Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I Read The News Today Oh Boy!
I read all the newspapers. It’s a Nu 120 weekly addiction. Am I getting my money’s worth? I doubt it! Let’s just say its my way of contributing to the print media bloom which is still in need of nutrients. Plus its an old habit and old habits, as they say, die hard. It used to be that Kuensel used to hog all the stands, exercising virtual monopoly in the absence of other newspapers. It was hence a refreshing welcome when the two privately run newspapers were launched. There was a sense of much needed alternative media expansion in the air. Now there are four! Evolving into Two Dailies and Two Weeklies!
This introduction jolted the staid Kuensel out of its routine slumber, making it compete in the face of rivalry. That’s what market forces do, should provide the consumer with an alternative- raising, enforcing certain standards. But as time goes on, things fall back to their respective cushions of comfort. Worse still, some of them get sidetracked and totally lose the plot.
I started out my pursuit of the journalist’s journey, joining Kuensel in the mid 90s. Then I got fired as fast as I had joined. Marijuana consumption posed a very dodgy risk to the paper’s clean cut image. That was it. My career as a journalist was prematurely aborted. I was barred and barren.
The next couple of years went about dabbling in various sectors; tourism, hotels, discos, a teaching stint and travels galore. These travels and protracted stays in foreign lands compelled me take up jobs no one in educated-Bhutan would touch with a prayer-flag-pole. Desperate times call for desperate measures so waitering, dish-washing, janitoring, construction, road-running, night guarding and a number of miscellaneous jobs trained and taught me in more than I could remember; about what it means to live in a real world. Dignity of labor is lipped about but try a little manual labor and you’ll understand what the term really exposes.
In retrospect, the Kuensel termination was a blessing in disguise. The experiences post-Kuensel were priceless. The fact that I never gave up my love of writing and love for reading just about anything; magazines, periodicals, newsletters, novels, books, fliers, brochures, newspapers et al contributed to the craft.
Then you come back home and see how the media is flourishing. That is an encouraging sight. You start working in one or two. The weak link is very clear- too many inexperienced sailors helm the captain’s chair.
Without sermonizing the captains, I’d say that even in the face of obvious storms, they move on right ahead. So what you have is a boat tossed about in turbulent waters.
Slowly you take stock of the scenario. Things change for better or worse. So it was with my perception of where the various newspapers stand. Now they entertain me more often than they inform. I find, along with sanitized information on plans, policies and programs, tedious entertainment articles, parched quotes and brusque headlines.
There are the usual government 'ads' calling on all bidders for a tender flesh; they say she’s young and that she’s earnest hence an advance- deposit must be done. They leave you with a footnote. It goes something like this: If you are not bedding, you can call us for aid on our Mother Teresa hotlink. When it beeps, you can tell us your problems with the tender and we’ll have an automated raspberry voice servicing the line, “It’s in due process. We are looking at it.”
Then there is this newspaper. Recently it has embarked on a no-holds-barred mission to kiss the PM’s butt in full public view. Such candor is rare! It began with “phenomenon”. Now it’s evolved into avatars such as “man of the people”, “true son of the soil” and a basic vein of “he-who-can’t-do-no-wrong” running through the epic-narrative which has become a weekly hymn in process.
Off-late the focus has shifted. They now do 'Special Investigative Reports' and narcissistic 'Impacts.' The last culprit of this sting-operation was the arrest of farmers who were selling wild marijuana hashish. Good for them, bad for the villagers.
Either the editor has lost his marbles or he’s trying to get as many as he can from the PMO’s office. Funny, I thought the PMO’s office would be decked with furniture, working stations, paper trails and coffee mugs. Marbles completely take me by surprise! Now for the latest tantrum thrown by the same paper in its weekly editorial shenanigans: The sorry recipient this time was the Ministry of Education for its inability to sell the minister’s book and build private colleges. The tantrum concludes prematurely with another Sucker-In-Chief pyrotechnics patting the PM’s back for his wizardry in opening the first private college. Confused? So am i!
What they omitted was the fact that they are the publisher’s of the minister’s book and the PM should be covered objectively, not write sonnets trying to build him into a cult figure.
On the freedom of the media, an online enthusiast echoed Gorbachov’s “Glasnost” and “Perestroika”. One term refers to transparency and the other to restructuring. The “Balalaika” was omitted. That’s a dance you gain as bonus when you play “bricks”. And eventually to how these transferences broke up the erstwhile USSR. Now these states are playing nuclear chess with each other. Most recently it was “Gas”. A blatant omission was the “Vodka”. Whether the mention of such esoteric terms was to guide, warn or chide readers was beyond me. The language though was 'par excellence' and the writer must pat himself, every now and then.
I skip to the next paper. The apple in obeisance is Kuensel. In a personal somber tribute to his own rather exemplary life, the former Chief and Ace of Writing Grace penned a parting memoir, without remorse or regret, to his beloved fans and readers. How he believes in “Karma” and his rather unique road to success; dining with presidents and criminals, from the White House to penitentiaries, from the chambers of the Golden Throne to a common man’s shack in rural Bhutan. The personal memoirs and reflections essayed in his book,'Within the Realm of Happiness' is a treat, reminiscent of warm Bhutanese 'Thups' on cold winter mornings.
The next paper takes me down desolation row. One more adage affixed to some decomposed teacher and I’m seriously becoming an agnostic. One more word about GNH and I’m coining my own revolutionary concept, Gross Natural Hiccups.
I’ve resided long enough (and one should retire from the colony in due time)in the realm of Dharma books and the innumerable perfect teachers that have left us with wisdom aplenty to drown us farther down the ocean of suffering. The abyss comes to mind, a rather unexpected good picture that deals with USOs (Unidentified Swimming Objects). One pearl peering out of the Dharma master’s 'Book of Jackasses' was the question whether I had recently heard the 'Roar of a Constipated Rabbit?'
Yeah. Sure. That’s a no-brainer! I can do better than that. Just gulp in a couple of bottles of cough syrup with solid foods and I guarantee you, you shall hear me do the “Roar of the Constipated Ass”.
As we wrap up this silken stool, we must pay homage to one more newspaper. If you want to capture the Bhutanese attention, go tabloid, if you want to harness the Bhutanese imagination, make sure the spots and stripes printed are clear enough. A final tip; throw in some lactating voluptuous mammals. Nothing beats nudity in a paper; crystal-clear with a high density resolution. Now watch the gawkers que in.
If Business Bhutan is 'Dealing You'... Watch out for 'Drukpa'... it will 'Engage You.'
That's a promise.