Thoughts

The irresistible charm of music (a repost)

There is just one thing that philosophers from various schools of thought and inclinations agree upon. It is the questions that they collectively ask, questions that arise from philosophical ruminations. The topic of these questions range from life, universe, God, existence, behavior, dreams and cover just about everything a human mind is capable of inquiring about. The nature of such questions are universal in nature, in the sense that they don’t discriminate between instances. Questions about existence, for example, applies to all individuals equally. The same goes for enquiry into the metaphysical aspects of an emotion, say love between two individuals, the same question applies to both the parties involved, or the whole population.

This plethora of questions has kept on piling up, forcing mankind, starving for answers to take refuge in science, faith, religion and such systems of well structured beliefs. The reason why we have failed to address these questions in a satisfactory way lies in the conflicting premises of these questions and their probable answers. The questions may be universal, but the answers as it is more or less established are existential in nature. Philosophers who have attempted to create an universal model have usually failed. This unique combination, however; brings to the arena the human endeavor of art. Art fits so well in this situation that the lines between art and philosophy have been flimsy since the earliest known civilizations.

Art, in its various forms attempts to answer the philosophical questions but it does that by taking a path that is not straightforward. The artist tenders the answers for mass consumption but stops short from getting down to the details, the intention and thesis is neither defined nor defended. This indirect approach makes art susceptible to attack from the philistines and fundamentalists, alike. On the other hand, this circuitous nature of the presentation allows the individual to investigate further without external aid, it acts as a guidance on the path to discovery of the answers to the posed questions, paradoxes and dilemma. The individualistic aspect of art might explain our fascination for it, a fascination that has pervaded time and space. To further elaborate on the idea, let’s take a painting and its import on the individual. It might evoke a feeling of longing, act as an exposition of love for one, while another person may derive a sense of peace, or an answer to the question on the apparent futility of existence.

Comprehension is essentially a sensory phenomenon, or at least it is stimulated by the senses. The wise men and seers may advocate detachment from senses and urge us to inculcate a method of understanding that comes from insulated meditation. What they also say, which is usually found in subtext is you need to envisage the world with enough lucidity as presented to you through the senses to appreciate the inadequacy of the sensory perception.

Art in its attempt to come up with answers to the eternal questions appeals to the senses, at least at the first glance. The purpose is half fulfilled in this appeal, as it triggers the latent sensibilities and inchoate profundity present in every human. What follows then is the path taken by the individual beyond the realms of physiological limitations of the senses and psychological limitations of a cognitive mind. This realm is visceral, a personal space that obliterates the existence of everything else, one that transcends the conditioning received over ages, it is that world within that defines the essence of the individual or soul as the romantics and poets would prefer to call.

Most forms of art are about visualization, they are meant for the eyes and even if it is not the case, they would require one to keep the eyes open. The intended transport to the surreal world happens with intermittent closing of the external eyes and opening of inner ones. But it is still intermittent, one can’t get away without the visuals and in this process one is inadvertently aware of the external world thereby impeding one in the unobstructed flight, the dive into the soul.

Music may be the only art that doesn’t rely on eyes for perception, it actually demands the listener to close the eyes and feel the art. As soon as we do that, we are cutting off the rest of the world, people around us, emotions we struggle with and the questions that confound us. The quest is expedited by the prerequisite. It’s easy to critique or discuss a painting, a book, a poem, dance, sculpture and almost about every possible form of art, because the critic visualizes the piece in juxtaposition to the external or peripheral reality. Thus the criticism is understood by masses since they also perceive it in similar circumstances, similarly a discussion on a piece of art remains pertinent. When it comes to music, and here we might leave out the lyrics which might require a rephrase. So, when it comes to pure music it’s almost impossible to critique, discuss, analyze or do anything that might require others to be in the same plane as you, or having the same perception as yours. At the best, one may only give the verdict, that the piece of music is good or it is not. Equally impossible it is to find a person who doesn’t enjoy music.

