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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Obstructive Newsgathering

Aaj Tak logoIt might be an aftereffect of what the television news media had been feeding me for so long, usually against my wishes. I normally avoid getting angry or more precisely, expressing my ire. But when obstructive stupidity gets out of hand I can barely contain myself. The same happened yesterday.

After a long day at work I boarded a bus, which the internet had told me a few hours ago was the maiden run of the Uttar Pradesh Transport Corporation operated Nodia-Delhi city bus service. Since not many were aware of that, the bus was relatively empty and I easily got a seat (though not a coveted window seat). "Good," I thought, "I'll reach Connaught Place early and comfortably to catch a connecting bus to a friend's place." Thanks to our dear obstructive media it was not to be.

The bus came to a halt near the Akshardham Temple (a perfect example of how much money some Indians can spare in the name of religion). Minutes ticked by and I couldn't make out anything as there was a crowd near the front door and I didn't want to stand up and have a look, lest I lose my seat (the bus was quite crowded by that time). More minutes went by and I asked someone at the front what was happening. I heard the words "Aaj Tak." I waited. The longest hand in my wrist watch took a few more rounds. I began to lose my patience and then the perpetrators came into the picture, for a few more bites from passengers inside the bus. A frail looking journalist wielding a microphone with Aaj Tak and sister-channel logos, accompanied by a somewhat lost looking cameraperson with a compact video camera (they might have the features, but size does matter for that professional look).

Now I could see the driver. I asked him to start the bus, as people were getting late. He responded in a warning tone, "TV waale hain (these are TV people)" "To kya? (So what)," I asked. "Yahan logon ko late ho raha hain (People are getting late here)." I could hear some voices in my support from the rear. She tried to dissuade without success the aggravated voices saying that it was a historic journey that we were undertaking and the people needed to know about this. "Don't stop the bus for that," I retorted. The reporter got offended and asked me not to interfere as she was doing her duty. At which the long-asleep idealistic trained journalist within me awoke and asserted the fact that I too knew what journalism was and what are the duties and more importantly the rights of journalists.

Journalists are immune to public anger, I know that. The two, visibly shaken, were still reluctant to disembark or let the bus ply. The driver was too dazzled by the media interest in his bus. Then I used the old trick that usually works in a city (and country) that runs on connections. A call to another journo pal making some threatening noises put the bus back in gear. The newsgatherers disappeared and I reached my destination. Late.

So long we only had VIP movements delaying citizens. Now we also have media activity. This reminds me of an old post

...there was a minor fire in a building opposite my office; OB vans with logos of news channels proudly emblazoned on the sides eat up the road space (otherwise a no parking zone), the first right over which belong to the fire tenders responding to the emergency. As I narrate this irresponsibility to my flatmate, he quips, "All new constructions will not only have to be disabled friendly, but also OB van friendly."

And on an entirely different note, Shillong, my hometown, added another laurel to her cap. This time it's a world record. Though I'm blogging about this late (and in fact I published this post last night even without completing it. Continuing from where I left), I would like to share the news. Here's The Shillong Times story:
Finally, Meghalaya drummed to the Guinness Book of World Records by assembling 7,951 drummers to break the previous record of largest drum ensemble.

Drummers from all over the North East assembled at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Polo Grounds here on Saturday afternoon with the initiative of Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum and broke the world record drumbeat earlier held by Po Leung Kuk from Hong Kong.

As per Guinness Book of World Records guidelines, the minimum duration for the drumbeat is five minutes with a rhythm. However, the drumbeat at Polo Grounds lasted for at least 20 minutes. Local musician Rudy Wahlang conducted the drumbeat with a tune.

The previous record holder is Po Leung who assembled 7,724 drummers in February 20, 2005 breaking the earlier record of 4374 drummers held by Grammy Award winner Mickey Hart in California in 2004. Indian tabla maestro Zakir Hussain had also performed together with Mickey Hart in the past.

The crowd gathered at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday afternoon rejoiced after the adjudicator Michael Sean Whitty from Guinness Book of World Records announced that Meghalaya entered into the Book.

The largest drum ensemble has made Meghalaya, North East and the entire country proud, the organisers said.

The minor disappointment with the public was that they could not cross the 8,000 mark as was targetted originally.

The drumbeat was part of the one-week Autumn Festival organized by the MTDF, an organisation promoting tourism in Meghalaya.

Mr Whitty from Guinnes Book of World Records said that this was a great moment of joy for the people of India.

Michael said the drummers here fulfilled the criteria with a rhythm that lasted for more than five minutes with the participation of 7,951 people.

The expectations of the people were fulfilled and a world record is created. "This is a proud moment for all," said Michael.

It was after the hard work of at least three months that Meghalaya could make it to the Guinness Book of World Records.

The efforts of MTDF to create the world record were not free from criticism. Some critics had earlier pointed out that traditional drums should have been used for the drumbeat.

There was also vilification campaign by vested interests by way of distributing pamphlets, which said that the drumbeat was the act of devil.

However, the public has proved on Saturday that there are few takers of this mischievous campaign. Young and old including students participated in the heart warming show.

Though this is first time that Meghalaya as a whole is entering the world record in drumbeat, Meghalaya's James Syiemiong had entered into world record in two categories-by making world's highest heeled shoes and maximum number of cracks with joints of body parts.

The aim of MTDF in arranging the largest gathering of drummers was to make Shillong and North East a happening place, said Chairman of MTDF RG Lyngdoh who is also state Tourism Minister.

He urged the people to have positive mindset and tolerance so that there will be tourist flow to the state.

The BBC has a nice photo feature on the event (do read the accompanying text).

And there's an interesting shoemaker from Shillong who also holds a few records.


dwaipayan said...

what about shillong?? Idiot , how could u keep us in suspense.. it's not a damn thirller!!

dwaipayan said... it is

I spoil ur surprise!!!

San said...

Then I used the old trick that usually works in a city (and country) that runs on connections. A call to another journo pal making some threatening noises put the bus back in gear.

ah hero of the day ey :)

Soumyadip said...

Dwaipayan (Comments 1&2) I forgot to complete the post. It's completed now. And I know where you picked the BBC link from.

San The passengers also made me feel like one. Loha lohe ko kattha hain - it takes one to fix another.