Monday, March 28, 2016

The third obsession

The mass adulation and the crazy fan following that the film stars and cricketers enjoy in India is perhaps unmatched anywhere in the world. The size and richness of businesses connected with these two passions can be matched by no other business in the world.

There is a third unquenchable obsession, it is called "reality show". When you surf the Indian television channels any time of the day, more often than not, you are bound to come across one or more reality shows being aired.  It may be a musical show, a talent show or a comedy show, most often offering millions of rupees as prize money for the participants. Invariably, you can expect to see the same faces in the panel of judges, either appreciating the talent or giving advice on how to be better or simply laughing their brains out like crazed persons.

The barber shop, where I go for my hair cut, has a television installed in the shop. Most of the time some reality show or the other would be airing on the regional channels. Sometimes it would be an old Malayalam movie or the news. Perhaps it is a good business ploy. While you are waiting for your turn, and if you are not busy on your smart phone, it can keep you engaged.  But the problem starts when it is my turn for the haircut. The barber is not that much into reality shows. If it is a movie or the news then he gets very much involved and sometimes very animated. He would get distracted once in a while, either chuckling at a joke or heaving a long sigh at some tragic scene or news or cursing under his breath or muttering his opinion at some news item.

I don’t mind the barber getting a bit of entertainment now and then especially after endless monotonous job of cutting hair. But not when I am sitting in the chair, with the scissors or the razor in his hands precariously hovering around my face and the neck while his attention is wandering somewhere else. It is one of the most scariest moments! It gets scarier if there is some heavy comedy scenes going on. The barber would go into a fit of suppressed laughter with his whole body shaking and the scissors or the razor bobbing up and down near my face. Comedy in some Malayalam movies can be real “rib ticklers”.

Many a times I thought of telling him to concentrate on his job. But then, you cannot mess with a guy holding a razor or scissors in his hands, that is dangerously hovering around your face and your throat. Sometimes I would try a feeble cough or noisy clearing of the throat, but it hardly works. So all I could do is just sit tight, tensed and hoping the barber’s attention would be back to his job.

There is something I have noticed, when we men are at the barber shop how we become meek, docile and submissive, like a lamb or like a puppy. The barber holds your head straight and you keep it straight, he bends the head and you bend it down, he lifts your head up and you lift it up, he tilts your head to the side and you keep it tilted. I am yet to come across a man who says, “I will sit as I like, you please do your job”. So much for the male ego, this is one time when it goes flying out of the window!

A wise man once told me that men develop a “circle of trust” which has in it among others, the barber, the butcher, the dhobi (laundryman) and the family doctor, not particularly in that order. It must be true! Several times the thought crossed my mind, that I should try another barber. But this guy knew exactly how I wanted my haircut, there was no need for me to tell him again and again. So, I go to the same shop, hoping that it is a reality show playing on the television, not a movie or the news.

The Indian News Channels are not far behind when it comes to reality shows. They too have their share of reality shows aplenty. Most often these events turn into a show of mindless shouting and screaming like crazed people. Sometimes these news channels carry their antics to extremes without any consideration for decency or dignity, all in the name of viewer ratings.

Anyone who had followed the events of 26/11 Mumbai attack on television would remember how some news channels turned the whole horrible event into a reality show. These media persons were so consumed with the viewership ratings, to be the first to capture the moments, that they did not even consider it as a national security issue.

When the rescue team was planning out strategy to rescue the people trapped inside the hotel, these channels were telecasting to the entire world revealing details of every tactical move with detailed commentary. Finally, they had to be literally shooed away by the security forces and told not to telecast the strategic move. But by then it was too late. Immediately after that we heard the “boom” of explosives going off and we saw balls of fire engulfing the very side of the hotel the rescue team was planning to enter. Who knows how many lives were lost or endangered because of that unfortunate lapse.

Finally, when a group of men and women were rescued from the burning building, the mass of media persons swooped on the poor victims, ran after them like a mass of crazed people. One woman journalist thrust a huge, red, ugly microphone into the face of a lady from behind and asked “madam, how are you feeling”! The poor lady and others had just been rescued after spending days of horrible moments inside the hotel building, with sounds of explosion and shootings going all around, and this media person ran after them just to be the first person to ask how they were feeling! How the hell did she think they would be feeling! How would she have felt if she was one of the victims trapped inside that hotel for days!

It was one of the most disgusting scenes I have ever witnessed on television. It was so sad and sickening to witness the display of such heartlessness and ruthlessness without any consideration for national security or any empathy for fellow human beings! The funny thing is, after this unfortunate incidences there was not a shred of remorse or regret in these faces, it was business as usual!

Why could not these people understand and appreciate that it was an event of national security, an event where lives were at stake! It seems, things like empathy and consideration for human lives are sacrificed at the altar of viewership ratings and utter sensationalism. As if, everything is a reality show!


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