Dhulagarh and the Media Narrative

21 Comments

mb2

In this excellent piece in Newslaundry, titled “Dhulagarh Riots: Why did Bengal media ignore it?”, Deepanjana Pal writes:

For approximately four hours, Dhulagarh burned. Shops were set on fire in the local bazaar and looted. The mob attacked homes, looting them and lobbing bombs – crude contraptions that are far more dangerous cousins of the pataka – at them. Eye witnesses say Hindu households were targeted. “You have to understand, everyone knows everyone in places that are this small,” said one reporter. “Hindus and Muslims live in separate neighbourhoods, but together. So when this happened, some of them recognised those who were attacking them and when they didn’t recognise them, they knew these were outsiders.” One temple was attacked and its idol – of Kali, the goddess best known for her all-destroying rage – was broken. There are reports of Hindu families having fled to neighbouring villages.

All this violence took place in broad daylight. In the videos that have been circulated, no one is seen wearing masks. It’s all out in the open and witnessed by locals who tried to get in touch with journalists. From the videos and photographs that were shared, it almost seems like the locals did the actual on-ground reporting. They were desperate to talk and be heard. Unfortunately, few listened and Dhulagarh was barely mentioned in mainstream Bengali news. (emphasis mine)

“What we were told was that since this is a communal issue, we should approach it cautiously and underplay it so that things don’t flare up,” said one journalist.

So the excuse being offered is that because reporting a communal incident might provoke other communal incidents, mediamen refuse to cover communal flareups.

The only problem with this is simply this.

It is not true.

Continue Reading »

Advertisements

Dangal—The Review

12 Comments

dangal

The genre of sports movies is more trope-laden than most. The come-back-from-behind victory at the end. Adversity. Perseverance.  The overcoming of personal demons. The obtaining of redemption either through one’s victory or through one’s wards. A training montage to robust background music. Dangal, inspired by wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his Commonwealth-medal-winning daughters, ticks almost all those boxes, with excellent performances from the ever-reliable Aamir Khan and the actresses who play Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat as adults, Fatima Sana Seikh and Sanya Malhotra, and those that play them as children, Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar, suitably rousing music, some excellently choreographed wrestling sequences, and the cinematic scaffolding needed to hold it all together, taut and flabless, for two and a half hours.

And yet, Dangal, is at its weakest when it is just a sports film.

Continue Reading »

The Echo Chambers: Demonetization

27 Comments

demon

When Modi said that he was going to announce something important to the nation at eight, I thought, it could be only one of two things. That he wanted to do a review of Sultan of Delhi. Or that he was going to enter the Big Boss House. Instead he demonetized 500 and 1000 rupee notes, and it seemed that his election promise of depositing 15 lacs of black money in every bank account was coming true, except that it was not someone else’s black money in your account, which is what people thought, but your own black money in your own account, and this is what happens when you don’t go over the fine print.

Over the next few days, I have sought to write my two five hundred rupee notes about demonetization, but I have been told I should not, because I am a NRI, and what would I know. I was told this by the very same people who in India have strong opinions on Donald Trump and white privilege, and who refuse to accept Donald Trump as their president, perhaps because their president is Pranab Mukherjee. So I have decided to shut up, and also because I am not really an economist, and this, seems something that only specialists can be seriously expected to evaluate.

Continue Reading »

Betting Against Trump

35 Comments

trump

I am not a betting kind of person. The first time I bet on something was so that I could reverse-jinx, a one-rupee rosogolla againt India winning against England in the World Cup 83 semi-finals. When I lost the bet, I refused to pay up. Years later, this time because I was actually confident I would win, I bet a coffee on Hillary Clinton with a colleague, confident that I would get a free Starbucks coffee.

This time, being older, I could not cry and get out of my commitment. So I bought the coffee.

