Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Devika, Good that You Stopped THAT


Dear Devika,

I appreciate your decision to stop subscribing the Mathrubhoomi Newspaper. But at the same time I feel like adding that you should stop reading all the newspapers altogether. In one of his poems, Balachandran Chullikkadu narrated how the ‘blood dripping newspapers would come every day’. They tell us the stories of ‘fires, shocks, nuclear explosions’ and they also inform us about ‘pride, competition, great protests/and the resistance of the greater force of the enslaved lives’. How sharply, intelligently and poignantly he had explained a day’s news in his irresistible lines. Has it changed considerably after three decades? Yes, it has changed; in the place of resistance we have this wonderful pictures and news of submissiveness and yielding. We see how the newspaper giants that claim themselves to be the ‘power of the real newspaper’ (why I resist myself from using the word rag? And why I am tempted to say the power of common man?), ‘Cosmopolitanism and alertness’ and so on fail completely in showing some kind of resistance against the growing Fascist tendencies in our societies.

When protest fails poetry takes over, does it? I do not know. But I am reminded of N.N.Kakkad, who had said, ‘we may amputate a diseased limb/but what about the diseased and helpless mind?’ The self pity that the poet had felt once for himself and for his life partner was capable enough to bring a few drops of tears in our eyes. Project the same lines on to the public and private domain of news production, dissemination and consumption; what do we see? Our society is diseased as I would explain soon within the context of your decision to stop getting a newspaper. Our minds are equally diseased. I see news are made out of nothing and bantered around throughout the day and night as if the very trial methods of the journalists would eventually bring the justice for the people instantly; here and now. The poetic justice of films that deliver justice within thirteen reels does not appear in our daily news castings (of late I found out that the laptops kept open before the news anchor are just props for effect as they say things as prompted to them through ear devices and also by raising documents. Can’t they have all those documents scanned and stored in order to look more sophisticated?)

People enjoy this nonsense of passive news reception. You know, when the major part of our prime time is occupied by the political analysis (no longer political reporting), all the other issues of human-animal-nature rights get no time. While corruption gets prime time slot, human rights issues are pushed to late night or mid noon sensational shows. Corruption in politics is the new porn in a country where the porn sites are under fire. While porn sites are banned, political porn is enjoyed by all. Our public domain is filled with these sound bites of news anchors who demand instant justice and peace. Thank god, I do not watch television news. But that is a general sonic backdrop as you live in a civilized society. I cannot imagine an evening in any home where the television audio track keeps the dominant sonic ambience. It in fact affect our senses differently; whether we are active consumers of television news or passive consumers, we cannot escape this benumbing auditory effects, which eventually makes a news consumer an addict. People like us perhaps are the odd ones who reject the medium itself than succumbing to the allure of it.

I can forget television for the simple reason that I could review my anxieties (did I say anxiety? Yes, for abstinence from anything for a long time causes some sort of anxiety about one’s own performative abilities in the expected field that had caused abstinence) once in a while either in Youtube or in cross postings in the social media. But I cannot do anything about the newspapers that come with a thud; not one but making three different thuds. A newspaper which is unused (means unopened) causes regret and self condemnation by the end of the day and if you open it, you are offended. I do not find any problem with your decision to stop subscribing a particular newspaper because given a chance I would also stop subscribing all the newspapers. But reading newspaper has become an age old habit (but if you can kick the habit of smoking and drinking, which I have done, then you can definitely get out of the habit of reading newspapers). But a newspaper that is read is a newspaper that demands the stoppage of its subscription. This is a daily temptation. But we somehow overcome this temptation, exactly the way you said that you did not have any problem with the weekly journal that comes out of the same stable. 

Most of the media magnates say that they give the news that the people want. They say that what is in demand is newsworthy. Some media magnates say that news is free and news items are just reasons for making the advertisements look good. Hence, what you consume is basically advertisements, news is a bonus. It all depends on what you want to see first, ads or news? But today, both do not make much difference. Both are meant for persuasion. If news is free, then we are obliged to take what is given. When we take what is given, our politico-cultural and socio-economic outlook also would change. If they say that they give what we demand then we would start believing that we demand Dalit bashing and imbalanced reportage on Islamic issues, as you have cited in your open letter to the editor of the said newspaper. Have we asked for it? No, we have not, but the common perception goes; we get what we ask for. In that sense, the society in general demands Dalit bashing and imbalanced views on Muslims. Is it so? Do we really demand that?

