So looking forward to my friend and former colleague, Godfrey Joseph Pereira's debut novel, ''Bloodline Bandra''. As is the case in most first books, this one too, is drawn from the author's life as a Bandra Boy, born in Pali Village, speaking that particular East Indian lingo , and making the long journey to New York, after a very successful stint as a journalist in India. What he documents next, will shock you - the life of a 'legal slave'' working for an exploitative desi employer, before freeing himself from further tyranny. It launches across South East Asia on 25th November.
A fortnight spent in Amrika, was an eye opener on many levels! It was a great trip and we narrowly missed getting snowed under. Thanks to my TiE Con friends Toni Das Gupta in LA and Nitin Rai in Portland, I got to meet some extraordinary people when I addressed members in both cities. I would love to post pictures of the trip on the blog.... but the images are on my phone and I don't know how to transfer them. Any solutions???
This appeared in Sunday Times...
Modi has made chutney of the media….
Keep them hungry. Keep them guessing. Starve the media. Throw them crumbs. Make them beg. Narendra Modi and his strategists are on top of the game. And it is becoming a bit much! Not since the infamous Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in 1977, has Indian media been reduced to this pathetic level of redundancy, meekly reproducing press handouts and forgetting all about critical analysis. Modi has established a new set of ground rules for any sort of media engagement. And those are pretty simple – it’s his way or the highway. So far, Modi is in the driver’s seat. And his team is winning. When and how did this terrible fall take place? Was it cold bloodedly planned? Or does desi media itself have a death wish? Lots has been made of the Diwali Milan in Delhi during which several mighty journalists fell over themselves to click Selfies with the Prime Minister. I won’t really read too much into that – this is the age of the Selfie. Everybody but everybody wants to click one – even President Obama. Hell, I tried it (unsuccessfully, I might add) with Narendra Modi myself at Nita Ambani’s Mumbai event, where top Bollywood stars were falling over backwards to do the same. Selfies are addictive. Nobody lives the moment anymore - people prefer to record it! It’s the irresistible childish thrill of capturing an image of yourself with a famous/ notorious person … and sharing / gloating later. Selfies, per se , are pretty harmless and don’t mean a thing. Not even those taken with the P.M. The media surrender I am referring to, is far more insidious and goes well beyond jostling for space next to one of the most watched individuals on earth right now. Trust me, Selfies with celebs would have happened decades ago, had Selfies existed back then.
The real worry about media’s dramatic descent, is the spectacular absence of any dissent… any distance, from Modi and his team. Why are seasoned journalists suddenly shying away from analyzing the political scenario, adopting the same stringent critical standards they once adhered to? What is everybody afraid of all of a sudden? Retribution? Of what kind? Could it also be true that the established media class representing an earlier era ( which had benefitted so richly from government largesse in the past ) has taken the softer option and decided to play ball with Modi?
Love fests between journos and politicians are doomed affairs, as so many scribes discover to their chagrin once the cosy relationship curdles and ends. So long as one feeds off the other, the equilibrium is maintained – albeit uneasily.. The trouble starts when a new set of power brokers emerges almost overnight and challenges the old status quo. That seems to be the case with Modi and the press right now.
It’s time for journalists themselves to do some serious ‘Mann Ki Baat’ with the nation. Have we brought this on ourselves? Even if that is the case, why are we putting up with ill treatment and open contempt? Which is the best way to regain lost ground…. some self- respect, for Godssake ? It’s definitely not through sucking up to Modi and his A-team. Chamchagiri has its pitfalls and chamchas invariably come to grief in the long run. Every shrewd politician knows that. The old practice of cultivating and ‘paalo-ing’ sympathetic / friendly journalists is long over. We live in social media times, where it’s a savage free for all. Nothing and no one is ‘untouchable’. There are no sacred cows left. You give as good as you get…. and only the toughest survive.
Modi prefers to control and calibrate media interactions – what is euphemistically called ‘managing the fourth estate’. For him it has always been a one way street. This suits him just fine. It also establishes who is boss. Modi’s message to the media is direct and simple : Get lost! He has proved he doesn’t need traditional media by going all out to conquer new media. He was the first desi politician to understand the awesome power of public opinion as expressed through user- friendly platforms like Twitter, FB and more. He harnessed and exploited the incredible potential of all available electronic media to kick start his campaign, construct his global image and win that unbelievable mandate during the last general elections. Having tasted victory, he is convinced there is absolutely no need to woo the press. And he is absolutely right!