Because all through these months, I was absolutely sure that Hillary Rodham Clinton was going to win. Absolutely sure. Blame Nate Silver. Blame the different polls. Blame my faith in data delivered from a pulpit of authority. Most importantly, I had based my belief, and I acknowledge I was wrong, that the cosmic order would give Clinton the presidency, that somehow, to quote Paulo Coelho, when you want something the whole universe conspires to give you it, and boy has Ms. Clinton wanted this. My middle-class upbringing tells me that the studious girl always gets A, the one who has prepared for the test, again and again and again, for the past forty years, and not the  hungover bully, smelling of shots and lipstick, who staggers into the exam hall, and scribbles something on his sheet.

And then this happens.

Continue Reading »

Goodbye Arnab Goswami (For Now)

8 Comments

ag

“A dangerous game is about to begin”. And with that Amitabh Bachchan, in Aankhein, launched a daring scheme to rob a bank with two men who could not see (Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal) and one man who could not see or act (Arjun Rampal).

It is not a coincidence that “A game is about to begin” was what Arnab Goswami chose to ominously utter to his staffers in Times Now before making his final exit. Whether he intends to start an international channel to take on the BBC and Al Jazeera or whether he merely intends to get his hands on  Pirzada’s jewels we know not, but something tells me he will , like a Cyborg sent from the future, be back. Whether the magic he created at Times Now will ever be recreated, like the Anil Kapoor-Madhuri chemistry of Batata Wada, I do not know, but Arnabs of the world, at least the ones I have known, never fade quietly into the night.

It is just not in their nature.

Arnab Goswami is, and I hesitate to use the past tense for him, many things. An arrogant, self-important demagogue who broke news into a million pieces. A human mute button. A paper tiger. A showman in love with the amplitude of his own voice. A TRP-hungry wild boar. A narcissist who would shame Narcissus himself. Mother-in-law to the nation, in that he was always right, and he never let anyone else speak.

Continue Reading »

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil–The Review

11 Comments

adhm

Karan Johar is a creator of worlds. Like J K Rowling, George R R Martin and Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Even though Mr. Johar’s world is populated by what seems to be homo-sapiens, in that they live, breathe, drink, eat, attempt to fornicate and occasionally die in order to resolve a story perfectly (leaving behind letters for an over-precocious child to read), it is very obviously a reality that is not quite ours. In the Johar universe, poverty does not exist even for poets and singers, people travel in personal jets, live in chic lofts in Paris and London with designer furniture, body-fat has melted away instead of the icecaps , the government provides everyone the latest fashions to wear , people do not converse but mushaaira through life, and men and women may lose their marbles occasionally and start thumping themselves on the chest with a flower-pot, but none of that affects their perfect make-up, not an even terminal illness can do that.

There is only one source of conflict in this reality, only one problem that world has not solved.

What is love? What is friendship?

Continue Reading »

The Issue: A Durga Pujo Short Story

14 Comments

mohaps1

[My latest book “Sultan of Delhi” is now available on Kindle outside the Indian sub-continental region]

“Let me go and offer puja”, the wife says pointing to the Durga idol to the right, up on the stage, “You can sit there, see if you know anyone.”

All married couples know this passage of play. It’s when one of the two makes the other do something that that person doesn’t want, and then compensates by backing off for a certain period of time afterwards. My wife knows I am not happy. I did not want to be here. Weekends are for reading books and watching movies, not for wearing kurta-pyjama that don’t really fit me in the way they were originally tailored, driving an hour, taking three exits, and then paying fifty dollars per person at the door for the dubious privilege of lunch, dinner and “cultural program”.

But it’s Pujo. Are we not going anywhere?

Even if that place is a high school rented for the weekend, and we don’t know anyone there.

So here we are.

“Well why don’t you go to Bangali Association meetings?” My wife had said on the drive here, chilly inside the car even though the heat was turned up high, “Then everyone would not be a stranger.”

I had simply gripped the steering wheel harder. I have been married for ten years. I know not to answer such questions.

“But you used to love Durga Pujo.”

I did. Back in Calcutta. When I had friends. When I could walk into a random pandal at any time of the day and most likely meet someone I knew, from school or college or from “coaching”, when the whole city was extended family.

Not now. Not in the US. Not any more.

Continue Reading »