Monthly Archives: April 2007

Are we facing the demise of newspapers…???

If one sees this question in the light of the present scene in India, where a large populace still does not even have access to newspapers, the answer would be a NO. Flat and loud. As long as India is a developing country (and it is likely to remain so for a long, long time), newspapers will actually grow and prosper. No doubt about that.

Then why did I ask this question?

Let’s narrow down the ‘doamin’ a bit. Let’s just restrict our thinking to ourselves. By ourselves I mean, the people who have access to internet resources, and need the net like air, water and food. Will it be curtains to the newspaper for people like us?

Let’s think practically. We read newspapers to keep ourselves updated about what is happening in the world. The information that we get from the paper is atleast a day old. In this age of ‘instant’ communication, how relevant is a source of information which gives you the news that is a day, sometimes even 2 days late? (take any d/n match of this world cup, and wou’ll see what I mean.)

We read newspapers not just for ‘information’, but for ‘knowledge’, too. Many articles, especially the editiorials are meant to make you ‘think’ about them. But what if we have an online version of the paper available? The ‘knowledge’ can still be gained. What’s even more, a recent survey in the US has found out, that of all the people who read news online, more people actually finish reading an article once they’ve started with on the net (75%), than those people who read the broad-sheet newspaper(about 55%). This, the survey feels, can be attributed to the fact that when people read stuff online, they are looking at only a single article at a time so they’re more likely to go through all of it, whereas in a broadsheet newspaper, as soon as you get slightly bored with the article you’re reading, your attention gets drifted to the other headlines and graphics present on the two sheets you’re facing, and there goes the article out of the window. This is what the surveyors felt, and I agree with them, for sometimes this happens with me, too.

Ads? Can be given on the net, too. No question about that. Once the online version of the paper has readership equivalent to, or more than it’s offline version, it really doesn’t matter where you’re giving your ad.

To improve their readabilty, the broadsheet newspapers can improve their graphics, can highlight the important headlines better. But so can a news site do, by making a separate column like ‘BREAKING NEWS’ and adding even better graphics. Reading online puts enormous strain on the eye, did anybody say that? Well, we’re getting better and better screens every year. In the very near future, such screens are bound to be available at low cost which’ll be as comfortable to read from as a broadsheet. Better quality of journalism? Well, good journalists, like any other professionals, are always up for sale. Any news company which pays good money, can have a good quality staff, irrespective of whether it outputs news online or on a broadsheet.

I don’t have anything against the newspaper. In any case, the internet still touches only the creme-de-la-creme of only urban India, and newspapers are not going to be out of circulation for quite a long, long time. But think of the situation where internet is available at low cost to everyone, everywhere.

People like myself will still read the newspaper. Why, it’s a part of my life! Reading one is a thing that I’ve been doing as the first thing in the morning for the past ten years or more, and nothing is as refreshing as the smell and feel of a fresh newspaper in my hand. But remember, in my formative years, I did NOT have access to the net.

The next geneartion won’t be so romantic about the good ol’ paper. The net will be the first thing they will notice in their lives, and they will consider the paper as old-fashioned, outdated and probably useless as well. They won’t know the joy of lying back in a chair, with a cup of tea in one hand, the other hand balancing the paper, mind fully relaxed, and getting ready for the day’s work. The newspaper is bound to lose value as soon as the generation 10-15 years younger than us grows up. And for people like us, that’ll be demise of the newspaper.

Categories: Critique | 1 Comment

Stolen

My car wasn’t there!

Pride of the family, envy of the neighbours and the best thing to have happened to me, apart from the one college romance : my Maruti Zen, was gone.

Gone meaning, it wasn’t there where I’d left it. I’d parked my car in front of the Royal Cinema, right where I was standing at the start of the matinee show. Now, it was almost 11:30 and the road that had been teeming with late evening shoppers and foragers was quiet. It was a chilly night on the well-lit road, and the only shadow on the road came from a Neem tree that stood nonchalantly under a lamp post casting a misty light upon it. The entire length of the road was deserted, and my car was nowhere to be seen.

I looked around frantically. For a minute, I tried to be like, ‘what the heck, where can it go? It must be somewhere over here. I’d parked it probably in this alley, or in that one. Lord pardon my forgetfulness.’ Quite insane actually, for I knew from the inside that something had gone very, very wrong. And after a brief but thorough look in all the deserted alleys around the cinema hall, I was standing on the side if the road, with my heart almost sunken to the level of my gut, and my mind absolutely kicking myself for coming to the matinee show all by myself. And that too, to this cinema hall! Why didn’t I go to a decent cinema hall which atleast provided it’s customers with a parking space?

