Monday, October 31, 2005

Return Fire!

I think my reply to the comments in the previous post could constitute a new post altogether. So, here goes…

Why did I link to the picture? Anonymous, the picture is already in the public domain. Readers across Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in India woke up on Sunday to see the ‘insensitive photo’ [according to me] on the front page of their daily. Here, your ‘crack cocaine’ was provided to the masses with their morning coffee. It’s not like I was in sole possession of an objectionable picture that I purposely showed to the world.

I linked to the picture so that I could have people’s views on what they thought about the picture. Also, broadcast [television] is all about visuals. You may have exclusive information about an event but if you don’t have the visuals to support it and justify it, it’s not broadcast at all. You might as well look for another job. As a broadcast student, I wanted people to know what it was that I was so upset about. Hence, the link…Honestly, your claims about ‘teasing’ my readers appear quite silly to me.

Broadcast [TV] is an AUDIO-VISUAL medium, true! We struggle to get visuals, true again! But, like every other profession, we also have our ethics. They are not engraved in stone anywhere and also their observance depends on the policy of the channel. I feel a responsible channel:

- Should not show the face of a rape victim or a juvenile criminal so as to protect their identity

- Should not show a corpse/ injured body unless it is covered [No one would like the body of their loved one to be shown on television. Death is an immense personal loss and I think the sentiments of the family should be respected.]

I am shocked where you say that the picture could be another one. I wonder if you would say the same thing about the picture if someone you knew personally were the unfortunate victim.

About reporting the facts [as they are] about what is going on in the world…yes, we know our responsibility, thank you very much.

‘The only perversion we should worry about comes from uneducated readers, viewers or commenters.’

I think you live in some fairy tale world yourself, Anonymous. News is not meant only for armchair critics like you. News, especially TV news because of its reach, is also meant for these ‘uneducated’ readers/viewers you talk about. I think it is highly conceited on your part to make that statement. In my country i.e. India, 36% of the population is still illiterate. Even a large number of the literate can probably only sign their names. They sustain our democracy by casting their votes. They are also the ones on whose shoulders our ‘growing’ economy depends. And you think the only perversion comes from them???!!! Please remain in that ‘cushioned, multiple university degrees, educated’ world of yours. Your 'perverted' view of the majority is highly disturbing.

I think news channels must also be socially responsible even if commercial considerations pull hard at their principles. After all, we have the power to influence ideas and opinions of the masses.


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Who decides what's good and what's bad?

As a part of my course at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, we have had several discussions on sensationalism by newspapers and mainly news channels. We have discussed at length on how the broadcast medium is insensitive in the coverage of tragedies. The tsunami reports are recent examples.
I would like to point out a photograph from the blasts that shocked Delhi yesterday. The explosions killed more than 50 people. [Sorry, each source gives me different death figures]. A terrible tragedy and an even terrible coverage:
Please click on the following link:

Serial blasts kill 70 persons in Delhi

I was shocked or rather disgusted to see the photograph on the front page of a respected paper like The Hindu. Where have the media’s ethics gone? I understand that what happened yesterday was pathetic. It is impossible to imagine the pain suffered by this injured man and his family. But, I think this photo is highly voyeuristic. It’s not the man’s condition but the insensitive use of his condition that makes me sick in the pit of my stomach.
It would be unfair to raise fingers only at The Hindu. In fact, I hope today’s picture is only a rare occurrence in the newspaper’s history. TV channels do it even more.
Like asking a tsunami victim who has lost his family to the sea… “How do you feel?” OR
Debating to decide with whom a woman should stay- her first husband [a prisoner of war in Pakistan] or her second husband whose child she is expecting? OR
Repeatedly showing the body of a suicide bomber explode.

I understand that it’s the TRPs that matter to news channels today and this kind of sensationalism attracts viewers. And I know that as a broadcast journalist, I will have to endure the struggle between commercial concerns and my ethics every single working day.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

behind the scenes...

The Newsmakers of 2005-06

A Scene from our Production Control Room [PCR]

Discussion with Tamil Nadu Chief Electoral Officer Mr. Naresh Gupta in our college studio

[With sincere thanks to our step-brother from Print stream- Mr. Ashish Thakare, Journalist and Photographer]

Friday, October 28, 2005

rain rain go away...

Chennai was flooded! And yours truly was out with the rest of her group moving around the city trying to cover the situation. It rained continuously since the night of 26th of October. The streets were flooded, there was no electricity, the transport system was disrupted and thousands of people from low-lying areas in the city have been evacuated. The water level in the rivers, especially the Adyar river, was rising steadily. The worst part was seeing slums on the river banks getting submerged. The wind was blowing at a crazy speed. Rains have let up for the moment but the Met Office says the wet spell will continue. People from South India i.e. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and then Orissa[ in the east], please check weather updates for any cyclone warnings.

