Thursday, April 15, 2010

Views, not news

It’s a beautiful sunny morning. i settle down with my morning cuppa and pick up the newspapers to glance through them. This is probably my 259th attempt at making a habit of reading the newspapers. After all i’ve woken up every morning of my life with my dad sitting with his paper and morning tea and now my spouse is no different (except that he likes coffee).

A little background to the failed attempts. For one, newspapers aren’t an ideal size for comfortable reading. There are too big to fit into my lap so i can’t snuggle in my sofa and read them. i have to stretch my arms wide or resort to the dining table. (silly reason but i shall please myself) Also, i’ve somehow not been happy with the idea of starting the day with newspapers. (guess there are 2 ways to react to things that you see since childhood - you take it as a way of life or reject it as a way of life!) Wouldn’t there be a better way to start the day than to bolt for the newspaper after a cursory nod for a good morning? Maybe with a cheerful good morning to others in the family and catching up with them before moving on with the day with positive vibes from our loved ones ? i've had my parents lecture me all my life about how good a habit it is to read newspapers. And like everything else that is imposed, I dislike the idea. (Who loves to do things that parents' lectures insist are important for survival in life!)

Back to my beautiful morning. i look at the front page and the headlines scream at me about some scam a respected politician is found to be involved in. Sighing wistfully, i move to the bottom of the page only to be told that a 12 yr old girl was being repeated raped by her cousin and 9 others for over 2 yrs. Horrified, i move on to page 2 and read that the city lost millions of litres of water because a couple of pipes burst in the city and the administration had not yet taken any action about it. i am, by now, done with yet another attempt of being among newspapers readers in the morning.

There is something about news that is repulsive to me. It's no longer what it used to be or what it's supposed to be. The story isn’t any different on television - for instance when hubby darling wants to catch up with news during dinner. The stories on the idiot box can put any Ramu thriller to shame! As if it’s not gory enough that an 11-day old infant is stoned to death in Kashmir, the story begins with special effects with shots of a mob on half of the screen and an innocent child on the second half. Is it one against the other? Can’t we just report it as it happened? Do we need to be shown repeated shots of mobs pelting stones and the mother in tears? Repeated shots of a minister kicking a party worker while the bloodied man lies helpless on the floor is another case in point. Am done with my dinner already!!

Coming back to newspapers, i guess they were a nice way to start the day in yesteryears when news was reported and not written to entertain, scandalise or shock. Reporters didn’t go nosing around to find newsworthy items. They had enough sensible stuff that a common man would want to know. There weren’t too many supplements to fill and crime wasn’t the daal-roti of news presenters. News items had credibility and the writing, a sense of style. Newspapers were just that and not a magazine that cover a variety of topics to ensure broadest readership with no depth.

As for me, i am very happy banking on my spouse, who is a regular, for my occasional dose of "The world at 8!". And i am thrilled whenever i hear him say, "it's there in the papers today". i know i have the newspaper intelligence in my life without having to read it!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quick trip down the memory lane....

When was the last time you looked up for a word meaning in the dictionary? You can take a minute to recall. Honestly, i don’t remember my last time!

i just finished reading a fantastic book on the craft of writing by William Zinsser. One of the important things, William says, a writer should do is to frequently dip into a thesaurus to find the exact word for a given context. i brought out my thesaurus to look up a word. And this is where my musing over the charm of the old world began. It was truly nostalgic to turn pages of a huge volume of Roget’s thesaurus and chant alphabets in my mind while looking up a word!

Wow! This is how i’ve looked up words all my life. i didn’t even realise when this wonderful habit of school days was replaced by online dictionary and thesaurus. It’s so convenient to google a word and look at the limited meanings a website chooses to throw up. For me, it’s simply ‘right click’ and ‘look up word in dictionary’ from the set of options that show up on my Mac. It suffices for the current need and i move on with my writing. The transition from holding words in my hands to mechanically hacking away at the keyboard, just because it is quick, seems to be so seamless.

i guess it’s the same with reading. We have become prolific online readers. Carrying a book is passé. Welcome wi-fi-enabled cellphones, ipods and other devices equipped to let you read any topic under the sun on the world wide web. The latest - Online Library - will ensure that the next generation gets to see libraries only in museums! Thankfully, online reading isn’t very appealing to me. i can’t spend hours online wading through the tangle of links. i still miss my books and go back to them often. In fact, feel guilty that i don’t read regularly enough.

i don’t think i need to even invoke personal touch of the snail mail lest i get carried away too far and you guys decide to bypass my memory lane. Though it does seem incredible now to think of having written reams to my best friend in college days. Hah! Just pick up the phone today and talk to her wherever she is! Simple! From entertainment to academics to business, technology has pervaded all!

Technology is great but are we losing the fun and innocence of the old world? Is it so difficult to occasionally tune the radio to our favourite channel? (I don’t mean the FM in your mobile phone, silly!) Or just log out of the websites, switch off your laptop and go talk to your neighbour. At least find out who lives next door. Pullout snake and ladder and roll the dice.

Or just look up the dictionary!