Some people find it hard to believe, but it so happens that the Royal Cinema doesn’t have a parking space, simply because none is needed. Its clientele consists of mostly the low-mid class people, who don’t give a damn about the facilities, as long as the screen shows something. It’s also a hangout for broke college kids, a class which always looks to save an extra buck. People who belonged to these classes did not own cars. I had once been a part of the latter class a long time ago, and today, to again relive those golden days, and also to escape the cold realities of a humdrum married life, I’d come here. Only to see it turn into the most expensive trip of my life.

I’d been standing at the side of the road for about 10 minutes now, with millions of thoughts crisscrossing my mind. This car was the only thing that had kept us afloat in society circles. We, who had no good sofa set like the Mittals next door, or a German tea set like the Rais down the corner, had only this car as the saving grace, the showpiece of our status in the neighbourhood. If the car was gone, we’d become just another ‘average’ family and as my wife had made me to believe in course of her countless outbursts at my ‘uselesslness’ , being ‘average’ was the worst thing ever to happen to somebody. I recalled all the loan applications I had written, all the anticipated salary cuts, and the exhaustion of all our savings before we had the car. And then finally the look on my wife’s face when we finally drove it around the neighbourhood for the first time. Oh, how beautiful she looked, beaming all the way. and how that glow had increases manifold, upon seeing the look of open jealousy on Mrs. Mittal’s face…

“No, this won’t do”, I sturdied myself. “I must ask somebody about it. Maybe it was parked in a no parking zone, and the traffic police had come and ‘craned’ it away.”

I knew this idea was farfetched; neither was this Delhi, nor that traffic police SP a male avatar of ‘crane’ Bedi. “Don’t panic. Steady. THINK.” I took a deep breathe and paced up the street, trying to clear my head. And then my eye caught a Pan shop at the corner. And I knew what I needed.

I went to the still open pan corner, and got myself a cigarette. The shop owner was talking to someone about the increasing thefts in the city, and about the b***** Government’s inability to do anything about it.

I wanted to ask the Panwallah about my car, but I knew that was futile. As the first puff began to show its effect on my mind, I realized that I had no option now but to make a complaint. I shuddered at the prospect. Going to police means getting them to write your report, showing up on court hearings, and coughing up a substantial sum if your car ever is found. If it is never, all the time and energy spent is wasted. But then I thought, philosophically, going to police is one of the necessary evils of the modern day society. You have to do it. Like a bitter pill. You have no alternative.

So I started walking the 2 kilometers to the nearest police station. I slowly began to grow nervous again. The cigarette had pretty much had its effect. I was feeling pretty low, not just on account of my stupidity in losing the car, but also because of the hard, cruel chill of the night, and the vastness of the empty streets and marketplace surrounding me. I put my arms alose to my chest, and still could not help shivering. I pictured myself, walking alone through the broad deserted street, keeping as small a form as possible, going past a never ending row of huge buildings. And I felt small. The wind hit me hard again. I tightened my arms around my chest to keep warm, and felt smaller. The lifeless buildings were huge, the road was vast, the night dark, and the wind chilly. Where was my existence among all these…

My mind again drifted to thieves. And I was terrified of nature, terrified of destiny. Grandmother’s teachings from the Bhagwad Gita, dished out to my indifferent ears of a restless kid, began to haunt me. ‘Do unto others, what u want others to do unto you ‘,’Jo kare, so bhare’….now my car had been stolen.

‘Why did this have to happen to me! I never stole anything.’ Grandmother’s rasgulle and mother’s kaju-kishmish could hardly be classified as ‘stolen’ objects. Even lord Krishna took that much liberty from virtues in his childhood. I wasn’t even in a government job, that I could be accused of stealing government property. Mine was a clean job in the private sector. Although at times I’d wished I had a more ‘milky’ job than this one. But thinking of some fast bucks could not possibly amount to stealing…

Maybe there was somebody whom I wronged so much that to balance things up, destiny had to deliver me this blow…well, I used to be a strong boy for my age, and had beaten up numerous boys in school over pencil-rubbers and later, girls. There was this guy, my neighbor, who used to keep an eye on my college sweetheart, and I’d beaten him up like hell. But I was friends with all these guys now. I’d even treated my neighbor to a lime soda, despite being broke, after giving him that cow hiding that very night 15 years ago. ‘No’, I shook my head, ‘I haven’t done anything to deserve this. Destiny’s just having having some fun at my expense. Just like the entire neighbourhood will do tomorrow. Life’s unfair!’

I was nearing the police station, a mere object of destiny’s bitchiness, my clean soul demoralized and beaten by the world, and the powers that be, when my cell phone rang. I regarded this physical object with disdain, for a moment, for having disturbed the greatest philosophical and soul cleansing monologue since Hansie Cronje’s confession, and pushed the button to listen to my friend Vimal.

