spectrum are those who compete amongst themselves in getting an European or a Silicon valley posting, and at the other end of the spectrum is his story of five years of education, in a language subject that almost everyone around him may have looked down upon (“Bangla Honors?, oh come on! What good is that?”), that had finally bore him a job of teaching in a place far off from Kolkata and he would probably be earning 1/5th of what some one of his age would earn from an IT job.

Yet he stood proud.

His confidence: intoxicating.

And his request to get the envelope (that had his address and the seal of school service commission) photocopied, twice, made me wonder how we take email confirmations from our prospective employer’s as final, how we almost never ever worry about photocopying the envelope in which the offer letter arrives. We have ‘soft’ copies.

He made his copies and left. I stepped forward. Silently I admired his spirit and wished him the very best. I know that during his education and his preparations for school service commission he probably showed more mettle in facing life than me (a privileged one). I am glad that he came out triumphant.

Wants are measured by different standards. The pleasure of a twenty-seven year old in getting a school service commission posting as a school teacher is probably what Nachiketa meant when he said – kolkata is my addiction. It is probably having that smile for a Rs. 7000 per month job (for a post-graduate), phuchka for Rs.5, the ‘IT sector (the famous sector V, Salt Lake) studded with food stalls and our endless speculations on the restoration and screening of Ray’s short film is what the ‘fire’ is all about.

(c) Durba Gupta