More Garba-Dandiya in Mumbai papers please

04 Oct,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

The more I watch TV news (mainly thanks to this blog, my life was far less complicated before this!!!), the more sorry I feel for TV journalists in India. The constant need to fill up air time with drama, pyrotechnics and hysterics must be overwhelmingly frightening. The news in Indian TV world can never just be about events taking place. It has to be worthy of a Cecil B deMille movie with a thundering Charleton Heston, several horses, a few small divine miracles and for the grand finale at the very least, the parting of the Red Sea.
Monday night and Tuesday morning were full of the death of a National Conference worker in Jammu & Kashmir and the alleged involvement of chief minister Omar Abdullah somehow or the other, the arrest of Gujarat cop Sanjiv Bhatt for turning against the Narendra Modi government and to some extent, the clarification by Montek Singh Ahluwalia on the Planning Commission’s poverty figures.
Tuesday morning’s newspapers found merit in Bhatt’s arrest and Ahluwalia’s statement but dismissed the J&K fight to a few paras on the nation pages. TV however continues with the story because it has drama and for many of our uber-nationalist TV journalists, J&K has a special fascination. The Indian Express Delhi edition however led with J&K. The Hindu focused on the ongoing Telengana stir which has been downplayed by Mumbai papers at least.
In fact, the poverty issue has been given full range in our newspapers. The Times of India however has carried two intriguing opinion pieces. Arvind Panagriya, who teaches at Columbia University decided that our high child malnutrition figures are manipulated. And Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyer, who normally illuminates economic matters for us lesser mortals, mocked the sudden middle class interest in poverty. Contrastingly, on Sunday, The Hindustan Times carried an excellent piece by Kirit Parikh on our poverty measures. TOI on Tuesday has Parikh going further and discussing the failures of our PDS system.
Strangely, the anti-Wall Street protests going on all over the United States have not picked up traction in India. One would have thought this would be good grist to the drama mill. Also, given how Indian TV went to town when pop star Michael Jackson died, his murder trial is being largely ignored, in spite of all the dramatic revelations on a daily basis.
This is a particularly Mumbai-related complaint. The Navratri season is almost at the end and most newspapers have concentrated only on Durga Puja pandals all over the city. Where are all the pictures of garba and dandiya? I hear and see the dancing in real life but cannot find it in my newspapers? What is going on? I understand that the media is chockfull of Bengalis and people from East India, but as a hardened Mumbaikar (please ignore my name and its implications in your mind), I do expect to see Navratri represented in my newspapers.

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