“Hey Rajesh, where are u? Done with the movie?”And after I had mumbled an affirmative, “hope you’re not worried. I’m coming to pick u up. Where are you?”My head gave a click for his choice of the verb form ‘worried’, before I could say anything, he elaborated, “Yaar sorry I had to go meet the minister’s PA for my wife’s transfer. You know when u go meet these little bastards, how far can a car go in creating a better impression? You were in the movie so I thought not to disturb you, and took your car over there. Don’t worry; I’ve taken care of the petrol. You’d forgotten your spare key at my place yesterday, remember? Rajesh, Rajesh??? Are u there, HELLO!!!”

I was there and I wasn’t. You asking me how was I feeling? How did George Bush feel after getting elected the second time, when he himself thought he’d been beaten? I could once again walk in my neighborhood with pride. The Mittals still had their sofa set, and the Rais their tea set, but so had I, my car. I stood up, and downed the chain of my jacket, and started walking back towards the cinema hall, with long, proud steps, defying the chilly wind with just my shirt and what had suddenly filled my body, walking tall, Oh so tall, past the dilapidated, sleeping buildings of the banal, nondescript marketplace

PS: originally wrote this story for Prof. Marathe’s assignment, and reaceived a blast. Rewrote it, and brought it to this form. Do tell me how it reads. 

Categories: Short Stories | 5 Comments

Devotion

Chatting with a friend last night, this incidence came up out of nowhere. This is stuff that you read about in books(and also in blogs these days) and see very often on the screen, but seldom come across in real life. Deserves to be shared with everybody.

This dates back to last year. Me and my friends were climbing Tara Garh, the hill in Ajmer atop which stand the ruins of Prithviraj Chouhan’s fort. We’d taken a route different from the conventional one, and this one snaked through a hilly forest. The forest was deep and astonishingly green for the normally parched Rajasthan terrains, and it was rather cool, trekking in the forest.

We came to a narrow pass between two hills, and it was very beautiful. I seemed that water flowed through the pass in the monsoons, as was evident by the clean cuts in the rocks making up the ‘floor’ of the pass. Flanking both sides of the meandering pass were almost vertical, green hill slopes on both sides. We were far away from any human habitation, and it was all very, very quiet. We climbed over a few big boulders, and negotiated a sharp bend in the pass. As soon as we did that, we were in for a surprise. The quiet had been broken.

The whole valley, narrow though it was, was overflowing with music. ‘How in the world?’. We looked at each other, one by one, our mouths agape, each one more surprised than the other. Somebody was playing the flute in this wilderness! Who could, and who would, come over here to play a flute. But the sound was there, definitely coming from someplace in the valley high above our heads.

With the overpowering sound getting inside our heads and simply refusing to come out, my friends scanned the valley for it’s source, shifting positions from one vantage point to another. I concentrated on the sound, my eyes closed. I do not know much about flute music, but there was a definite pattern to the notes being played. It was a melancholy strain, which seemed to fill the entire valley. The pitch rose and fell beautifully, and I knew instantly that this was a master of his art at work.

‘Look, there he is’, Tarun whispered in my ear, and pointed to a place about midway up the hill. With the cool mountain wind flowing through my hair, my shirt, I turned my neck upwards and strained my eyes. As I saw it, I stood rooted to the ground. I kept looking on and on, and it still touches a chord somewhere as I recall the scene.

A man, a very old man, in kurta-pyjama and a flowing white beard was sitting in front of a grave, playing a flute. As far as I could make out, he was playing with great intensity and was lost somewhere, with his head, highlighted by his beard and a small white skullcap, moving rhytmatically with his fingers and lips. Sitting upon a stone near the green painted grave, he played on and on … and the whole valley seemed to be alive! I stood there, stupefied, mystified and just listened to the old man sitting near the grave high up on the hill play at his flute, until Tarun touched m arm, bringing me back to my senses and siganlling me to move. We still had a long trek to the hilltop and back.

This was one of the best ‘live performances’ I have seen so far. The spot on which we were standing was a two-hour trek on foot from any civilization. Two hours for us 19-20 year olds. And the spot on which the old man was sitting was halfway up a very steep, almost vertical hill. How such an old man reached such a difficult spot in such a faroff place, I’m at a loss to explain. Equally, if not more perplexing is the grave being there. But one thing is for sure, which also makes the whole incidence, and even the music special.

That is, devotion. People play for money, people play for praise. This man was playing for the one he was devoted to. Coming to such a place must have demanded great endurance for such an old man, yet there was a passion in his recital. Such passion, such devotion in such old age! Not to mention the energy and quality of the recital! I don’t think I’ll forget this incidence for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, life brings forth such beautiful experiences, which make it even more worthwhile to live.

Categories: Incidences, Music | 2 Comments

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