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Thoughts

The art of storytelling (a repost)

Stories are no less living than the ones who tell them. I say “tell” because in the days that I am writing about in this post, people mostly told stories. Writing was considered as killing the essence, the free spirit that defined the beauty of a tale. This spirit dictates how it panes out, how it varies with a new teller, even with the same person every time it gets narrated, the place, crowd and such circumstances in which it is reenacted.

I came across a reference to the lost art of Urdu storytelling called dastangoi. What piqued my interest is the fact that Urdu is famous for the inimitable poetry ever written or ever will be. Dastangoi is a Persian word, dastan meaning tale and with suffix goi it translates to “tell a tale”.

A dastan, like an epic has elements of adventure, bravery, beauty, romance, magic, treachery to name a few, but the plots are linear and usually predictable. The beauty of a tale is not in its outset, the events that follow or the conclusion, but in the imagery. For instance, illustrations of a war scene may involve how the hero makes entrance, the colour of the sky and the war-torn soil, the sounds of the running horses, clash of shining swords and the smell of spilt blood infusing a wave of bravado in the most disinterested soldier. No other language fits this requirement more than Urdu, which with its poetic inclinations allow the storyteller to embellish a trivial event, or say, to romanticize the look exchanged between the protagonists for hours. The language and astute usage of the rich words enables the teller to weave a mesmerizing maze that you won’t want to escape.

The history of dastangoi is as interesting as the art itself. Though many readers will question its authenticity, the great Urdu poets always looked at history with disdain. They wanted stories to continue evolving, with every new generation adding more illustrious sub plots, new ways of gilding the oft cited with mellifluous Urdu harf.
In a way, the great tales are no different from life itself, it’s a pity that we think it’s the same tale that is being narrated over ages whereas life is beyond our control and we just need to bear with it as it unfolds.

Further reading: dastangoi.blogspot.in

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Thoughts

What makes India famous

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J&K Map complete

Ever since the abrogation of article 370, I have come across a full spectrum of opinion on the matter of Kashmir. I knew that my opinion on the subject will not bring anything new on the plate, also it’s not a plate anymore but has becomes as big as an Indian Thali. However, the urge to write something on the matter couldn’t be easily dealt with, not even by writing a poem, yet another poem that is. So, stuck in the famous Bangalore traffic, I started thinking on what to write. Like most non-fiction, the writer doesn’t come up with something novel in terms of facts and figures, the novelty lies in the interpretations, assumptions and conclusions. A rambling mind is not well suited to write such structured material, so I end up wondering about the essence of India, is there a definitive story, a categorical history, or say is India still famous for what it was fifty years back, or say five years back. The political picture has definitely changed, with leftist and centrist parties turning out damp squibs in the elections. The economical picture has also undergone changes, albeit not as dramatic as the political version. The social picture is the one which has most of the inertia, but everyone wishes it changes to more coherency and cooperation. But we won’t discuss these, instead we will go over, yet again, on what is India famous for.

Some might say, given the topic is hot, it is Kashmir; and they wont be wrong. But for me, as I grew up, Kashmir was just in the movies and the Led Zep song. Academically it was always Jammu and Kashmir. The fact that a large part of it was occupied by Pakistan and another by China was a revelation in the school years, a sad one too because without these parts the map of India looks like a bald man. It is not an internal matter or a bilateral matter as we have been reading in the Media. With the involvement of China, partly due its own endeavors and partly because of Pakistan handing over a piece, it becomes a trilateral issue, and therefore even more interesting. But Kashmir is a dreamy place even for most of India’s citizens, it’s more of a matter of geopolitics, a matter of nationalism, and India is big, it has other things that it is famous for.

