So the other day Meenaks (a very dear friend of mine and top blogger in Cognizant. Pity he doesn’t write externally!) asked me to write a guest post on his blog about my “learnings” from my course in journalism and media studies. My first reaction was to smirk sarcastically which if you know me is my first reaction to most things in life. Unlike most people who believe that every phase in life is a learning opportunity from which you have to take important lessons, I believe that every phase in life is basically a mistake which you could have avoided but then since you didn’t have the good sense to do so you might as well enjoy the mistake, make the most of it and not make it again in life. (Think about it. Birth, Class 10, Class 12, college etc. All mistakes which most people don’t make more than once! :P) Yeah. The Eternal Optimist. That’s me! :P
So what you are about to read is not profound, philosophical jargon about how my course in media studies has changed me as a person and made me the pride of my parents and envy of all others’ but its basically a list of things I have observed in and around me in the past one year. Meenaks, I am sure it hurts your IIM-Bangalore sensibilties and the fact that I haven't used words which have more than 7 alphabets and in your own words (I could never come up with management jargons like tat) I hope the post is "harmonious to the stakeholder expectations". :P
So this was my comeback post on ch1 (the internal blogging site in Cognizant). Come back. Yes! Pretty much like the Bollywood heroine who gets married, has children, puts on 20 kgs of weight and then makes a comeback as second sister of hero’s friend. Ummm. Wrong analogy there for neither was I a Bollywood heroine (I had the looks though. I can assure you of that!! People who knew me shaduupp!! Ok? :P) nor did I get married and have children. But anyway a comeback this is. (Oh BTW, I tend to ramble a lot. So plizz to bear ok? Ok! )
So following are vairy vairy important lessons which you must incorporate in your life otherwise Swami Nithyanada will curse you with a life of celibacy. Oh by the way these are totally my views and there might be a lot of stereotypes in here so please don’t come after me with bazookas you media students! I am one of you guys! :P
1. “You have to cut the umbilical cord.”
This was what I heard first from a professor when I joined the course. With my knowledge of cryptic writing limited to Aravind’s posts (:P), when I heard this I remember wondering that if a person did not know the simple biological process that only cutting the umbilical cord would free the baby from the mother, the person probably did not deserve to be a professor at a prestigious institute. Apparently it was a metaphor (or a figure of speech or an allegory or whatever . :-\) which meant that I should distance myself and cut myself away from everything if I wanted to be a good journalist. Not be bogged down by petty issues like my caste, my gender, my religion, my family ties and such identities and have no fear. This was probably the biggest lesson I learnt here though I am not sure if I have reached a stage where I can mercilessly cut the umbilical cord (the figurative one).
2. Media students have enough opinions for you, me and people from 6 of the 7 continents in this world. No exaggeration. We (I say we because whether I like it or not I am now a part of “them”) have opinions on everything ranging from “Is the hilsa a better fish than karuvaadu and can south Indians cook fish as well as Bengalis can do” to “Is secularism a failed ideology in a country like India” to “Is godhaan garam a better brand of cigarettes than india kings” to “are feminists ugly women who cant get dates or do they really support a cause”, we have opinions on every frikkin’ thing on this planet. Who was it who said “Opinions are like smelly feet. Everyone has a couple and most of them stink”. So true Sir, so true.
3. When you hear words like “the existentialist dilemma”, “orientalisation of one self”, “challenging the hermeneutics”, “return and revenge of the simulacrum”, you can be sure that you are in a media school. We love big words. We love to make people think that we actually know more than them by using big words. We love to flummox people by pretending to understand what Pranab Mukherjee is talking about when he presents the budget. We love to declare that we read Marx, Foucault, Sartre, Pablo Neruda, Tolstoy, Simone de Beauvoir and we love to wear T shirts which say “Che Guevara”.
4. People actually respect engineers. No seriously. One big lesson that I have learnt is the fact that though engineers do not respect themselves enough, when you tell a non-engineer that you are an engineer you can see visible dilation of their pupils and visible arching of eyebrows and an audible “Oh!! fancy. So what engineer were you”. After which you would proceed to explain in detail about computer science and engineering and throw in words like “java”, “struts”, “application”, “develop”, “test case” etc and throw them off guard. AFTER which they would say things like “Umm. Actually my computer has been acting up for some time. Could you please take a look at it?” and throw YOU off guard. I mean seriously what is it with people who think that just because we are engineers we can fix everything?
