I live in the US and from what I read on the news websites (CNN, TOI etc.) there seems to be an increasing propensity to talk. TOI was a newspaper when I left India back in 2004. So go easy on the brickbats when I call TOI a newspaper.
I do not think I can put my finger down on the when it started but over the past few years, the news has become one scream-a-thon where every every happening is accorded so much importance that it is becoming hard to figure out what is important and what is not. Why are people in general talking so much?
Kashmir Singh, a prisoner in Pakistan for about 35 years was reunited with his family. Apart from expressing his joy at meeting his family, he went on to blabber about how was was indeed a spy and how badly he was treated by the people in the Indian government. While a legitimate outburst, this could have been done differently at various levels. He could have spoken to people and told them of his problems. This method does not always work. So he did what any person with a loud voice and a problem does – approach the eloquent, unbiased and rational Indian media. The powers that be in these media houses went out of their way to avoid a rational thought process, skilfully dodged any logical thinking about the repercussions of publishing such a story and before we knew it, that statement was published on every news website possible. The questions that it leaves me with are
1. Was anyone thinking of whether this story was true or not? Was he disappointed because the terms of agreement were not met or was he disappointed because his expectations were not met? I would like to believe him and that he served India as best as he could and the disappointment was indeed because he was promised a few things and someone did not deliver on those promises.
2. Even if it was true, Kashmir Singh was part of a force that is broadly classified as secret service. It is called the secret service because – and this might be a bit of a revelation or even a possible shock to some of you out there- it is supposed to be SECRET. And by that we mean, the public in general and the world as a whole does not and should not know about it. There is a reason for this.
3. A man’s first thought is quite naturally the well being of his family and in the light of the service he rendered to his nation he has every right to feel let-down and betrayed by how his family was treated. So even if he did go to the media and spoke his gut out, could the media not have been more tactful in dealing with this? Do they not have a duty to this country and its well being? Could they not have avoided publishing this story keeping in mind how it would affect other prisoners detained or for that matter on death row in Pakistani prisons? Were they really interested in making a difference or were they interested in having a headline? If they had really wanted they could have pulled couple of strings, started a charity drive etc. and made sure that the needs of a man who had served the nation were provided for.
Instead of setting an example, all they set was a typeface and a font for their respective banners and walked away from it. The image of a country and the fate of others in a similar situation was all abandoned for a story – a story that was old before the ink was dry on the papers. After all the Indian cricket team was on its way home and they were going to meet their families. So there were really important things to be covered – like what was on each player’s dining table when they got home, how many marriage proposals those players had received, what the local fruit seller thought of his now-famous customer, how the local barber knew what hairstyle would look good when this guy was on TV and how all these people always knew that a Rohit Sharma or a Piyush Chawla was always going to make it big. We now have even mother-in-law getting in on the action talking about their sons-in-law. I miss the good old days when Ian Botham wanted to send his mother-in-law to Pakistan. These cricketers cannot keep their mouths shut either – whether they are on the field or off it they always have a juicy sound bite to offer the media.
Once these stories are edited and run there are going to be a lot more to write. What people do not see is that in this day of increased information and technology, we are losing out on accountability. Every one who is someone runs his or her mouth off to the press and they print it without bothering to verify its facts. Opinions are all that matter these days. What is more interesting is when those facts are scrutinized or they come up a cropper, there are seldom any repercussions – because someone else is running his or her mouth off for another story and another two minutes of airtime and who knows that person might end up saying something that makes history – or at the very least a headline.