Friday, February 15, 2008

How Marathi is Marathi?

How Marathi is Marathi?
How Migrant is Migrant?

I safely landed in Mumbai and zoomed to the house thanks to a very traffic free road left unventured by a scared / cautious public. Mumbai was on fire once again thanks to the ancient 'Marathi manoos vs. others' debate.

All thru my drive home, I met with different opinions, different theories and none seemed to convince me enough. It might be a virtue of having grown up in an environment very indifferent to politics but I, for one, try not to digest any set of theory readily, however logical it may sound, if it has a political tinge of thought process behind it. I take my own sweet little time and exert a lot more caution. Be it the very left, or the very right pattern of thinking, as fate would have it, my origin and my residence, both is so strategic that off late I find myself humouring away the diverse set of clear and crisp ideologies that relatives on each side adhere to.

The argument people put here is simple. That the migrant population is an undue, uninvited burden and hardworking though they may, the immigrants by the thousands fill up local trains, erect slums and flourishing ghettos in no time. The infrastructure of this city (Mumbai) is getting burdened and may collapse pretty soon if the inflow of people is not checked. More, the parent states have 'failed' (and so are to be blamed) for their people need to leave their states in such large numbers to earn their livelihood.

There are a few basic things that come to my mind to counter the above logic:

1) Can anyone in this country decide who can come in their state or city and who can't? Such a notion / decision / belief is unconstitutional, even if we may stretch our imagination to accomodate it as logical.

2) How Marathi is Marathi? I might be a disaster case, for one.

3) How Migrant is Migrant? There must be people, who have accepted this city as their home since more than five or six decades. Will they still be outsiders or migrants? And how illogical is it to expect that a person staying in your city should have a cultural makeover overnight? Is culture such a simplistic thing that can be accepted / modified suddenly? And is abiding by your culture, rituals and language a show of disrespect to the other?

I am a Maharashtrian, born of a Gujarati mother, grown up in Ahmedabad. My grandparents and their parents also stayed in Gujarat for a long time. Aaji can speak, read and write Gujarati as well as she can communicate in Marathi. It would be now close to sixty years or more, that we are based in Gujarat and I have a huge soft corner for Ahmedabad. And yet, it would be a painful and illogical dilemma if I am asked to pick one of my two origins and shun the other completely.

The uproar that arose in Mumbai recently raised a very simplistic and genuine sense of empathy with all those who were bullied and beaten on camera. The question is, how you will measure the marathi quotient of a marathi manoos. And how will you decide how migrant is migrant?

Actually no. The more important question is who, in the first place, gave you the right to sit and judge and sieve out people based on their origin, caste and language in the largest democracy of the world?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mass Media mush, News & Saas-bahu saga- The quest to find a connection...

We are being injected with millions of sharp little needles every single second we see television, read newspapers, listen to the radio or surf online. Without an 'aah' or 'ouch' even, in fact, so much so that we all happily get ourselves pierced again and again with generous dozes of thoughts, ideas, aspirations and longings.

That's what the Hypodermic Needle Theory, or The Magic Bullet Theory, or the Almacht van de media-theorie is expected to do to us: to directly influence the masses via the mass media.

Just like a doze of injection pierces under your skin and in no time reaches the recesses of your tissue and cells, a doze of media, however small or big it may be, is potent enough to remain in your psyche and influence to levels even you yourself cannot imagine.

Today, the audience is assumed to be far more active in churning out meaning and symbols out of the creative products thrust on its face. And though new research coupled with aggressive market surveys says that the audience is not as dumb as thought to be earlier, I feel the Hypodermic theory still has a huge fan following. In fact, the needle theory seems to be the underlying driving principle of any mass media campaign, be it advertising, politics or PR.

What is it, but the conviction of the media barons that the audience is so dumb, and so much of a puppet, that it will gulp down anything, absolutely anything that is coaxed down their throats? And we, as an audience, have proved their boardroom theories right time and again with a maniacal reverence.

Take immortal Saas-Bahu sagas for example. Though generations after generations face scandals of different social complexities and varieties of extra-marital affairs, these Saas-bahu dramas still have an ardent fan following.

In case of pure entertainment, given films and serials, even these statistics could be implemented straightaway to churn out profit and get high TRP. For entertainment wears no masks of reality or morality in most cases. At worst, even if it were downright vulgar, the audience knows what to expect and makes a conscious choice when he chooses to see serial X instead of serial Y.

The real problem is with the pollution of the media that disseminate news. There's a horrible, and very dangerous mix of 'reports' and features' in the current media fashion.

A report is meant to state what happened, as verbatim as possible, without any leading verbs, adverbs or adjectives that may lend the reporter's personal stance on the matter. A feature, on the other hand, is that powerful tool of the same reporter where he is free to pen his opinions as harshly as he may want and associate those opinions with his byline.

A news reader today does not have the privilege, least of all an opportunity, to make opinions of his own based on a news report. This is because the 'report' that reaches his hands has already been doctored, consciously or unconsciously, by opinions and leading language. Such a carefully toned piece of information hits the psyche so effectively and so stealthily, that it rules out any remote possibility of an unbiased, objective decoding of information.

Newspaper articles today are laced with preconceived moral, ethical and political stances than ever before. This brutal penmanship, in effect, kills the right of the reader to chaff out information from opinion, just as it denies the reader to form an opinion based on unbiased information.

The unfortunate thing is, media today, especially the traditional print and broadcast media, have achieved a God-man status and a large majority still looks up to the media to validate any piece of information. We are influenced by the media more than we may want to acknowledge.

We are still injected with opinions and ideals, we are still driven to think what the media or political conglomerates want us to think, and we are still slaves to the Hypodermic Needle Theory...

-Gauri Gharpure

Read about the Hypodermic Needle Theory