Come the electronic revolution and some of our age old charmers begin to disappear. Distance is one of them. It no longer lends charm. No more nostalgia when I think of my state down south skirting the Arabian Sea. For a Keralite like me, living away from home, distance is one of the most tragic casualties of technological advancement. All that 1000 odd km distance between Mumbai and Kerala is neutralised by the relentless intrusion of the print and visual media into my Mumbai home. Advantage distance is removed from the rules of the game.
The keralite in Mumbai gets the Malayalam newspaper along with the TOI. Old habits die hard and mornings see me settling down in the most comfortable chair with black coffee and the Mayalayala Manorama. Sadly, the news that greets me is far from nostalgia inducing. Reading the Malayalam daily is like staring at the sickly underside of Kerala. It's replete with stories of lightning strikes, hartals, assaults on public figures, destruction of public property, sexual harassment, corruption, sexapades of men in high positions, political leaders spewing vitriol and sabotaging development activities, srikers transforming the secretariat premises into public latrine, opposition trying every trick in the book to stall the government functioning and to subvert progressive measures- - - - . And then the two news pages packed with obituaries and gory details of accident, freak deaths !!! I don’t think there is any other people in the world so obsessed with death – and there is any other state whose newspapers look forward to death more eagerly than the undertaker and the coffin maker, or compete with each other to bag death news! I don’t know if the egg or the chicken came first – whether it is the Malayalam newspapers pandering to keralites’ morbid cravings or this craving is created and fed by the papers. Whatever it is, we really are a strange and unique people!
At the end of the day, I stretch myself before the TV , surf through Malayalam channels - and see what the eye should not behold. Gnashing teeth, youngsters who should be in classrooms pelting stones and smashing buildings , wrecked buses, glass splinters, helpless policemen, netas gleefully taking political mileage out of violence which , perhaps, they themselves set afoot, that endangered species called honest politicians throwing up their helpless hands - - - - -,reminding me of that poet's ominous prophesies about the end of days:
The ceremony of innocence is drowned
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Sometimes, I tend to think, things are not as bad as they are made to appear by the media. Doesn’t anything good happen in kerala? Are there no healthy practices in this state? I begin to suspect that irresponsible media practices have a hand in bringing the state to this condition. Surely there is a good, healthy and inspiring side to the state that deserves to be brought out - and sensationalised. This is not to say that media should not cover social evils. It should- but it can surely strike a balance. Let the media, for a change, look for what is right with the state – and sensationalise that. Let it give wide coverage to the honest, the hard working, the principled, the ethical, the humane, the constructive, the positive elements in kerala life, and, sideline the cantankerous elements who hog the limelight and thrive and survive on the state wide attention handed out on a platter by media. This is an experiment worth trying. It might have a very positive impact on and transform the mindset of the people.
But this demands a high level of commitment on the part of media, especially print media. It implies a possible reduction of circulation of papers, for the voracious appetite for gore and filth created in the reader by media would not take well to being deprived of it usual meal. Media must make amends for conditioning its readers thus. It must make a serious effort to de-condition the reader.
High circulation newspapers with a long history should begin this trend. It should break this vicious circle of pandering to a conditioned taste. There is nothing more revolting than a grandmother pandering to the salacious cravings of her little children. She is morally bound to inspire them to mend their ways – even at the cost of losing favour with them. Or she would be remembered as the dirty old lady who stooped to conquer her dissolute children by pimping for them.