Ashish Vaswani
Inspite of being a Mumbaikar, it’d been years since I paid any of the local beaches a proper visit. My most recent outings to the beach were either limited to dumping ritualistic garbage into the Arabian Sea or were cut-short by sudden cravings for a gola (kala khatta masala maarke!) at Juhu beach. So when my family decided to spend the weekend at Madh Island, I jumped at the prospect of revisiting the good old days. Spending Sunday evenings with my toy spade and plastic bucket, making sand castles by the sea, admiring the beautiful sunset is one of the most beautiful memories associated with my childhood.

My walk by the beach began quite as expected. I was enjoying the wind blowing my hair away as dark skies brought in a slight drizzle, just to add a dash of spice to an already blissful evening. But the pleasure soon turned to horror. As I walked farther away from The Retreat, all I saw was sewage lines running right through the middle of the very same beach that used to be one of the most pristine locations around (now officially in) the city till less than a decade back...

 It made for a really sorry sight and all I could do was just stand and stare in disbelief as endless streams of polythene flowed past me. Like all other beaches in the city, Madh also serves as a free public toilet for the locals who still don’t have any sanitation facilities whatsoever.

I know blogging about issues like this is not the solution. But here are a few questions that we must ask ourselves:

How long will it take us to start caring for our city in particular and our country at large?

Can’t the educated few of us do absolutely nothing to find a way out of this mess?

How long will it take us to understand that the boundaries of our houses do not end at our backyards?

Can we afford to spray our paan pichkaari on the roads in Singapore or litter in the bylanes of Dubai?

Will we ever learn or we’re always going to find the easy way out by saying, “Oh Darling, yeh India hai, yahaan sab chalta hai!”

It’s soon going to be that time of the year again, when the city will be bustling with activity at Ganpati pandals, each one trying to outweigh the other by claiming to be bigger (and supposedly)better than the others. And God will be laughing from Heaven up above, wondering what has come up to be of his beautiful creation.

But it’s still up to us to decide whether this is the way we want to wish our beloved elephant-headed God adieu...

...or rather use eco-friendly techniques to ring in the celebrations. The choice is entirely ours...

Labels: , |
Ashish Vaswani

The rupee has finally got its very own symbol and is touted to have joined the so called 'elite' club of currencies like the dollar, the pound and the yen by the media. So much so that sites claiming to have designed the rupee font in ASCII code are getting record hits. The rupee font made by Foradian Technologies was downloaded more than 10,000 in the first hour of release. Makes me wonder why everyone's suddenly going gaga over the entire issue.  

Okay. Your currency's got a new symbol. So?
Does it buy you more sabzi at the sabziwala?

And you've also promised the inclusion of the symbol on the next batch of made-in-China keyboards. Big deal! Some over ambitious patriots have gone on to declare that the rupee will now replace the dollar on the keyboard. I'd love to see that happen!

On a more serious note, I don't understand the hue and cry over introducing a symbol that's merely a rip off of the euro and the pound. In times of rising inflation, shouldn't we be looking at giving a makeover to the economy than the currency symbol?
Ashish Vaswani
It's been a week since the so called 'Bharat Bandh' was called for by the opposition parties to protest against rising inflation. I wonder if it did anything but prolong the weekend for lazy bums who needed just another reason to skip work and stay home.

Some sources peg the total loss to the country at a staggering Rs. 2735 crores on bandh day. And while political parties such as the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are going around proclaiming how successful their band-o-bust was, a few serious questions need to be asked.

Why did the aam aadmi decide to blindly follow the diktat of a numbered few power hungry men who were doing nothing but salvaging their votebank with cheap publicity for political mileage? Why weren't the authorities stricter with mobs and anti-social elements when bandhs have been declared illegal by the Supreme Court? According to these strike-o-philic parties, how does calling for bandhs help the country to fight against rising prices which is actually a global phenomenon? 