 

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Taj Mahal, for instance has been the top of the top 10 lists for everyone. It is worth a visit too, especially for that moment when you enter and the raw beauty of the monument hits you. Even for the most unromantic, it stirs those alien feelings that can only be admitted in confidence. At least that’s what I thought of the top ten nature of the beautiful Taj Mahal before I searched for the top ten lists, and came across another revelation. Beauty has apparently given way to the raw, abject and disturbing reality of the Dharavi slums. It is easy and comes to us naturally to relate with the rich art and structure and romanticism of Taj Mahal but the slums are a revelation, and anything that disturbs us attracts us viscerally. Surprisingly, slum tourism is not just enjoyed by the foreign tourists but also by Indians, many of whom have never been in, or seen a slum. These people were born in what were once small towns, studied engineering or medical for that is what they were allowed to study, and given that engineering was easier, most have become the engineers that throng India’s IT and BPO industry. Being one of them, and not that I have been on one of the slum tours, and not that I am not interested in one, I can gauge why it’s sought after. For the aftertaste that it must leave, you can’t help feeling thankful for everything you have when you witnesses misery of others.

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But is India famous for its IT engineers. There is global recognition of the talent for sure, especially when the corporates do the maths of ROI. Indian engineers are the least expensive in terms of compensation when compared with their American, European, Chinese or Israeli counterparts. They are also good at English, a skill that comes in handy when communication has become important with teams scattered all over the globe. So the jobs have kept pouring in and the middle class has risen. These are the white money making, tax paying and therefore the new moderately rich class with a clean conscience. The rise however comes at a cost of stress, the sedentary lifestyles leads to diseases, and not just the physiological ones. As a result, many of neo middle class seek guidance and gurus, mysticism is now a domestic industry and not just consumed by the foreigners.

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Gurus have been defining the image of India for as far as you can see back in the past. They have created an image that is full of wisdom, contentment and minimalism. But they have not spoken anything that one didn’t know, especially one with the minimum amount of sense and sensibility that defines a human being. The reason why the gurus are popular, is as simple as the reason why common sense when extolled and delivered as an epiphany by a smiling and seemingly content orator, seems like a divine disclosure. It is the same divinity that Indians are now searching for, probably more than the foreigners these days. But it was not Gyan that attracted the foreigners in the old days to India, it was ganja.

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With most of the rich west suffering from drug abuse and issues, the governments banned all narcotic drugs as early as the 40s. Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report, completed in 1894 however; established that recreational and regulated use of cannabis was beneficial. India, happily, went on with that report till 1961 when the UN treaty was forced upon them, which clubbed cannabis production and trade along with heavier drugs. However, the treaty applied to the flowering and the fruiting tops of the plant, also, it gave India 25 years to implement the ban. For 25 years, it was the ganja that ruled till a law was passed in 1985. But there was a caveat, as long as it is the leaves and the seeds that was consumed it was still legal to smoke, or drink bhang. Malana cream from the village of the same name is still considered the best hash available in the world, with its price skyrocketing in the Amsterdam cafes. Given that the US was the biggest mouth in the 1961 treaty, and India its stern opposer, it comes as a surprise now to Indians that many states in the US are now allowing the recreational use of marijuana. Laws made by governments however never made sense, and lie at the opposite end of the rules propounded by the gurus which make so much sense that they seem redundant.

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The alcohol laws in India for instance seem to have been written under the influence of the subject matter. First and foremost, alcohol is one of the few laws that don’t have a federal uniformity. The laws vary between state to state, with some banning it completely to others where only the state is allowed to sell. The legal age to drink alcohol has its own stories ranging from 18 to 25 years. So, in some states 18 year olds are considered mature enough to vote and choose the government but not mature to hold their drinks. Maharashtra outshines other states with different legal ages for different drinks. Wine can be consumed by anyone, beer if you are 21 or above and all other liquor only if you are 25. Maharashtra produces the best wine in the country, Sula, so yeah it makes sense that everyone in the state gets to have a taste. But is India known for its alcohol? Probably not, unless if you have been fortunate to have come across Old Monk. It is losing its popularity over time though. However, it was the iconic molasses rum produced in India that served as the fuel to cash crunched students, leftists, revolutionaries and government employees. It fueled revolutionary ideas and determination but didn’t leave a hangover, either of the alcohol or the ideas, and the next morning you went on to your classes or jobs with renewed vigor.

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Now that I read this long post, I feel I got carried away with the intoxicating love for my country. What makes India famous might actually be something as simple and as obvious as the huge population it carries on its shoulder, with the diversity of problems, opinions, food, customs, religions and beliefs, and the choice of the favorite intoxicant among these that keeps them going.

