petervas

India Shining

In Media on November 13, 2012 at 10:13 pm

When a father hands over an infant to the mother, she instinctly checks to see if the diapers are soiled.  This is irrespective of how clean the child or the diaper may appear from the outside.

The mother does not curse the child for soiling the diaper. She just goes about giving him or her a good cleaning and a new diaper.  It’s called the Art of the Diaper Change.  I am kidding.  It’s got no name, or probably only referred to as a diaper change.  It results in a quick, reflexive and instinctive action from the mother and it does the baby a lot of good.

By shining the flashlight on India’s underbelly, we are looking to see if India’s diapers are soiled and if it needs a diaper change.  It’s a huge country, and truth be told, there’s a lot of something that demands we take a fire hose to it!  But to be blind to the blight by calling it India Shining instead, is to do the nation great disservice as we have not even checked to see if the country is wearing anything that prevents a toxic dump on it’s citizens.  Such selective blindness only indicates to all that you have accepted this condition.  That it is normal within your field of vision, to encounter such decay.  And hence such rot will spread right in front of your blind eye.  Such tag-lines shift the focus from the much needed task of development.  You cannot let the Indian government off the hook this easily.  Such tag-lines are not pats-on-the-back, it’s a resignation to enough-good-has-been-done-by-you, now let’s retire and watch some cricket.

When Prathap Suthan, National Creative Director with Grey Worldwide (India) advertising agency, came up with the tagline India Shining, for a 60-second video produced by the BJP-led government, little did he realize it’s political potential.  The tagline became very popular in the early 2000 as a direct mental hook into the advances made by the BJP-led government.  They wanted to highlight the steps they took to boost economic growth, slash interest rates, stabilise prices, expand road and telecom and health networks, and offer free basic education.  It is ironic that the current Congress chief had this to say back then:

“It may be shining for some in the government but definitely not for entire India” retorted Congress president Sonia Gandhi

Ironic because the baby’s soiled diapers were equally neglected by both parties, or should we say neglected by both parents?  There was no diaper change for this country in the offing.  It actually seems to have gotten worse as the media reports one too many rotten areas.  They are dishing out the dirt on India faster than we can solve our Sudoku.  Is the situation really bad and did it get this rotten overnight?  Or sensationalism demands that only negative news be covered for the headlines?  Why is the underbelly on display?  Please!  let me have my breakfast in peace!

If you grimmace at the underbelly because you are not used to being exposed to those nether regions of our nation, then brace yourself because things are changing.  The negatives need not be sensational all of the time.

There is now a thoughtful, methodical and sustained journalism covering a part of the Indian social fabric not used to the searing spotlights.  Social media adds to it’s sustenance, wider reach and intimacy through dialog.

You will now be exposed to areas you have conveniently turned a blind eye to.  Like the woman in the picture, the light may be blinding at first.  We will have to also remember the audience is no longer India.  The stage is global now.

The report is gutsy and it’s no longer about Bengal tigers, snake charmers and half-naked fakirs with evil intentions, meant to confirm to the retired western armchair hunter what he always knew was true about India.  It’s the truth about India, and it’s very different.

I know the Indian media is doing a fairly decent job in not messing up your crumpets and tea moment.  Who would want to read about poverty levels being set at Rs. 32 a day while your steaming breakfast this morning demands you think the lotus and feel the lotus.  The reader is the lotus after all and is immune to the dirty pond he is in.  Nope, not sufficiently sensational enough, we complain, if the news is not sensational and bores us with sustained coverage of a Dharavi slum education programme, for instance.  We have been receiving our daily dose of Breaking News, that sensationalizes because thats the best it could do with cub reporters on one hand and a dull reader that demands nothing else on the other.   The news reporter no longer thinks of himself as an agent provocateur or an agent of change.  Those ideals have lost their meaning in the clamor for ratings and advertisement revenues.  The news paper has simply become a massive real estate for the highest bidder.

They are in need of a serious revival in approach, or the most important tool for social change in India will be lost forever.

Those days of reading insipid news are numbered however.  There appears to be dramatic changes in what we see and hear in the media.  We have given access to foreign media to cover this changing landscape of ours and they are doing a fine job.  Indian media has taken a cue and is changing rapidly too.  Social media has given rise to an unprecedented feedback mechanism where the journalist and the reader feel well connected.  It has also become a spot for some serious cross-pollination of ideas from assorted networks.  The reader has become media savvy and socially conscious at the same time.  Middle-class India now has the right tools to make it’s chronic complaints heard.

The foreign news media will introduce it’s media savvy reporters into the mix.  These guys have a keen sense of western sensibilities, which allows them to be aggressive in coverage, scathing in their uncompromising observations.  They have no strings attached to other social intricacies that otherwise limit opinions and viewpoints to the point of dishing out a bland filler.  They will fish out stories you never heard about or could only fathom if Aamir Khan dished it out with a box of Kleenex.

Welcome to the underbelly.  There has never been a shining moment like right now!




Additional notes:

  1. European media: From India shining to India tarnished

 
 
 

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