Friday, May 29, 2009

News to Amuse

'News you can use' - is passe now. The latest trend is 'News that can Amuse'. In my first class of journalism, we were taught that if a dog bites a man, it is...well...normal. But if a man bites a dog, it becomes news. Clearly, my teachers meant that news is something that is meant to be real, but sensational...something that can grab your attention and sustain it long enough to stuff data into that overworked brain. However, dog biting man story was just an expression. Something that distinguishes news-worthy stories from other stories. 

Recently though, I realised that a news channel has taken that extremely seriously. They seem to be literally running around finding men who can be coaxed to bite dogs just to get some news material. They happened to cover a story about a prostitution racket that was exposed and how a woman who was infected with HIV was given 'justice'. It angered the journalist/moralist/feminist part of me to no end. And this is how it was shown: 

News Reader: (In loud, pseudo-Amitabh Bachchan baritone) " this is the story of a poor woman named D. Her dreams and her hopes have been shattered!!!! She is now living the life of misery!!! Only a womaan can understand another womaaan's heart, but in this a womaaan has poisoned a womaan's heart! She has been doomed to a lifelong battle!!!! We bring you exclusive report of......." and so it went. 

The baritone was being supplemented by images of an activist aunty openly slapping another woman. Not just slapping, but basically thrashing whichever body part she could find. The camera man was clearly psyched and hence was shaking (of mirth or horror, I cant say) and the images were blurring but even that could not prevent a couple of dragonflies (or rain poochis) to wave at their mums into the camera. The images were played over and over again (and once, even backwards!) 

So the story was about a girl who was duped into flesh trade by a landlady of some sort. This girl was rescued by a samaritan, who became samaritin-er by marrying her and 'making her dreams come true'. He was aghast to find out that she had been infected by HIV and regretted (this was on record, by the way) 'Having married her and not taken her for an AIDS test'. He decided the best way to give her justice would be to take a couple of activist aunties and thrash the living daylights out of the landlady, which was caught on camera. 

What exactly bugged me in this? 

1) The background music. They were alternating the music of Black (when Deaf-Blind-Mute-Rani is at her lowest possible level of melancholy) and the music of some B grade action flick when the ladies were displaying their brawn.

2) A re-enactment of the entire story was a roughly put together collage of movies where horrible, paunchy men have locked up petite damsels and are waving whiskey bottles around like showering holy water. One scene was so obscene, I'm sure it was ripped right off some blue film.
3) The translators who re-told the story in English. While the people in the story spoke kannada, their speeches were being translated with emotional overtones garnished generously with hyperboles. 

4) Expressions such as 'D's dreams came true when he married her' 'Her life was given the sparkling new light of love from a husband' 'One woman's love became conditional and made the other woman miserable' 'Life has now become a bleak beacon'...or somewhat similar. 

Why do I point this all out? Because at the end of the show, I was laughing so much, I literally fell off the chair. Bad effect, since I should have been symapthizing with the girl and understanding the deeper meaning of problems such as prostitution and AIDS. But it ended up having a completely opposite effect on me. For the first few minutes, I sat mesmerized as every technical/journalistic blunder was commited. After that, this just turned into a farce.

 What saddens me now is that many people who have watched this news will only remember it for it's blatant effusion of emotional melodrama and not the hard, harsh facts. The activist aunties will only pride upon the fact that they were shown on TV slapping the villians, but not that they rescued girls from the throes of prostitution. The girl, who will probably be grateful for having been rescued, will continue to make her dreams 'come true' by living with the samaritan. And I really hope the samaritan doesnt drop her like a hot potato once the show is off air. The underlying message of AIDS awareness (which by the way, was the 'theme' of the programme) was lost completely and the cameramen and the crew just blessed the man benevolently for having taken the poor, desolate, HIV woman into his household despite her 'history'. 

Man has really bitten the dog and how! News is now meant to Amuse, apparently. 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Yo! It's Yoga!

My demented title name gives the secret away. What yoga has done to my sanity and creativity...or the lack of it. It isn't all bad though. Sure, yoga lives up to every one of my glossy diet magazine expectations of staying fit and healthy. My temper has been at bay for so long, I have forgotten how to lose it. And I spend my days blissfully ignorant about my scary future college prospects and urge my family to 'breathe deeply' when they panic and decide to panic for my sake. 

But it ain't all good either. Here is a general overview of what happens everyday. I mean it, it's almost like a dejavu

I enter the hall. There is an eerie silence which is penetrated by a grunt from Mr.Reebok at one corner. He attempts to stand on his head, an aasana that we wont be taught for another couple of months at least. Anyhow, he still attempts it, half successfully and Reebok can be proud of the extent to which their stretch pants, well, stretch. I turn away so he doesn't catch me giggling from his upside down position. 

I look to Mrs. Smiley. She smiles. Asks me which college I come from. I reply politely that I have graduated. She smiles (sympathetically now) and asks if I am searching for a job. I smile back (reassuringly) and say, no, I'd like to study further. She smiles, puzzled, and turns away to the wall, smiling. 

Another Mrs.100% attendance sits next to me and asks what I'd like to study. I reply 'Psychology.' She puts in her two cents rather enigmatically. 'Psychology and Yoga. One science compliments the other. Do you teach your patients yoga? ' My mind fights with me. Tells me to convince her that perhaps, just perhaps, Schizophrenics might not like to be taught Vajraasana. But I take in that deep breath and cross my legs. 