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Thoughts

Whale meat tastes like nationalism

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[Reuters]

With the world seemingly shifting towards the vegan end of dietary range, either out of choice as in the USA and UK, or by the increasing incidence of diseases like obesity and diabetes as in China, it comes as a surprise that Japan left IWC to resume whale hunting for meat.

Whaling industry prospered in the 17th to 19th century primarily due to the demand for whale oil. With petroleum replacing the need of oil, and the economics of whaling which included procuring costs and its sustenance depending on the dwindling whale populations, whaling industry went for a demise. IWC was conveniently set up in 1946 to provide for the conservation of whales and some regulation on the whaling industry. But there were nations that hunted whales not just for the oil, and there were nations that developed efficient methods which along with lower wages still made whaling economical. These nations, most notably Norway and Japan opposed IWC’s moratorium on whaling.

Whale meat seems to be a food of compulsion rather than of choice. Lack of protein sources in arctic countries like Norway, Iceland and Greenland made whale meat acceptable for consumption. With economic prosperity however, human consumption of whale meat declined. Norway still hunts whales for animal feed on its profitable fur farms. Iceland earns more by preservation of whales than by hunting for meat, whale watching is a lucrative business in tourism.

The demand of whale meat as a source of protein, grew in Japan after World War II when the country was in shambles. With a spectacular revival its economy over the next decade it soon joined the club of rich nations and people forgot the years of penury and the taste of whale meat. The new generation doesn’t even remember to have once eaten the meat, and with reports of poisoning of our oceans and high levels of heavy metals in whale meat, it seems unlikely that it would be back on the menu.

So why did Japan leave IWC? It is a question that puzzles the world, especially given Japan’s overt attempts of creating and maintaining an image of a responsible nation. One explanation, and the most reasonable one, is that it is about politics. There are constituencies that depends on the whaling industry, those which thrived even during the period when Japan was a member of IWC. It didn’t stop the Japanese from hunting whales, but they did it for scientific research, a deep and thorough research that necessitated killing of the whales. With world politics increasingly tilting towards the right, Japan doesn’t seem to be unaffected. The government made a strong political statement of Japanese nationalism by moving from the earlier hypocritical stand of scientific research and openly defying IWC to preserve centuries old tradition.

This article is motivated by my current interest in whales but with no idea about what whale meat tastes like.

Have you ever tried? Would you?

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Thoughts

Social media collectives and collective opinion

Everything that exists on social media can be classified into two categories, personal updates and personal opinions. In both cases the emphasis is on the individual, everything personal is put on display. To the ones who subscribe to the personal updates, riddled or shall we say adorned with pictures of the person in all hues and shades, it may seem as if people are craving being judged. To others who indulge in discussions, be it about events, social issues, religion, history, politics and anything that can be discussed, it may seem like people are not only offering opinions but also judging others, not with facts, evidence or statistics but with the same opinionated thinking that they unscrupulously put on display.

In this post I am going to focus on the latter aspect, about opinions that we all on social media seem to have, or acquire out of compulsion, on each and every topic that exists and even the ones currently coming to existence as the millennials exercise their feeble creative inheritance to engineer new topics and prompts. At the outside it may sound ominous but it is not, at least in the sense that every individual is now enabled to voice the thought without hesitation and in the process mankind may come across ideas that the so-called experts or the authorities, the ones chosen to deliver these ideas would have missed. It is in a way the truest form of democracy, one that goes with an underlying implication of being another name for anarchy.

There are no universal truths anymore, no guiding principles, no consensus or authority that asks for proofs or witnesses. To take the premise even further and being a little harsh, one may say that logic and reason are becoming a thing of the past, the world will indeed become existential like it has been prophesied by the existentialists. These great people however seem to have never truly believed in their philosophy, they were after all the divergent disciples from the school of rational thought. Rational thought would have predicted, from it’s trusted methods like implication or induction, that in such an absurd world nihilism would reign supreme. Instead what we witness is people finding meaning to their lives, and even the utterly clueless standing for something, thus fighting the sense of insignificance that percolates from the world around us.  There are social media groups, and subgroups that cater to a specific variant of a specific idea, say of an utopian society, that one can choose to be a part of and get the satisfaction of doing something good, something worthwhile with one’s time.