There sure were better ways to protest if that is really what these parties wanted to do. But who cares, when in India you can giftwrap your extended weekend and call it a bandh, all in the name of the great Indian political tamasha!
Ashish Vaswani
‘Zaalim Saas ka atyaachar - dekhiye kuch hee palon mein’ blared the over-expressive female on Aaj Tak, as I flipped channels on a boring Sunday afternoon. It’s difficult to digest how news channels today stoop to unimaginable levels to pass off Rakhi Sawant’s swayamwar as ‘Breaking News’ and infringe on people’s privacy in the name of sting operations.

I am not a news person. Watching the daily news bulletin on TV every night was a habit my father had inculcated in me as a school kid. But with the advent of the internet and 24/7 online connectivity, the charm of watching the sari-clad news reader dole out the biggest headlines of the day was replaced by visiting various news and blog sites that offered custom made news and updates as we liked them to be. Soon, reading The Times of India from end to end was also given up for the spicier and saucier Mumbai Mirror, with zingy columns that offered more masala and gossip than news.

There are many reasons for my declining interest in the news. In the early 90s, when ‘Breaking News’ and ‘Live Feed’ were words that we heard once in a blue moon, NDTV was the only private news company that had to relay its pre-recorded bulletins on Star News. The alternating Hindi and English bulletins were a treat to watch, with the stalwarts of journalism displaying their professional best. The likes of Pranoy Roy, Barkha Dutt, Arnab Goswami and Rajdeep Sardesai infused an enigmatic fervor to news presentation that’s hard to find in the dozens of news manufacturing factories today.

With the advent of dedicated monolingual news channels specializing in local, global or business news in the late 90s, the fight for viewership and TRPs overtook the passion and zest for responsible journalism. Coming to think of recent times, full page advertisements on the front page of India’s leading dailies is nothing but a money-making proposition. I don’t know which other international papers allow such horrendous hijacking of the front page to big advertising brands, but for a common man like me, the front page of a newspaper is supposed to give me the highlights of what’s happening the world over and not be a mere publicity campaign of the latest movie that’s nearing release.

Newspapers today are churning out news at production line speeds. It’s hard to forget the scene from Page 3 where Boman Irani, the editor of a newspaper asks his colleagues to ‘create’ new celebrities and issues if they’re running short of news to cover. On TV, the latest drama of a Mumbai girl being harassed for dowry is still fresh in my mind. Though the girl and her family did manage to get justice in the end, there sure were better ways of handling a sensitive issue such as this one, rather than repeatedly playing hidden camera footage for days on end. In more than a handful of crucial cases, the media is quick to pronounce a verdict, often jumping the gun in the process.

But the picture is not as grim as it may seem. In the swarm of mass-news making channels, there are still a handful of reputed names that have managed to keep the spirit of true journalism alive. NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan is one such face that I’ve been in awe of ever since I was a kid. Her subtle handling of the biggest names in politics on Left, Right and Centre and the crisp coverage of global affairs that she brings to news presentation is a treat to watch. NDTV has managed to strike a good balance of news and infotainment with an array of shows like Gadget Guru where the suave Rajiv Makhni unravels the latest technological marvels. Times Now has also managed to carve out a niche for itself inspite of being a late entrant in the field of TV news.

At times, the media continues to play the intended watchdog role too. The Jessica Lal case, the Nithari killings and more recently, DGP Rathore’s conviction in the Ruchika Girhotra case, are instances of where the media took the lead in righting the wrong. The Right to Information Act has empowered the common man to be counted as one of the participants in scripting the formation of a new, aware and well informed India. The growing impact of Public Interest Litigations is proof of this. Successful print campaigns such as Lead India and Teach India have proved that if channelized in the right direction, the media can continue to play its formative role in society.

Armed with a little more sense of responsibility, the Indian media is sure to propel India’s growth even further and fuel its claim to be one of the global superpowers. Until then, I’ll make do with watching reruns of laughter and dance shows on news channels and catch up with micronews on Twitter!