But does that mean that the press also stops doing its assigned job? Gets seamlessly co-opted? Kowtows to officialdom? Pounces greedily on morsels of monitored information thrown its way? If we carry on like Modi slaves much longer, the day won’t be far before we give up all claims to credible, truthful, hard hitting journalism and turn ourselves into performing monkeys, happy to dance to Modi’s ‘dumru’. What a sad day that will be for India!
Narendra Modi has made chutney of the media in India. Ramnath Goenka and others who stood up and walked tall while the rest crawled inn 1977 - where are you when we need you the most?
NDTV Blog 14
India’s ‘Damaad’ flexes his muscles… and gets kayoed!
Are we nuts?
Are we idiots??????
Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law seems to think so!
The most notorious muscleman ( all brawn, chhota bheja) in India, has landed himself in a mess flexing those pumped up biceps( the size of well- fed puppies) during an altercation with an ANI reporter, who had the himmat to ask him a forbidden question, when he was supposed to stick to the script and focus on body building. After all, theindividual infamously referred to as a ‘thug’ and India’s ‘Al Capone’ by Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, was doing the honours inaugurating a gym , and not addressing a political rally. The ANI chap bravely tried to push his luck by doing what any hard- nosed journo would have done face-to-face with a person who has a lot to answer for – Priyanka Gandhi’s buff hubby, Robert Vadra - Delhi’s perennial party boy and front row fixture at assorted fashion shows. Little did the enterprising reporter know that a politely worded question about the Haryana land deals scandal Vadra is embroiled in would lead to a national debate.Vadra lost it! Questioned the man’s sanity, called him an idiot , pushed aside the mike and camera, and left his heavies to do the rest ( demand the offensive footage get instantly deleted ). All hell broke loose after that…
Here comes the far more interesting story. Once the clips went public, responses were sought from Congresswallas. Diggy Raja dutifully trotted out the tired old, “ He’s a private citizen…” cliche, and made it worse by projecting Vadra as a victim being ‘ hounded’ by the media. Bechaara Bob! He must have felt so hurt, so hurt by that direct question, that his mother-in-law had to rush to his side and console him for 45 long minutes. Vadra, the private citizen, who has enjoyed the most incredible public privileges in the country all these years, is a seriously pissed off man. As a very private citizen, who has never held any public office (or any known office, for that matter!), Robert’s supporters have every right to protest . After all, the poor guy just happens to get treated like a VVIP – is that his fault? Yes, he has body guards and commandos trailing him… so what? Who stops other private citizens from hiring their own private armies, huh? And why grudge the man a few, chhota mota perks like being exempt from frisking at airports etc. These are small , petty matters in a democracy - let’s face it, some people are just more equal, that’s all. Why are the BJP chaps making such a big deal out of this? And imagine calling his behaviour ‘inappropriate’. What is inappropriate about insulting a reporter doing his job? As if their party people have never misbehaved with the media? Thank God for Sandeep Dixit, who showed some sense by not endorsing this particular private citizen’s right to intimidate a tv reporter. Unfortunately, Sandeep’s simple act has not gone unnoticed by those out to prove their loyalty to Soniaji and her ‘Damaadji’. It is being whispered that first Sheilaji ( Sandeep’s mother) praised Modiji ( sort of) and now the son has made conciliatory noises when the First Family is being openly attacked. Definitely, something black in the lentils …
The Broadcast Editors’ Association has demanded an apology from First Citizen Vadra. Meanwhile, the public is being given lessons on what the Constitution of India says about the right to privacy, personal space and liberty by Congress spokesmen.
The question to ask is this : When on earth will Robert Vadra be ready to answer the questions being posed about the Haryana Land deals? Next week? Next month? Next year? Between gym routines? Right after strenuous work outs? Outside his favourite night club? Backstage during Fashion Week? He just has to say the word, and the media will be there at a time and venue picked by him. But if he really thinks the media is going to back off and let it go because of what happened on Saturday, forget it, bro. No matter how inappropriate and inconvenient it appears to you and your ma-in-law’s acolytes, there is a job to be done. If you have nothing to hide, and you are indeed innocent , prove it! And face the consequences – like any other private citizen of India.
It’s true what you said about us – we are nuts! We are idiots! Those questions should have been asked years ago. But this time we are also serious – jawaab de do, beta. Till then, expect more questions. Aapke intezar mein…