It is no surprise then that the insufferable intellectuals and the liberals, who are really the most prolific on the medium hate social media as much as they love it, enumerating the ways in which it is destroying the fabric of humanity, of fairness and of the death of their romantic notions of an intelligible debate. They cringe at the increasing endorsement of the anecdotal content by both the audience and the participants, people who on their part have grown wary of the complicity and the innumerable nexus that rule the unsocial media, expert opinions, editorials and the government dialogue. Beyond the rant however, these skeptics proffer a few good arguments, one being the power conferred to the executive of these sites that could potentially be misused, a great example of this being the Facebook experiment.

The growing rank of Reddit is evidence of the shift in the arena for unhinged discussions, sometimes insipid, and many times insane but still carrying the alternative, the avant-garde thought of the millennials, people who have a say and the energy to shape the democratic world of today. The only problem as I have reiterated before is the rise of extreme individualism and of niche groups, the age old glaring issues that plague the concept of anarchy. The same is the biggest concern of the sites themselves, as they find ways to increase their user base and advertising income. Reddit for instance carried out an experiment(video below) to gauge the cumulative effect of opinions and beliefs of millions of its users and the result was surprisingly contradictory to the general pessimism and unfavorable notions we carry about social media, or mankind in general. The lines between these two are blurring away too fast to our conditioned slow eyes.

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The Left, Right and Center of Indian politics

The concept of left and right wing in politics comes from the French revolution when members of the National Assembly divided into supporters of the king to the president’s right and supporters of the revolution to his left. This distinction in political ideology has been adopted globally since the 20th century. However, application of the distinction varies significantly between nations due too the difference in the political and socio-economic structures.

The political timeline in India has been largely occupied by one dominant party, the Congress. Congress party started with socialist inclinations of Jawaharlal Nehru and shifted more in the direction under his daughter, Indira Gandhi. This tilt was mostly due to the competition that comprised of leftist parties like CPI(Communist Party of India) and socialist parties like Praja Socialist Party led by Jayprakash Narayan that criticized Congress for not being socialist enough. The dominance of left wing politics in the early years seems logical considering India started as a poor post colonial country and riddled with social issues like caste that affected both the Hindi and the Muslim communities. The leftist ideas however failed over time on both of its core aspects, economic and social.

Left advocates looking inward for economical growth, for a greater government control of the market but a fledgling economy needs to let the market evolve unhindered and to be part of the global ecosystem to flourish. The social structure in India is not well suited to leftist ideas of consolidation of the backward and the poor because of the caste system which divides the population into groups that don’t see eye to eye. With the decline of the left, Congress moved the other way introducing market reforms but still toeing the socialist line of doing most for the poor, trying their best to please the different castes and in the process keeping the social fabric intact. With time and with anti incumbency creeping in, the political landscape fractured with many small parties emerging in the arena, each catering to specific castes or regions. This happened around 1989, when even the right wing BJP saw a rise.

Fragmentation led to entropy resulting in unstable governments at the centre and every party trying to make the best of the opportunity. Almost as if they had learnt their lesson, people voted back Congress to power after a hiatus of two years. The Narasimha Rao government brought in rise of the right, both in terms of significant economic reforms and transformation and in terms of a steep growth of BJP as a national party, which later managed to run a non Congress government at the center, the first non Congress government that lasted a full term. The rise of the right however didn’t effect the growth of regional parties which now resorted to align either with the Congress or the BJP when it came to central government politics. These smaller parties were and still are essentially leftist but only so far as to dole out favors for their supporting vote bank. Leftward leanings of these parties rule out association with the rightist BJP, a fact that led to the emergence of UPA, a coalition of parties headed by the Congress that won back to back elections.

