Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Ah! What a Story!

If you think journalism is made of sweat and tears, you are wrong.
If you think hard-hitting, eye-opening, heart-wrenching, soul-stirring, mind-numbing stories are a result of endless nosing, posing, poking, pricking by passionate, possessed journalists, you are, sorry to say, again wrong.
'Great' stories, (I am increasingly convinced), are made of sassy street smartness.
And as proof, dear all, I present this email I just received.
It is written by an editor of a magazine that targets British women. What Sam the Editor would like as a hot selling cover to shake up dull September is the 'true' story of sexual exploitation and repression of women in backward countries like India.
He has the story. All he needs now, well, is The Story.
And this is how he goes about getting it. (Those in italics are his words, word-to-word)

ON STORY IDEA:
what follows is a brief description of the Devadasi story I'm
working on. What I need is a good local female reporter to accompany XXX in
Karnataka as soon as possible. I'd like to be able to hand the story over to the
reporter, with the following description of what I need, and pretty much let her
get on with it. The following BBC link, despite being a little dull in the first
few pars, is a fairly good example of how I'd like to tackle the temple
prostitutes story -
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6729927.stm
Now we know where he got the inspiration from!

ON THE SUBJECT:
The story will be aimed at a British women's magazine, so the
requirements are fairly precise. I need to find a young (girl or woman under 30)
devadasi or former devadasi who has been forced into prostitution and is
prepared to talk about it and have photos taken. Frankly, the more chilling and
exploitative her life has been, the better the story will be.


Go on, Sir Sam. Shake us.

ON THE CONTENT
While there will be an opportunity to explore the general issue
of Devadasi's, the story needs to be centred around one person and have a lot of
quotes.

The girl will need to explain how and
at what age she was sold into prostitution, when she lost her virginity, how
much money she charged (and how much she kept and who took the rest). She will
need to recount tales of abuse and talk of her hopes for the future. Does she
see a light at the end of the tunnel? Does she hope to break with the Devadasi
tradition and one day get married? And so on... I'll come up with more precise
questions and angles later, if needed. The story will need to be hard hitting.
The more detail and personal recollections, the better.
Oh please, please, let me answer. I was sold at two. I lost my virginity at eight. I am forced to have sex for free. All the money is taken by the priest. No, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. No, I don't hope to break free. No, no one will marry me. I hate the society I live in.
oooo...lovely quotes!

ON TIME TAKEN TO INVESTIGATE THE STORY
I'd like a reporter to start work on the story asap. XXX will
fly down to Karnataka as soon as everything is in place, so everything will need
to be set up in advance. I'll want to know what the girl's story is before XXX
gets on a plane, so that I know we're going to get what's needed. It might even
make sense for the reporter to do the whole interview and file copy before XXX
comes down.

There may also be an opportunity to
do a story on women who get their head shaved at the Manjunath Swamy temple at
Dharamsthala, Karnataka at the same time, meaning two stories on the same
trip.
Ah...that makes a lot of sense.

Now British ladies who thought India to be a land of cow and cow dung-ridden streets, calm swamis and wild sadhus, chattering monkeys and crying children, will know a little more of India. Like about its Devadasis. All thanks to the insightful and incisive reporting done by Mr Sam.

How smart! Oh, how bloody smart!

(I am not writing this because I feel that writing poorly about India is bad. Yes, there are Devadasis in Karnataka. Yes, they lead miserable lives. And yes, we should be ashamed that we allow such debauchery to exist.
But what I completely object to is the way the journalist is going about getting the story. This is not a one-off case, this is the norm in journalism as it exists today. I recall how, even for a pothole story, my chief reporter knew what and how the article should come out, even before I stepped out to do the story.
This email reminded me of the reasons why I quit journalism. And lost my faith in it.)

Monday, 13 August 2007

The end of Potter



I know I should be disowned by the Potter Fan Club for catching up with the final sequel - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - so late (22 days post-launch to be precise) but I solemnly swear by Merlin's Pants that I spent the entire Sunday tucked under my blanket, clutching to HP and being thoroughly useless to my family. I didn't have a bath, had lunch on bed, grunted at friends who called for a lazy weekend chat and forgot to comb my hair.

So hopefully, I qualify again.

Loved the book. Hated the Epilogue.

I always felt this book is NOT a children's book, and as much as I love Potter, it irked me when seven year olds went gaga over the book even before its launch. I'd rather they read Narayan or Raold Dahl or Ruskin Bond than HP and have their innocence dented.

Why I mention this is because the epilogue strengthened this belief. The ending was made for adults, revealing things that adults would be interested in. Like, post nineteen years, how everyone turns up.

I doubt if children have that kind of curiousity. I didn't, I would still have my Nancy Drew as eighteen, even though I started reading her stories when I was 12 and now am fighting 30. I dread thinking of her as a 37 year old mother of three. The same holds with Potter too. Imagine knowing him all along as a teenager, and suddenly the entire image of a schoolboy comes crashing down to make space for a head of family in his 30s.

Very disappointing! In that one change of chapter, I felt like a convict just released after 15 years in prison, to find the world changed and children all grown up.

Tragic.