Nature has her own strange ways...rivers that usually run dry were overflowing this time. [Look up Mettur Dam for more Info]. Rain gods have been the villain this year with multiple hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Stan, Wilma. In India, Gujarat and then Mumbai were overwhelmed by Nature's fury. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the latest targets. I have a feeling all of this has something to do with the way we (mis)treat the environment. Even if pollution and global warming are not responsible, we better wake up right now to protect our surroundings before the ecological balance tips too dangerously.

A less serious word of advice: Please don't believe anyone who says that it is always hot in Chennai. They may be right to a great extent but, when it rains...it is extremely chilly. So, if you are visitng Chennai during the monsoons, please carry moderate warm clothes and don't make the same mistake I made of leaving my woollens back in Pune. I almost froze yesterday.

Here's praying that Nature is merciful to those affected by the floods...


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Cure begins...

I have ‘Multiple Identity Disorder’. And this post is one of my first symptoms. Who am I? Jemima, of course! But also, a woman, my parents’ daughter, my brother’s sister, a student, an aspiring journalist, an Indian, a Maharashtrian, a proud Puneite….these identities are distinctly different and yet they connect to form a complex web called ‘my life’ . Every role demands that I behave in a particular way. I want to explore each of these identities…the first one being my religion. I am Jewish. The identities are not in any order of preference. And here what being a Jew means to me:

Recently, I read an article by Mike Marqusee called ‘Realities of Israel’ in my favourite-for-now…my idli-dosai paper ‘The Hindu’.

What I really liked in this article was the part where he speaks about his identity as a Jew. After being Jewish for the past 21 years [i.e. all my life], I am beginning to wonder what it really means.

What I find most difficult with this identity is explaining to people which religion I belong to. I think something is seriously wrong with the educated middle-class in Pune. They just don’t know who the Jews are…even if our community has been on Indian soil for several generations now.

Some ignorant ones ask, ‘Jew? WHAT is that?’ When I am in one of my hysterical moods, i.e. when I am being myself, I complain to my parents saying, “How can anyone not know who the Jews are? Didn’t they read about us in their school history on the Second World War?”

The same argument goes on to prick my conscience when I am much calmer. Do I want people to recognise my religion solely on the basis of the horrific tales of the Holocaust that killed more than six million Jews?

Another reference point to help people understand who I am is mentioning ‘Israel’. The Israel- Palestine issue receives considerable focus in the ‘International News’ section of English-language newspapers. Of course, Israel-Palestine comes AFTER we have obsessed enough about the U.S.-Iraq/Afghanistan/ North Korea etc. issues.

Though people find it easier to associate the religion to Israel, I hate the analogy. I am an Indian, not an Israeli. My mother tongue is Marathi. Of course, my convent education has ensured that I know only how to read, write and speak relatively simple Marathi...my parents make fun of my Marathi like I make fun of their English. But, I hate it when people assume that I might have a sense of affinity towards Hebrew/Ivrit. Absolutely not! I would definitely like to learn the language but only because I love languages, not because I am Jewish.

My reader might wonder why there is a strong desire to dissociate myself from my religion. Honestly speaking, this is where the confusion lies.

The Jewish community in India is very small. We are only 5,000 in a population of more than one billion. And every year, the number reduces as Bene Israelis [Indian Jews] emigrate to other countries, especially Israel. There is no clear consensus on where we came from but, a cousin in Israel tells me that there, they believe Indian Jews came from Spain.

As a child and even today, I love Sabbath because the whole family comes together to pray. Of course, distances have separated us but, that Friday evening is sacred to me because I get to spend time with my family. I also love the fresh grape wine and the special food that my mom makes for dinner. As for the religious significance of Sabbath in my life, I am not quite sure. Though I do know the Sabbath prayers by heart and also their general meaning, I don’t feel deeply attached to them. Except of course, when it was time for exams and remembering God was an urgent need. But then, a prayer of any religion and in any language would have reassured me.

I would like for the synagogue to be one of my favourite places in the world. We have two of them in Pune and they are really beautiful, especially the Ohel David Synagogue. Set in red stone, the building transports you to another era of charm and magnificence. But, just the idea of meeting the other Jews from my community there turns me off. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are some nice people there. But, I have always been unable to identify with them or relate to them on any issue. My parents have brought us [my brother and me] up teaching us to be very open-minded. My perception is that the Jews I know in Pune and Mumbai have locked themselves up in their own comfortable circles. They haven’t had the willingness or the courage to step out from their cocoons and get to know people from other communities. Many of them are narrow-minded, living in an atmosphere that existed some thirty years ago. Of course, there are some exceptions and I am glad most of those delightful exceptions are related to me.