This period of ten years from 2004 to 2014 saw a romance and breakup of Congress with the last of the surviving left, and a stream of scams that were conveniently exposed when the left quit the alliance. Media was and still is sympathetic to the left, at least the people who work in the Media are. Fed with the coalition politics and corrupt parties catering to their vote banks, India was aching for an alternative, but not a right wing BJP with a Hindutva agenda. Hindus are inherently religious but in the soft sense, that is; not in an imposing or adhering way but religion to them has been throughout history occupied a personal space. This however doesn’t mean there have been no orthodoxy or militant variations, but these aberrations never appealed to the majority of the community. Even the worst sufferers within the religion, the lower castes, that have been oppressed by the upper throughout history and even now, largely don’t want abolition of their cruel religion but want a better economic status and respect within it. Therefore, even if BJP tried hard to polarize during the UPA years, it didn’t register with the Hindu voter.

Giving up on the old unsuccessful guard, RSS promoted Narendra Modi with mixed credentials of alleged unsurpassed economic growth and alleged persecution of Muslims in his state of Gujarat to the fore. RSS, Narendra Modi, or probably his second hand Amit Shah must have gauged the reluctance in the Hindu majority to overtly side with the right and given the environment of scams crippling UPA, came up with a plan of slow seduction. Modi projected himself as the messiah of progress, of economic development, of make in India, generation of jobs, and in the process wooed the Hindu majority, across regions, prejudices and castes. 2014 saw a resounding victory and the real dawn of the right. It also brought into picture the futility in indulging the Muslim vote, which is what every other party was doing, in the process dividing it to insignificance.

Modi government has delivered in terms of steering clear of scams, the GDP growth has remained in the 7-8% range, and there are many successes of the government in terms of infrastructure development. Economic reforms or growth figures however don’t win elections as is evident from the failure of Congress after Narasimha Rao term and BJP after Vajpayee term. Modi launched a string of socialist schemes, which have had reasonable success thanks to concepts like direct direct transfer to bank accounts. BJP under Modi has therefore not been a pure right wing party, but like Congress of the earlier era, it has struck a balance.

The elections this year saw the right acting like it with Modi bringing in nationalism, and pride to the narrative. The Hindu majority now doesn’t only have an excuse of Modi’s clean and successful governance but also a lack of alternative, to go and vote en masse for BJP almost all over the country. Muslim vote, even if undivided thanks to better awareness and pre-poll alliances made for the sake, has still become irrelevant in the face of a consolidated Hindu vote. If there were doubts about the future of BJP under the leadership of Modi after its first term, they are now comprehensibly addressed.

BJP seems to have taken the place of the proverbial single dominant party that India is comfortable with. Congress started with a left of center stand and BJP is now placed right of center, which wont change into further right as the leftist media is prophesying, because Modi is an astute politician. He must be aware that success lies at being in the center, however you may read it.

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Papers and Paperwalas : the rise of Hindi dailies

A typical day in the life of an Indian begins with a cup of steaming hot tea in one hand and a newspaper in the other. This newspaper has been delivered by one of the hundreds of Paperwalas who go on bikes delivering the paper before the customers wake up. They charge nothing for the effort, the monthly expense is always equal to the cost of each day’s newspaper quite diligently worked out by the collection guy. This easy access and affordability is why newspaper circulation and readership has been seeing an upsurge, bucking the global trend of decline. There are other factors, but the feel of a newspaper in your hand in the morning and reading the news from paper that you might have already read, or most likely watched on TV or internet, remains the foremost reason.

The rise in circulation has been more dramatic in the last few decades as the literacy rates and the economy have been growing at a steady pace, literacy enabling people to read and economy providing both money and time to invest in newspapers. This surge is most remarkable in the so-called Bimaru (translated: diseased, because of high mortality rate, population explosion and lack of amenities including education) states, or in the official language, the EAG (acronym for: empowered action group) states. Six of these are predominately Hindi-speaking, a reason why Hindi language dailies have surpassed the circulation of English over time. As for other regions, there are dailies with high circulation in the southern states but their numbers have been relatively steady because of the already high literacy and prosperity. Thus, even with the high numbers, these non-Hindi regional dailies have witnessed a declining trend in their percentage share just like the English.