The instructor enters. Mr.Soul Reason, I call him. We all begin, an eclectic few. As we do the stretching exercises (Mr.Reebok is on Cloud 9), I glance around to see if anyone can make out that I cant even touch my toes. I am the thinnest in the class and yet so inflexible, that cardboard makers could earn a fortune by using me as their mascot. I spend most of my exercise time in looking around to see how much I can accomplish in that race to the toes. 

The aasanas begin. They are fairly simple. And fun, since I can do most. Until we reach trikonaasana. We are supposed to form three triangles with our body and the ground. You do the geometry. I just end up looking like a twisted jungle gym (who still cant touch her toes, rendering her triangle incomplete) while the rest of the class manages to achieve the perfect pose in synchrony. I sigh. And pray for the seconds to pass and Mr.SR to say 'Sloouly Staap'. Immediately after this aasana comes the Ekapaadapavanamuktaasana. Little kids are charmed by the name. So charmed that they don't really bother trying the aasana itself. Older people try desperately to get their kneecaps and foreheads to meet. Surprisingly, I manage to do it perfectly. I look around triumphantly as I see everyone around me writhing and struggling to make the ends meet. Just as I re-do the aasana to teach these poor mortals, Mr.SR looks at me sternly and says 'close your eyes'. Hmph. So much for achieving the perfect pose. 

We move on to Praanayama. No snide comments on this because I still keep my eyes closed, and so do others. 

Finally we reach my favorite part - the shavaasana. We lie down and I contemplate life (or mentally replay yesterday's prime time soap). As Mr.SR (who incidentally begins this everyday by telling us to relaaix the soul reason - it took me three days to figure out he meant sole region.) The silence is pierced occasionally by Mr.Reebok's abrupt and scary snores. Clearly, when the brand says comfort, he takes it too seriously. 

We turn to our right and get up. I open my eyes slightly to watch Mr.Reebok. He seems to be in his own REM world and continues to lie down. It takes me all the patience and constraint that I have learnt in Yoga not to laugh out loudly. We recite the finishing shloka. In our second line, Mr.Reebok's Baritone joins our weary chorus. (I am sure Mr.SR prods him to wake up everyday, but I still have to find the proof. One day, I'll spy a little more keenly.) We all finish and stretch our legs. Mr.SR thanks us, and we all spill out of the class, rather sleepily. 

I smile at another classmate while getting out, and in an attempt to make polite conversation, I ask her where she works. She says, 'I'm studying in II BCom.' And gives me the cold shoulder since that day. Hmm...I guess Yoga is a solitary pursuit after all! 

Friday, May 1, 2009

What's YOUR hobby?

Funny word innit? People keep asking you 'What's your Hobby' as if it is your blood group and would be essential to know for your survival. When I was a kid, I'd be constantly pestered by aunties and uncles. Being an only child, it was presumed that a hobby is a great substitute for a sibling. I'd always angelically smile and say 'ReadingWritingTravelingandListeningtoMusicaunty.'  Even in my resume, I've continued to follow the same format. Although, I must confess here that I do possess other hobbies. Just ones that I cannot reveal in a resume or a social function. 

My first hobby is staring. Not that perverted voyeuristic type that's running in your dirty mind. But just staring. Staring at people, posters, streetlights, garbage dumps...anything. Generally when my object of interest is a person, I'd be mentally figuring his/her life out. Wondering where they're off to, what they might be doing and what they might have been in the previous life based on their facial features (I've concluded half the people who travel in route 27 were seahorses.). While this hobby is hugely entertaining for me, it isn't so for my object. Once my classmate demanded to know why I stared at him as if he were a slug and I couldn't wait to squish him! So Staring can certainly not be entered in social networking profiles as a Hobby. 

Collecting. I started off fairly harmlessly by collecting Stamps, Coins, Shells etc.  A trip to Kodaikanal got me into collecting Pine cones. I decided I would paint them and adorn my room with them...until some started attracting weird looking bugs. I then progressed to collecting leaves (for a project, of course!) and pebbles. I moved on to collect travel pamphlets. In the hotel lobby at Singapore, I set off smartly in the direction of that pamphlet rack and pulled one of each type, much to the embarrassment of my parents. I then proceeded to read through every single one of them. I even convinced my dad and uncles who traveled abroad to get me route maps and brochures from there as well. I now know transport systems of Germany and Kenya at the back of my hand! My latest collection is Cadbury Dairy Milk wrappers. I must be owning at least over a hundred. An explosion of purple in my desk. 

Writing my name. I could write my name over and over again in different fonts, materials, colours. I'm obsessed with my name, I suppose. At least it's better than writing Leonardo Di Caprio all over my notebooks. (I tried that once, it was the longest name I knew, but reverted back to my own name.) Actually, I just like writing. Anything. I like to write stuff and then sit back and admire my handwriting. Really, I should be banned from this selfless world. 

Watching advertisements. They're so much fun! Especially the type where you have to figure out the product because there is no inkling of it until the very end of that 40 second commercial. I have a list of favorite advertisements....that may even exceed my list of favorite movies! 

and finally, writing all this out on public spaces of the Internet. Really, if you haven't figured out as yet, I seem to find some cathartic joy in embarrassing myself on the World Wide Web. Hopefully there are more like me out there who pride upon being so self-obsessed!