Every profession has something unique or special about it. If you are a software professional you get to spend much of your office time on sophisticated office equipment honing your skills on such life-saving tools like twitter, facebook, and at the end of the day, you can believe yourself to be techno smart. You can also think all those who have no time for such modern applications, as because they have an honest and useful work to do, to be socially incompetent.
If you are a doctor you need not keep up appointments, especially since the patients wouldn’t complain lest you refer them to more tests, including the nuclear test. You can also pretty much take your patients inside a dark room, make them lie down on a bed and ask them to remove their dress. And it can all be for professional reasons, of course.
If you happen to be a lawyer, well, I want to say something funny and provocative here, but I know how powerful the defamation laws of the land are. So will instead peddle the euphemism lawyers are all honourable people.
And if you are a journalist, you will be called up to make, day in and day out, such inspired pronouncements. This, in normal human parlance, may be called lying, but we in journalism are prone to see this as a creative process.
Let me explain: Think of a typical Sachin Tendulkar press conference. But before we delve further, a few things need to be clarified about Tendulkar. Reporters and correspondents dread a Tendulkar press conference more than opposition bowlers fear him in a cricket arena. He may conceivably the greatest batsmen in the world for quite some time now. But Tendulkar at a press conference deals strictly in banalities and boring comments, which if the reporters were to write a dutiful report of, will have the entire nation falling facedown on their breakfast cereals in sleepy boredom.
Tendulkar says, ‘they have a pretty good attack and we can’t afford to be complacent’, of every bowling attack he faces, even if he were talking of his son Arjun’s kindergarten school team.
This kind of androgynous observations cannot be good enough for the news media that is otherwise dealing with people like Subramanyam Swami and Rakhi Sawant, who are prone to call a spade an inter-continental ballistic missile.
The point is reporters have to chip in with Tendulkar. So when Tendulkar parrots ‘they have a pretty good attack and we can’t afford to be complacent’ of, say, Bangladesh, the press correspondents professionally translate it as: ‘Tendulkar thinks Bangladesh’s attack is better than that of the Australian team’, and try and give a weather-worn cliché some respect it may not deserve. Twisting of facts, as you can see, is the chief virtue of journalism.
And then we have A R Rahman, who speaks so slowly and ponderously that the time gap between two of his words is s also the time taken by other music directors to compose songs for full-length movies. All Rahman news events are just about ‘ella pughazum iraivannuke’ and a few other incomprehensible observations. And scribes naturally give their own re-recording to Rahman’s words. When Rahman intones that he has listened to Michael Jackson, the next day papers report it as Rahman’s soul inspired by MJ and the duo were set to do a joint album. The trick here is Rahman, and for that matter MJ, will not take pains to deny the report.
If you are wondering where, we, journalists get this skill to play around with facts, well the answer is simple: We make a lot of leave applications.
Let me again explain: Among the many easily identifiable attributes of newspaper journalism is the fact that it is the field in which official holidays are roughly equivalent, give or take a day or two, to the number of birthdays you have in a year.
So newspaper hands are forever thinking up (barely) believable ruses to seek leave. There is always a pattern to this.
Chronic at Clinic Commode: If he is calling in the office in the morning at a time when he should be at his system and working on his news report, then it means only one thing: He is down with ‘loose motion’, an affliction he seems to willingly contract the moment he starts feeling disinclined to attend office. Many times, for the sake of whipping up the right realism, he will say that he is hardly in a position to even get out of the lavatory, and the phone call itself is being made from inside the latrine.
There are many practical advantages in claiming to be laid low by dysentery. One, it is common. Two, no one will ask for tell-tale evidences, something that has to be produced if the claim is for a sprained ankle or slit throat. Merely acting weak (facial expressions would do) is generally seen good enough to drive home the idea that one had spent a better part of one’s time over the commode. This is naturally popular with many journos whenever they are calling in to say they are sick.
Family Fanatic: The one great advantage of the family system that India is justly famous for is that it gives enough chances to seek leave in the office. Embedded in each relationship is the possibility for myriad leave. Uncle son’s wedding. Aunt’s daughter’s ear-piercing ceremony. Third brother-in-law’s second sister-in-law’s housewarming function. Co-brother’s father’s demise. Cousin’s betrothal and such bagatelles are used to avail easy half-a-day permission. And then there are also friends, who can be conjured up in a trice to throw up reasons and occasions to seek permission for absence from office.
With so much to practice on a daily basis, Indian media scene is naturally floating on inspired lies masquerading as news.
PS: I filed this report from home today because I was down with, you guessed it right, upset stomach courtesy the food at grandma’s 80th birthday function.
Tomorrow remind me to feign weakness at office.
(This is my column for the week)