Monday, November 30, 2009

What have you been reading?

Growing up – I always thought there was something wrong with my time. There were two sets of believers – the liberals and the conservatives. And I am not talking of political parties. There were the ones who’d be okay with women wearing what the hell they wanted as long as there was no obscenity involved. And people knew what obscenity really stood for, and not some warped ideas that should have never been encouraged in the first place. A woman smoking would perhaps be considered a bit too liberated a thought, but no one really cared much. They judged, but did nothing about it.
The orthodox however were the ones who’d think a girl to be a hooker if she even spoke to man outside her family, or considered getting a job or staying single.

It took me years to struggle with the thought that with the advent of science and development is various segments and degrees, people refused to change thoughts. Were we so complacent with what we believed in that we didn’t allow a new thought even a small chance?
It’s easier today. I meet people who bear completely misguided opinions and do nothing to change them. They have the right to believe whatever they want. For the sake of an amusing argument I might talk, a bit loudly on occasion, stating thoughts and ideas and say “I can’t bring myself to agree with you.” But even so, the respect of another man’s opinions on anything is perhaps important.

When I started out as a writer – I can’t call myself a journalist really – I had different dreams. I didn’t want to become an investigative reporter who followed crime/political/civic stories and reported them. There were and are far better people doing that job really well.
What I was totally appealed by was the fact that India, in all its cultural diversity and expanse, was such a curious nation that they would traverse thousands of miles to understand different geographies. Despite all the socio-economic and religious differences, I have always felt that Indians are very proud of what they have. Yes, we do take it for granted at times but that’s common with what we love. We all complain about it and yet, love it in a very strange way.
I wanted to write about the travels of other people. I could always write about the travels of another person. But how do I bring my thought across to you. How do I tell you that I am like you? How else can I build a connection unless I start with an “I went to…” instead of telling you that “you know, there’s this guy I know who went to…”
I could be an odd one out. I am looking for members for my club really. But when I watch films like Good Night and Good Luck I wonder if we believe in anything anymore.
Do I believe in what I do? Do I believe that what I say will convince even one person into acting upon it?

Opinions of writing are changing drastically across the world. No one really knows if there are any cardinal rules of journalism existing anymore. I thought accuracy, facts, relatively error-free, good writing was all that was required.
Where does the sugar coating come from?
Yes, publication houses need to raise money to pay our salaries so that we continue to keep our jobs to pay the bills. But who decides what we read. It’s funny how in a gathering of more than five people, no one seems to agree with what online and print publications are doing, with a few exceptions of course.
And I love those exceptions.

Write about fashion – it’s a billion dollar industry. But what is more important to you?
Do you want to know where to get a replica of the Prada bag some Hollywood actress wore to a premiere or would you rather want to know how to dress well under $100. I guess both are important – to two different segments of people. The question is, where do I belong? And most importantly, where do you belong?
Coming back to opinions – I have often heard that people don’t read anymore these days. But wherever I go, I hear people complaining that there isn’t much to read these days. The online industry must be booming, with a large population catching up on the news and features online. Then why is an online publication not given ample importance in our country?

You could be working for the top 3 publications in the country and eyes will twinkle when you walk into a party. And by top 3, I am talking of ad revenues earned or visibility achieved. I am not talking of the quality of news. However, if you work for an earnest publication (which I sincerely doubt even exists) that manages to rake in enough to pay salaries because they won’t sell out, you are not cool enough. You’re not with it.
However, the ones who do read you, will always respect you and for that you can be eternally grateful and shove the rest of the world aside.
It could be any category – crime, politics, information technology, economics, socio-economics, industrial, hospitality, food, travel, art, science, theatre, literature, education, environment, civic issues, infrastructure – but the concern remains unhindered. What are people reading? Or rather, what are they not reading anymore? Who decides?

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