There are several incidents involving Indian Jews that have cast doubts on their capacity to be more rational and respectable. So, do I avoid them because I am ashamed of them? Or is it because I am ashamed of myself…my identity? I think the second one is a more likely possibility.

We might be Jewish but, our culture and values come from the Maharashtrian culture. In my state, it is natural to think that a Maharashtrian is necessarily a Hindu. A faulty assumption…I agree…but that’s the way it is. As a people, we might have the Maharashtrian mindset and even Maharashtrian surnames but the Hindu religion doesn’t justify our Marathi identity. Several times, people have questioned how I could be a Marathi girl with a name like ‘Jemima’. And I, in my desire to have a sense of belonging to this state, have argued for my legitimacy as a Maharashtrian. I must confess that at times, I have even let people believe that I am a Hindu just to avoid confrontation and make them think that I am one amongst them.

So, ABCDs i.e. the American-Born Confused Desis are not the only ones to have an identity crisis.

Am I a god-fearing Jew? I am god-fearing alright but, I am not too sure my observance of religious practices is going to make Jewish elders too proud to have me around. I have stopped fasting for Yom Kippur as I think fasting is a hypocritical and useless practice. [I have another post coming up on that]. Do I pray? I believe in the power of a prayer called Shema Israel but, that is because my mom told me it would give me personal strength. So, whenever I recite it, its power lies in my mom’s assurance to me.

I have also begun to believe that humanity is the most important religion. If we can’t learn to be good human beings, no amount of praying and observance of religious rituals can give us a life full of contentment.

One might think that I am on the verge of giving up my religion. No way! That would make life too unchallenging and consequently, boring. I wish to find a way to be at peace with my religion. I have no idea how to go about it and it will probably take my whole life. But, this self-questioning will make the journey worthwhile.


Friday, October 21, 2005

My blog...my call...!

I had written this article for our Print Project called "Mozaic". We were divided in groups of four-five and were asked to create any page of a newspaper. Each of us did stories of our choice for the project. One of my stories was on the treadle press...the printing machine used in the past. My co-correspondent, Lakshmi, and I had gone looking for printing presses that still had these old machines on Triplicane High Road, the 'Printers' Paradise' of Chennai.
Doing the story was a great experience. My generation is so used to computers that it was difficult for us to digest that sentences were composed letter by letter on a tray.
The most exciting part was when the press owners switched on those dust-covered treasures. Ah! That rhythmic sound of the treadle press...! Very exhilerating!
This article never appeared in our project coz when we were designing the page, we realised we didn't have enough space for everything. So, I volunteered for my article to be left out. No probs coz my other article was the lead story.
But, this is MY blog...finally, my article finds a place for itself.

Chennai, Sept 8: “Printing is essential at every stage. There are no alternatives to it,” says Syed A. Kareem, owner of Tahir Printers located on Triplicane High Road. In a corner of his small and cluttered shop lies his old treadle press under a generous layer of dust.

Letterpress is a printing technique in which a raised surface is inked and then pressed against a smooth substance to obtain an image in reverse.

When the shop was opened in 1987, Kareem used the treadle press, which uses the letterpress technique, to print handbills. Though business was lucrative in those days, clients for the treadle press today are few and far between. Change in technology has forced him to invest in a mini offset printer which he uses for almost all the printing jobs.

Printing using letterpress technique is a time-consuming process as only 1000 copies can be printed in an hour as against 4000-5000 copies in a mini offset printer. As letters are composed manually on a chest, there were times when the letters would fall out and the entire process would have to be repeated again.

The changeover to the mini offset printer has affected dye manufacturers, type foundries and block makers who were dependent on the older technique for their business. Kareem says that there was a time when the mini offset printers was even banned considering the loss incurred by these people.

In this Printers’ Paradise is another printing shop called Vasantha Achagam that had three treadle presses when it was set up 28 years ago. Today, it has only one treadle press that is used for the occasional printing of files.

When asked whether he would sell the machine considering that the machine was no longer used for major printing jobs, A.S. Sankaran, the owner, replied. “We can’t sell it as they will break it and weigh and accordingly pay the money. Instead we can utilize it for odd jobs and keep the machine intact.”

Citing the example of a film, Server Sundaram, a waiter who keeps his server coat even after becoming a rich man, Sankaran says, “I have kept the treadle machine for memory.”


causes and effects!

Ah! I finally turned in this assignement after 2-3 weeks of delay. This is an assignment from a class called Language and Style conducted by Mr. Srikumar Menon in the first term. He teaches the Print Stream. An amazing prof! His classes were so inspiring! I hope I can be at least 0.5% of how great he is by the end of my journalistic career. Oh wait! There will be no end to my journalistic career. I'll always be a journalist!

