Monday, July 19, 2010

Tamil Newspapers and their news priorities

While I buy 'The Times of India' newspaper for national news, I buy a Tamil newspaper to get to know what is happening around me. The Tamil newspaper ' Daily Thanthi' costs more than the Times. However, it has less number of pages than the Times. The print quality is pretty good and a lot of colour is used. There are more advertisements than what Chennai edition of the Times manages to get. The most important thing to note is that Daily Thanthi is one of the highest circulated vernacular newspapers in the country. Now let us see what constitutes 'News' as far as this paper is concerned.

The front page news invariably is about the state of Tamilnadu. Right now, there is an investigation going on into the duplicate mark sheet scandal. On the 15th July, this was the main front page news. The only other news on the front page was the police firing in Andhra Pradesh and the consequent death of 4 agitating fishermen.The rest of the front page is dotted with colourful advertisements .

In the inner pages, considerable space was devoted on the above date to the following news items. 1. Life term punishment to the Bangalore woman who murdered her fiance with the help of her lover eight years ago. There is a large colour photo of the grim-looking woman published. 2.Arrest of the clever real estate owner who succeeded in selling Govt. lands to a Govt.-owned oil company. Photo of the clever man published. 3.Large photo of actor Sarath Kumar seeking the blessings of the chief minister of Tamilnadu on the former's birthday. In the photo, the actor is smiling broadly, his wife Radhika is smiling more broadly and the C.M. is almost laughing. 4.Half of page 5 is devoted to the speech given by the owner of the newspaper at the inaugural ceremony of a 3-star hotel at Tiruchendur in South Tamilnadu. 5.Suicide of a Kannada film actor after murdering his wife.Photo of the actor and his wife taken in better days published. 6.Arrest of more persons in the case involving corrupt chief engineer of Tamilnadu Electricity Board. (Photo, though not in colour, of the corrupt chief engineer and his corrupt deputy.) 6.Arrest of the married lover of a murdered woman on charges of homicide. (Photo of the married lover-boy turned murderer published).7. The editorial page has an editorial questioning the Govt.'s choice of the persons for Republic day awards. But three times the space given to the said editorial has been given to what the chief minister Mr.Karunanidhi has written in his party's newspaper 'Murasoli' attacking the opposition leader Ms.Jayalalitha in chaste Tamil.

If I have not listed any major national news ( not considering the judgement on Bangalore woman and the suicide of Kannada actor as neither national nor very major) among the seven items mentioned above, the fault is not mine. There is very little national news in this newspaper. There are three or four national news items ( BJP protest against Karnataka Governor, Manmohan Singh's speech on Naxalites etc.) but tucked in some corner of inner sheets. Of course, those readers hungry for national news can locate them with some effort. And some sports news, stock market news etc. too are found.

One should not forget that this newspaper has its fingers on the pulse of its readers who constitute a substantial percentage of the state's population. So, assuming that the paper gives what its readers want , people 's primary interest is what happens in the immediate surroundings of theirs. Say, within a radius of some 250 to 300kms from their home. This must be true about people in other states of the country as well; and about regional newspapers in other parts of the country too. Murders most foul, the police catching the murderers, the background of the murder, major thefts in the locality, film actors' real life affairs and other extra-curricular activities, Sex Sanyasis, their extra-religious but juicy escapades.......... these are what sustain people's interest and the readers get their 'paisa vasool' if the newspapers sprinkle such news liberally and make them well-spiced. Economy, GDP, Indo-Pak dialogue, Afghanistan, global warming, Maoists ....... these must be happening in another planet, a million kilometres away from where the readers live in flesh and blood. Are the English newspapers listening?

Paranormal Activity

Recently I watched the English movie " Paranormal Activity". I understand that the movie has been shot with a shoe-string budget. No recognizable actors. No superb cinematography. But the effect the movie creates on the viewer is terrific. The fear that we all have, at least most of us have, for entities that are not human has been well-exploited. I do not remember to have seen any thriller or horror movie in which suggestion that something sinister is about to happen is used so effectively. There are two endings in the DVD. I do not know which ending the movie screened in cinema halls has. But the DVD gives you a choice. Though both the endings are tragic, one is more dramatic while the other is slightly less stomach-churning. I strongly recommend that you see the movie. But there is a strong possibility that if you see the movie late night, then the hours following the end of the movie will see you sleepless, avoiding looking directly at every shadow that appears on the window glass of your bed room .

Turkey- a slice of my experiences

I had done quite a bit of research on the net prior to my trip to Istanbul. I had even identified an Indian restaurant in Istanbul, since finding a restaurant for vegetarian food is quite a task while travelling anywhere outside India. I had informed myself about how the taxi drivers in Istanbul used a novel method to cheat the tourists. I had noted carefully how Turkish Lira had undergone three changes in the last 5 years. But the real life experiences do not exactly go the way one had prepared oneself for. Well, not all surprises are unpleasant !

Actually, Turkey is well-known for its Mediterranean cuisine. It has plenty of vegetables and fruits in it, besides olive oil. But Mediterranean cuisine is more common in places like Antalya than Istanbul. Nevertheless, I identified a Turkish vegetarian restaurant in Istiklal Caddessi area of Istanbul. I could have gone to the Indian Restaurant Musafir easily. But I was more interested in eating vegetarian food in an authentic Turkish Restaurant. And I did find one small joint after some enquiries in that area. I was not in for disappointment. What the restaurant called Vegetarian Plate had tomato soup, rice( a bit sticky ), brinjhal , some green salad, a loaf of bread and a sweet. Finally Turkish coffee. Very satisfactory evening. While in Antalya, I had it much easier. Every lunch or dinner I had in the hotel had plenty of green salad, cooked vegetables , nuts, fruits etc. Besides, of course delicious Turkish sweets.

But the taxi drivers proved more cunning than what the Internet had informed me. I had read on certain travel websites that the taxi drivers used to cheat the tourists, taking advantage of the similarity in appearances between the 5 lira currency note and the 50 lira one. When the passenger gives the driver a 50 lira note, the latter instead of giving the balance claims that the passenger had given only a 5 lira note and shows a 5 lira note. The 50 lira note very quickly had vanished into the driver's pocket and equally quickly a 5 lira note appears in its place in the driver's hand.The tourists try to argue but finally get tired enough to shell out the taxi fare once more. There are dozens of complaints of this nature in the said travel websites. But what happened to me was something entirely different. Tired after a visit to the museums in the far-away Sultanahmet area of Istanbul, I decided to hire a taxi to reach my hotel which was in the Taksim Square. The driver at the very outset made it clear that he would not be switching on the meter and would be charging 25 Lira since the traffic, according to him, was heavy that day. I agreed and got into the taxi. The driver appeared friendly and even identified me correctly as Indian. He kept chatting about the chaotic traffic in Istanbul; it was another matter that I did not find the traffic in Istanbul half as chaotic as in Mumbai. Finally when the taxi reached Taksim , I paid him the agreed 25 Lira. He got furious and said that what we had agreed was 35 lira. I heard it as 45 lira and asked him " 45? no, we agreed on 25". He replied " I am not asking for 45, but just 35." He was pronouncing 25, 35 and 45 in an identical way. I think that it was deliberate on his part. Then he showed the meter which he earlier had said he had no intention of switching on ; the meter showed 40. I had no choice. Heads or tails, the driver wins. I paid 35 lira and got out red-faced. So, the drivers in Istanbul can beat you in the game of taxi fare whatever be your preparation.