5. Media students more often than not drink and smoke, and smoking not necessarily restricted to tobacco if you know what I mean. So do people of every profession but while the rest of the world smokes because they are addicted or to relieve pressure or for whatever reason, we apparently smoke to “challenge our intellectual limits”. Yes sir. When you are on a high apparently your thoughts go from thinking about “Does Gabten/Govinda look more revolting in yellow color pants or when he is wildly shaking his arms and legs and calling it dance” to “Does God exist?”, “ When will revolution come and relieve us from this imaginary bondage” etc etc. Another important lesson learnt is that you can’t die when you stay in the same room as someone who is smoking and I have mastered the art of holding my breath and having a conversation.
6. Joining a course offering journalism because you love writing is probably the biggest mistake you can make. If anything, it kills the little bit of creativity and panache in yout writing and makes your writing all newsy and crisp. So basically from writing about your trysts with dentists to your smelly feet and generally laughing at the idiosyncrasies of the world you go to writing about potholes in 12th cross street Indira Nagar and writing stuff like “12 killed and 15 injured as train derails”. And then you sit and edit what you have written because obviously the newspaper is not your blog and when they say 500 words they actually mean 498 and 2 words to fit in your names. So right from day one you are told to write crisp, precise to the point stuff. Not at all helpful for a person like me who is like a 84 year old grandma in this sense and loves to ramble on and on. (As you might already have noticed. :roll:)
7. Maybe this is too extreme but personally I think a course in media studies completely changes the way you look at life and your perspective. You no longer look at a paper in the morning with the same indifferent eye with which you look at a packet of milk. You no longer read articles for the news content which they offer but you become critical. Too long, too short, improper headlines, too many adjectives, biased, grammatical errors and so on and so forth. Same with the TV news channels and radio bulletins. Something suddenly changes and you read a bad article and go “Gasp!! I would never write like that. What lousy writing” though something tells me out in the real world maybe I will also end up writing such stories! And suddenly everything around you, wherever you go, whatever you do, is a story which needs to be told and written about!
8. A course in media studies puts ideas into your head and kind of nudges you to develop an “ideology” for life. So all of a sudden you think being an environmentalist is cool, being a feminist is cool and capitalism is the bane of mankind and that the Amabanis and Tatas and Birlas and ALL their obscene wealth should be wiped out from the face of this planet without actually understanding the principles of feminism, capitalism etc. If you are not careful enough you could end up carrying a red flag, shouting Jyoti Basu’s name and giving a “Lal Salaam” to people on the streets if you know what I mean! ;)
9. Your GK and world view improve vastly and you get to read a lot. And when I say read I do not mean books by Chetan Bhagat or books which are titled “Anything for you Ma’am” or “True Love” etc but books which actually make you sit up and think. Don’t get me wrong. I am not being an elitist or a bourgeoisie here. I am very grateful to Chetan Bhagat for making so many Indians read and inculcating the reading habit in so many people. But let’s face it. If you love reading and Bhagat’s was not the first book you read you would agree that his books are not what you would call good literature or informative or thought provoking. His books are best read when you are on a train and have 4 hours to kill and don’t know what to do.
Anyway I digress. Where was I? Yeah, reading habit. I remember in my first few classes the professor asked a question about the Emergency and none of us could answer it. So he sighed, took off his spectacles and went “The problem with your generation is that most of you think history began after you were born”. Very true that. A course in journalism makes you curious, makes you want to read and you realize what a LOT of books there are out there to read and you feel painfully unaccomplished and stupid when you realize how little you actually know about India, let alone the world.
10. I have developed a love for non-fiction which is rather surprising given I disliked the genre an year back and my ideas of non fiction were pretty much what most people’s idea of feminists or what constitutes feminism is. Having spoken to a lot of people I get the same reactions from them (about reading non-fiction, not about feminism! :P)
As of now these are the only pearls of wisdom that I can think of showering on you. A lot of other lessons have also been learnt but they are personal and obviously you don’t want to know about that. As I already said follow these and you will be rewarded with a life as rich and “fulfilling” as Swami Nithyananda’s. Babes, Booze, Bhashan (speech), “Beatitude”, Bhaktas and of course the Big bucks. Seriously. What more could one want from life.
Yes, the absence of TV cameras in bedrooms and earth shattering TV commentary like “Nadigai churidhar pottundu avar arigil vandhaar” would be helpful but then you can’t have everything in life can you?
Anyway, So I leave you now with hope and prayers that one day you will incorporate the rich lessons this place has taught you and become better, brighter more responsible human beings and will make this world a better place to live in. And always remember that whenever you point finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back at you and one finger pointing up to God (the thumb) . Go out into the world and achieve great heights my children.
Heh. Just kidding. The above are actually quotes stolen from my high school principal who would say the exact SAME thing year after year after year at student farewells. I always wanted to say it once in my lifetime especially the finger pointing dialogue! Finally got an opportunity! Thanks Meenaks!