November 2009: There was (still is) a major concern that the Chinese Army had destroyed a Buddhist statue near the Chinese border in Arunachal Pradesh in order to remove a landmark so that it gets easier to encroach upon Indian territory. It was around the same time the Chinese ambassador to India proclaimed on Indian soil that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of China. A little knowledge of history is enough to suggest that this was how China occupied Tibet and they are doing precisely the same with Arunachal Pradesh!
The security of our nation; the very face of our map is being threatened and one would expect a thorough coverage of the series of incidents by the media. But unfortunately for Arunachal Pradesh, Shilpa Shetty was getting married that week and her sister Shamita Shetty just dropped out of Bigg Boss (an Indian version of Big Brother) to attend the wedding. So the media showed the metaphorical middle finger and said, “Screw you Arunachal Pradesh, we have a wedding to attend!”
April 2010: The BJP has organized a rally where thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the double digit inflation and the ever increasing prices. The media covered the incident with great gusto. Hundreds of news correspondents representing dozens of news channels were yelling into their mikes on the latest developments – the breaking news being, “BJP protest against price rise causes traffic jam!” Later that evening, expert panels were formed in the well-lit studios of New Delhi; professional opinion makers were earmarked in advance and invited. Some made it to the studios, those who couldn’t were live on the phone and all of them had an opinion – not on inflation… but on Delhi’s traffic!
Something is clearly wrong with the fourth pillar of the largest democracy when Sania Mirza getting married to a Pakistani man is hailed as a National Loss! Trust me, people in the country didn’t give a rat’s ass about Sania but the media just went on and on and on for about two weeks pissing off so many people in the process that the facebook page “Thank you Pakistan for taking Sania Mirza, Now Please take Rakhi Sawant also!” alone has almost two hundred thousand fans!
When I was in school, we had news readers on TV who used to read the news in a calm composed manner. Now that profession is obsolete. By obsolete, I mean that it exists only in Doordarshan. Instead, we have “news correspondents” shrieking or bellowing (depending on their gender) into their microphones 24x7. And yes, I forgot to mention. It’s not news anymore – it’s Breaking News!
So, why did our media evolve into such a myopic mess in just a matter of few years? Greed, TRPs, partisanship, competition between channels, the insatiable quest for breaking news… let’s not dwell on all those things. There has to be a simpler way to end this nonsense! As long as assassination is not an option, I think the solution lies in comedy and sarcasm.
Yes, you don’t have to read the previous sentence again, I said comedy and I was not being sarcastic! Standup comics have an advantage over everyone else in this increasingly politically correct and easily offended world we live in. The interaction between a standup comic and the audience is a unique stage where topics like class, race, religion, sexuality, gender bias etc. can be discussed without taboo by temporarily suspending the rules of political correctness.
While the news media is all about the cover stories and finer details, comedians are the ones who give a sense of perspective, debunk the status quo, challenge hypocrisy; compare social ideas with reality and point out the fluidity of social life. No wonder the most trusted newsman in the US is Jon Stewart, a comedian!
What India needs is a Richard Pryor to reflect on our prejudices, a Jon Stewart to engage the younger generation in political commentary, a George Carlin to tell us the truth as it is in the face, a Bill Maher to lay down some new rules, and a Lenny Bruce to start it all. We can also have a Jerry Seinfeld in the mix to make us laugh at ourselves and a Sarah Silverman so that this article won’t be labeled sexist :p.
What India needs is comedians who have the courage to get over Bollywood mimicry, Sardars and Laloos and go behind the Babus because that is what comedians ought to be doing. Until then, all we can do is keep our fingers crossed and hope that Shilpa Shetty doesn’t get married again because this time, it might cost us a lot more because of the double digit inflation ;).