We had been asked to write either the causes or effects of an event/topic. So, as I am obsessed with everything French, here is my attempt to analyse the events of May 1968:

Effects of May 1968 on French Society

The dictionary defines ‘revolution’ as ‘a single complete turn’. France has turned the world around twice, once in 1789 when the French overthrew the monarch to usher in democracy and the next time in 1968 when the country almost got rid of its Second World War hero and democratically elected leader, General Charles de Gaulle.

The May 1968 revolution is intriguing because like other movements in Europe, this movement was not limited to fighting for the cause of racial minorities. It cut across multiple ethnic groups and knew neither age nor class barriers. In spite of its sobriquet of ‘conservateurs’, the French society has always been one to question its social structures and change them whenever necessary. Obviously, these changes have taken place over a number of years.

The revolution began as a student protest in Nanterre University but ended up involving two-thirds of the French workforce. The chaotic situation escalated further to threaten de Gaulle’s term as President. Strangely, the revolution died down just as fast as it had arisen. De Gaulle dissolved the National Assembly and called for new parliamentary elections on June 23, 1968. This time around, he won with an even bigger majority.

The revolution was a culmination of several causes such as frustration over poverty, unemployment and de Gaulle’s conservative Government. The French society felt that it led an unfulfilled life despite the middle class enjoying all the basic needs. It wanted to break the shackles of its boring existence.

The May 1968 Revolution brought about very interesting effects on the education system in the country. According to Sandra McNally and Eric Maurin [Vive La Révolution: Long term returns of 1968 to the Angry Students], the Baccalauréat was disrupted by the Revolution. A student must pass this exam if he/she wants to pursue further education in a University. The students demanded easier exams as ‘they had spent a lot of time struggling for a better University’. Hence, more number of students passed that year than usual. With access to university education, they got better jobs and were paid higher salaries. Their children were found to have performed better at school. In this case, the positive effects of May 1968 spanned across two generations.

That summer also boosted the development of French feminism. In 1971, the Mouvement de Libération des Femmes [MLF] i.e. the Movement for Liberation of Women was started. In 1977, the Socialist Party succeeded in getting the Bill of Rights for Women passed. Abortion was legalised in 1975.

Prior to 1981, there were many anti-homosexual laws in the French legislation. The 1968 movement brought about wider political and social acceptance of all persons irrespective of their sexual orientation. In 1999, the Pacte Civil de Solidarité [PACS] i.e. the Civil Solidarity Pact was introduced which gave legal status to all unmarried couples, including homosexuals. The law now not only recognises a homosexual union, marriage or otherwise, but also gives the couple equal social security and housing rights.

Though the May 1968 movement has affected French society in several ways, an interesting outcome during the revolution itself was the series of slogans that the protestors used in the strikes. Some of them are given below:

· Nous ne voulons pas d’un monde où la certitude de ne pas mourir de faim s’échange contre le risque de mourir d’ennui.

- We don’t want a world where the certainty of not dying of starvation brings the risk of dying of boredom.

[This slogan shows how the French were bored of their comfortable lifestyles and wanted some ideal to follow.]

  • On ne revendiqera rien, on ne demandera rien. On prendra, on occupera

- We will claim nothing, we will ask for nothing. We will take, we will occupy.

[This shows the rebellious spirit of the protestors.]

  • L’alcool tue. Prenez du LSD.

- Alcohol kills; take LSD.

[This slogan shows how many youngsters moved to drug addiction: a negative effect of the revolution.]

May 1968- a single complete turn that affected the French society for generations to come.


getting started...

Sorry about that huge gap in the last post. I am just getting started and don't really know how to go about this. Nishat Sir, our broadcast prof. would call that space a 'blank shot'. He would have said," You can't have blank shots...it spoils your show." Looks like I am really getting into the broadcast mode...hehe
Before I begin posting seriously, a word of Thanks to my friend Ashish Thakare who helped me set up the blog. Oh...Ashish....I need visitors....can you add me to your blogdom royalty list? :)
Signing off....

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Photo Journalism!

Sigh! Those 10 weeks of Photo Journalism! I miss them! Usually, a broadcast student isn't given the photo journalism elective because he/ she is already working with camcorders [which is just magnificient!]
Learning how to use an SLR camera was a great experience. Of course, we learnt to use an automatic SLR and a digital camera too. The automatic SLR was good but, after using the SLR, the digital one just didn't make sense! Nevertheless, it's an essential tool for a journalist because it guaruntees speed and convenience.
Here are some of the photos I took as a part of our class. Comments are welcome.


Monday, October 17, 2005

It's a new world!

I finally have a blog! It was quite unplanned actually. Everyone was saying how important it was for a journo to have a blog. So, here I am! Hope it's turns out to be a great experience.