In my view, the public domain, the discursive space is an extension of our private domains. The private domain is a creation of the public domain in turn. These mutually depended spaces are parasitic and enriching at the same time. Our private domain is not autonomous as we believe. It is created by the inherited views as well as generated views. While inherited views are within the limited contexts the generated views are largely determined by the private domain’s interactions with the public domain. A woman who is born to a Hindu family in Kerala must be having some inclination towards accepting the male domination without questioning and she would not mind following traditional rules that come with the package of being a Hindu woman. Going to a temple and making pongala (making of rice kheer as offering) are a part of this package. But when she, along with a host of women living in the similar conditions are asked to make pongalas on certain days in a year and these activities are regimented and regulated with a purpose to spread a particular kind of Hindu ideology it should cause concerns in a society. When old temples are renovated and new ritualistic forms are added to it, we should be concerned. When impoverished and emaciated boys from the Dalit and backward castes are trained to speak the Brahminical language (without letting them know that they are excluded from the core discourse of it) we should be concerned.

 (A mainstream newspaper presenting the religious news item as the first news)

Our public domain is now dominated by such visual and sonic symbolism. One cannot escape the predominant Hindutva signs in our society. Our private domain is determined by these changed public domains. We start believing in this symbolism and automatically anything that is alien to it (actively and passively) happens to appear as social irritants rather than inclusive symbols. For example, a group of small girls going to a Madrasa to learn Koran, completely clad in cute little Burqas suddenly becomes an offensive scene while we thoroughly enjoy our little girls wear Hindu bridal dresses and imitate as if they were about to be led to a nuptial chamber. This kind of imbalanced views, in fact should be resisted and protested by the newspapers. There should be strong editorials against such propagations and proliferations of the male dominated Hindutva symbolism in our society. Instead what do these newspapers do? Irrespective of ideologies, they replicate this symbolism in their news and views. This further determines both the public and private domains. It was so disheartening to see, while I was doing a village survey recently, Hindu families having calling bells that shouts ‘Om Bhur Bhuvasvaha’ and Muslim houses having the calling bells ringing out, ‘Allahu Akbar.’

What has happened to our society? I would say, this condition is brought in by our newspapers. They spend so many reams of paper and so many bottles of ink over publishing the festival and ritual news of inconspicuous temples that have come up like mushrooms during the last ten years. It is a fall out of the hate propaganda created by the Hindutva forces. While our political parties of different kinds failed in stopping this cancerous spreading, this was the direct responsibility of the newspapers. They have failed absolutely in this case. To make matters worse, they have become the mouth pieces of these Hindutva ranting and raving, shamelessly. They have started talking about castes and creeds, and they have never failed in politicizing the caste. While we can accept it, we just cannot accept how they take the caste discrepancies in our society into the Hindutva fold and make it a larger Hindu issue, as if everything that has happened so far, including the caste issues, is a self generated thing and a great wrong committed against the Hindu community (but they never say in clear terms who committed this wrong. Who, Muslims? Say it please, how).

(Kerala Kaumudi Managing Editor releasing the first copy of the Onam special at Attukal Shrine)

I have been thinking about responding to your letter to the editor which has become viral within a day. I am happy for that. In fact I am happy because a person like you is still active in our society while some of the women writers in Kerala have already worn saffron shawls. Today morning I saw the classic stroke and I could not help but articulating my views on it to anybody whom I met today. And by evening I am writing this to you. When I opened today’s Kerala Kaumudi, a dear Newspaper that publishes my articles once in a while, and saw on the very first page at the top left where one starts the movement of his/her eye (technically speaking), a soft pastel image of the Lord Ganesh, as today is a special day for him. I was a bit down after seeing it. I thought it could have gone down or in the inside page (okay, I told myself, may be this is what the people want). I skipped so many bits of news that proclaim divine presence in our society and finally reached the last page. I could not believe my eyes. There the Managing Editor of the News Paper releasing the Onam Special of Kerala Kaumudi at the Attukal Shrine giving the first copy to the head priest there.

May be I want to stop subscribing Kerala Kaumudi. Will I? Should I?

Yours faithfully,


PS: From Trivandrum to my village, I heard at least twenty different singers singing a variety of new ‘histories’ about Lord Ganesha in more or less the same tune. 

No comments: