So i was at purple haze in b’lore last week hanging out with me homies after a bit of shopping and found the place loaded with school kids and posers guzzling copius amounts of beer and trying hard to blow smoke rings. To top it all, the music was awfully loud, blaring through cheap imitation speakers of Indian make so you know it is just as harmful to your ears as gently placing them over a jet engine. If you’ve ever been told about “purple”, as it is affectionately called, you’d probably hear that its this mecca for all b’lore rock fans, where those long hairs and potheads hangout. Atleast that is the legened, in actuality it is just no where near that picture. I dont know how this place got that reputation, may be it was like that years back, but now its just a place where they keep playing ripped or illegallly downloaded videos on a big plasma screen which yuppies watch in awe as they discuss about their hot colleague in their office and things like that. May be I’m just exaggerating a bit too much, but i guess you get the picture. So after a while, after everything had settled down and our drinks were served, we quitely engaged ourselves on a myriad of topics such as music, politics, sex, movies, alcohol, college, more sex, and sometimes office humor. Suddenly there was a big cheer and people stood up and at once and loosend their hair in a flash like a samurai would draw his sword in a fight to death. I was quite bewildered by this whole ritual, when i quickly realised that it had something to do with the song that was being played. As my wittle brain processed each note of the song, bit by bit, there emerged a familiar pattern. Yes of course! It was our high school friend, metallica, who else could it be? It was that hard drinking metal band who sold more tshirts than albums. Nevermind, being a former fan of theirs, I quickly realised that it was a hit song of theirs that was being played which put those school kids and yuppies in a mystic trance. The ritual quickly then moved from the ‘wooo-hoo’ cheering phase to the hard head banging phase, where everyone competes for the title of THE hardcore metalhead in the scene. Now when the school kids start bangin their kids, the yuppies had to come up with something to counter that move, so they chose the insane air guitar act, where everyone tries to play the guitar with one hand on the air supposedly holding down some power chord while the other was picking on the imaginary strings with the beer mug. I was wondering whether, if left to myself, i would drink too much and join this bandwagon. Oh no, that shouldn’t be the case anyway. If my conscience every caught me socialising with those posers i’d be crucified the next day and cursed with a terrible hangover. But just when I was getting tired and irritated of the whole scene, I noticed one gentleman, not too far from my table, on his own trip. The first impressions you get is that he doesn’t belong to any class in this society. He sure wasn’t a school kid, judging by his acapulco beach shirt he definitely wasn’t a software yuppie and he definitely wasn’t our friend or even remotely associated with us either (the only other class left there) which made him an outcast among the the three tribes in the scene . Ofcourse he wasnt a person working there too, you could identify them with their uniforms. This guy, i believe, hailing from some tier-2 city in India (at this point you should know i’m extremely prejudiced against people who are not Urban), was trying too hard to impress the school girls and other women who were sitting before him, mostly them school girls i think. Now if he had banged his head, or started a moshpit or did something like that, i would’ve surely forgiven him, but this asshole was dancing like someone from the 80’s Disco Dancer movies. Awww! what an awful site to see! He would hold his beer with one hand, throw up his second hand and start waving it like Prince, you know that guy who was formally an artist, but now just a symbol. Indeed this guy went on to perform the infamous crotch grab, the twist, and countless other distinct moves that would make even a gay man look like John Wanye (the hollywood cowboy ladies and gentlemen). It sure was a riot for a good half an hour for most of us there. In trying to impress the women this way all he ever got was weird looks from them and occasional abuses by their boyfriends. The staff even warned that he move to one corner, but he wouldn’t listen to that. He continued his poor Michael Jackson impersonation till eventually his legs gave up on him. This whole act was pretty hilarious, soon everyone forgot about metallica and for a few minutes and focussed on the new rising star

 After it was all over, I began to wonder why such a person, if i could call him one, would go to such great lengths of disgracing himself just to impress some women whom he knew for sure would care less than a grain of sand for him. I concluded that his objective was not at fault here, after all everyone at some point of his/her life everyone would’ve tried to hit on someone of the opposite sex (or the same). Therefore it was his method or the means that was at fault. That poor asshole dint know what to do when he saw those pretty ladies at the bar so he quickly drank couple of beers to get the courage and thoroghly embarrassed himself by showing off his “talents”. Just then I got another one of my famous ideas, idea #4543. It goes something like this, “wouldn’t it be amazing if there were some crash course in pop culture for such outcasts of society? Wouldn’t that help bridge the divide between the weirdos and the common man?” Think of it, Mr.Despo there could goto such a class, learn about the basics pop culture, from music to movies, books to art, you know just the basics that would get him through everday situations such as impressing a bunch of women in some random bar. The classes would start early in the morning the with a course on music ranging from elvis to linkin park. Songs would be played and each student would be picked randomly and asked to indentify the artist or the song and ranked accordingly. In the afternoon there’d be screening of famous movies, not those indie art house ones, but more like the pie movies, the die hard action sort of movies, just to get the students in the groove. Additionally one can opt for a complete package which would include books, aka Tom Clancy, John Grisham types, each with detailed explanation of plots (as if they require any explanation) and may be some basics on art, rebellion, clothing etc. By the end of the month, the course would’ve transformed this hunchback of Notre Dame into more like your average metallica listening, tom cruise movies (with subtitles, ofcourse) watching, cheap converse imitation shoes wearing DUDE. Then he could be cast back into this society with confidence, reborn, to finally carry out his job of impressing women (still cant think of any other purpose!) without the need to embarass himself in the process. Isn’t it time, someone looked at this issue and came out with a solution for it? I bet there will be lots of people willing to pay for this kinda service. The first step, i reckon, is to atleast publish a ‘How to be cool’ series of books, tailored to the Indian audience and I can promise you that it would be a sure top seller in the ‘Self-help’ section. Come on now, honestly, would you not buy a copy yourself?

 Thats how pink floyd would have penned their lyrics now if the ‘Wall’ were to be released in the present era. First it was a once in a year thing, then years became months and months then became weeks and weeks finally ended up becoming days.  Yeah, not a day now passes without some “sting” operation or “caught on cam” news. Though it is clear these so called news channels air them only for TRPs (ratings), there are certain people who would dare to defend them and argue about their “service” to the society. Well, finally they can all shut their mouths tight now. You should be aware by now of the sting-gone-wrong operation, if not, I congratulate you on refraining from current affairs, thereby bringing oodles of joy into your life. I’m just gonna write a short intro here, you can go ahead and read the whole story if you wish. Some days back a hindi news channel aired a sting op supposedly showing a delhi school teacher pushing her students into prostitution. Though it is clear now, that the teacher did not push her students in to flesh trade, the piece did push the channels ratings. On a side note, a mere 100+ people (read Mob) gathered outside the school and started with their usual job of pelting stones, Molotov cocktails, burning scooters, buses and whatever they could find. Others, who dint have time for rioting, nonetheless felt outraged for almost 5 minutes and then immediately switched on to their favorite saas-bahu serials. Though I wasn’t able to watch the original news, I got the full impact of the situation the next day when it made it to the papers. I could just imagine how it would’ve been the day before on the TV. Following is just a mere speculation of the events that might have happend when the story broke out. It would’ve started out as a “breaking/flash news” splash on the bottom of the TV, first just the text, with big bold fonts screaming for attention. Then the presenter would’ve broken the current boring news item by saying, “We take you now to a story thats just breaking…” and would’ve introduced us to the video with the almost compulsory tag-line, “This is a LiveTV exclusive”. And they would’ve kept playing the video over and over till more sponsors called up to fill in the unsold last minute ad secondages, and the rest is a well known story. The reporter would’ve been happy because he got his “story” aired and a fat pay check in his pocket. The network overwhelmed with joy since it has a boiling controversy in its hands now and thus a promised future till …say, next week (after which another couple of more stings would have to do the job). And the public, my dear socially conscious public, would’ve felt betrayed that an “institution” such as a school and a teacher, who is most revered after mama/papa and before god in hindu mythology, have degraded to such lows. Given its normal life cycle, the whole matter would’ve faded from anyone’s memory in a matter of days, but this one case was unlike anyother. Somedays after the sensational sting op, it emerged that the whole story was faked, framed by the reporter, his friend and another individual who wanted to get back at the teacher. I will not waste time in explaining what happened, please read about it here. But then again, come rain or shine, its always spring for the news channels. And now every OTHER news channel had its share of the pie, and those big bright fonts began flashing again on the TVs. The socially conscious public were again angry as they now felt betrayed that they’ve been made to believe a big white lie.

  Now, I have to tell you, i’m no fan of hidden cams at all. To me it is THE most disrespectful tool in the hands of a reporter. There’s nothing investigative in using hidden camera to find out the truth about a person instead of having the courage to fight him/her face to face. The whole practice seems very unethical to me, devoid of the true spirit of investigative journalism. It all looks like a dirty get-rich-quick scheme, except here you get rich by upping your networks rating. People like Upton Sinclair and Ida Tarbell would be tossing in their graves if they ever come to know about this dishonest and immoral system of reporting. If ever you are going to gain credibility as an honest journalist, your gonna have to do with a mighty pen and a brave heart. This conduct shouldn’t be the enforced at all, but has to be come from within every reporter. I was actually relieved to see the Indian broadcast ministry not take this seriously and try to introduce any code of conduct for journalists, they’ve now infact left it to the discretion of the networks (is this for worse?). The govt seems to have only grown used to all these sting ops after the tehelka tragedy and others that followed. But it wouldn’t be long before the dirty broadcast ministry would happily introduce one if there’s no change in the way networks use sting ops to hunt for ratings. That would only lead to many real reporters and journalists being jailed using the new law for reporting about corrupt politicians. The only way to discourage them is by not watching them, sending feedbacks to the network asking them to refrain from staging stings. I was an avid reader of warfornews(link not working now), before it was closed down by the big bosses of two well know TV heads. I loved the detailed descrption of the drama, the scandals and the stories about what goes on inside a news network, though i dint like the way they published company emails. If only they could have come out of hiding and used ethical practices, i’m sure they’d reached a better audience and would’ve gotten a louder mouth. Anyway why lament about the past? The point is, warfornews detailed how the news networks plan sting ops. They set targets, sit in boardrooms and debate whether it was prostitution week or corruption week. Funny eh? Yeah that’s your news network. I should infact suggest that you go and watch this movie, network,  and see how much of it is relevant today.

The one thing good about hidden cams is that, in a socialist and corrupt country like India, it could be a powerful tool in the hands of an individual (the reporter is exempt in this case, since he has special powers granted by law that the ordinary individual doesnt have, though press freedom in India is now where close other coutries). But, if the individual does manage to record his ordeal on a cam, to whom does he go? To the network? Who’d gladly pay for the rights to his tape and then use it to pump ratings*. May be he could publish it in his blog or something, but how many people here have net at home, and how many read blogs other than check mail and orkut. So the bottom line is, “Is there any real use for hidden cams then?”

*NOTE: Pumping ratings is nothing bad at all, actually speaking I would like to see people bring down ratings of sting ops instead of the network somehow magically refraning from this unethical pratice. Hey if it sells, they will always keep selling it, nothing wrong with that at all.