Beneath the rise and shine of the Hindi dailies lie a horde of problems, starting with news content. The major news agencies operating in India (PTI, UNI, IANS) have reporters who are well versed with writing in English, thanks to the prevalent language of journalistic education. These agencies have launched their Hindi language units, but they, due to various reasons including quality have not been subscribed well. Most of the regional news in the Hindi belt is collected at the source in Hindi but translated into English by the agency reporters. These reports are then consumed by the Hindi dailies after a translation back to Hindi, a process that naturally diminishes the originality and the authenticity of the material. Advertisements continue to be the real source of income for newspapers and here too the Hindi dailies don’t attract the big spenders who concentrate more on the urban and the English reading consumers assuming higher disposable incomes compared to the Hindi readers. The trends are changing though. Univarta, the Hindi unit of UNI now has more subscribers than its parent agency. With urban population moving to online shopping and getting driven by online ads, newspapers are starting to realize the futility of advertising in English dailies.

What they lack in advertising income, the Hindi dailies try to make up with high circulation numbers. But this comes at a cost, newsprint remains the biggest expenditure of all newspapers, and more so in India because most of the newsprint is imported from USA and Canada. Price of newsprint has been increasing as these countries witness decline in the newspaper consumption making them move away from newsprint production to other paper materials. The reason why newsprint, which is not normal paper, cannot be manufactured in India on a large scale is because the raw material needed is wood pulp from types of pine and fir trees which are not found in the region. One solution is to recycle, which is what most regional dailies resort to but it makes the paper less white and less attractive, especially when adding colored sections. Recycling can only help so much though, newspapers keep stocking imported and expensive newsprint to handle further rise in prices.

Television continues to reach even the rural population making one wonder if TV, which doesn’t require literacy for consumption can do what digital did to newspapers in the west. There is no dearth of Hindi news channels but they flash sensationalized content and have screaming debates making the people, literate or not, question the veracity. Add to that the silent power of the written word, and one can be rest assured that newspapers, at least the regional ones will continue to grow in circulation for the next few decades. Besides the questionable content, News media, both TV and digital in India faces a big challenge in terms of corporate ownership. For instance, a significant portion of media is owned by Mukesh Ambani who runs other businesses and the media acquisition seems to have been done to aide these other interests. This has led to further questions on authenticity making newspapers even more reliable.

However one can never be sure of ownership and vested interests of the owners of newspapers too. An example is the news channel NDTV, which is overtly critical of the current Modi government but which aired the propaganda interview with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar asking Modi ‘apolitical’ questions like how he eats mangoes. The interview is an attempt to project Modi as a loving, forgiving human being given the hardliner and unrelenting stand of his party. It has been termed as a rerun of the 1994 Akshay starrer Main Khiladi Tu Anari(translated: I am an author, you a blogger), except here one takes a look at pink trousers and easily figures out who the Khiladi is and who the Anari. Many wonder why NDTV, especially the English version takes a softer stand on criticizing Modi and it turns out the ownership has over time changed from the Roys to VPCL, with ties to Reliance.

Journalism, with its reporters, and editors being traditionally and one may say genetically tuned towards the left stands confused in India as of now. Equipped not with the pen is mightier than the sword attitude, the journalist of today walks gingerly with a phone in hand checking often on where to lean, the leftist media now controlled by the right and people tending to believe in the popular, the ones with higher SEO rather than IQ level. In this era of fake news, propaganda, political polarization and a tilt of the population towards the right in India, the only hope lies in the fledgling newspapers, who one would hope, still believe in unbiased reporting thanks to their less glorious and less ambitious owners, but more than the owners the hope lies in our untiring Paperwalas.

Further reading:
Latest newspaper circulation data from Audit Bureau of Circulations

Media ownership in India

Japanese newspapers lead the circulation numbers, event though at the top they continue to decline.

Another article on Japanese newspaper readers going digital.

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