Friday, January 28, 2005

The power of the pen?

Well much like this good friend of mine whoz post lies beneath this one; its been guilt thats engulfed me for long--since the day i got an unusual and most unexpected invite to join this extraordinary and unique experience of 'community blogging'. Somehow had been procrastinating...but thankfully for myself and may not be so much for the others, found my calling today! It was driven by a few factors---of course Chitra having beaten me to writing her first blog is perhaps just one of them :-) Just happened to see this amazing movie 'Page 3' and it stirred up a thought process on something that i have been passionate about- Journalism. It made me think about the state of the press that we had in Pilani and whether at all it qualified to be called one.

May be there are members of the Pilani press on the blogspot here as well for whom i might be stirring a hornet's nest---but then, what the hell, isnt journalism all about freedom of expression? What i noticed in this blog is there are so many BITSians who actually are good with words, who have thought processes that lead to a sensible and impressive construction of sentences and there on...yet, how many of us bothered to ever contribute to the editions of an EPC or an HPC or CF for that matter? And then the inevitable always happens! The show must go on and hence a group of self appointed saviors of the language(from whichever linguistic community they might come!) hegemonize the goings-on and thereby make the group a closeted and dogmatic one. It then becomes a chain reaction where the 'masses' stay away because they feel its the exclusive rights of a priveleged few and the latter strengthen their hold citing the case of inevitability!

Its sad that most of the publications that were brought out were much like the Page 3 stories that this movie spoke about...they mainly covered which celebrities came to Pilani and sang, danced, jumped, hopped or skipped, measured the hemlines and their lengths of the LSR guests in BOSM, the uninhibited activities during OASIS(paparazzi press after all!), Valentine day messages and so on. Hindi press started coming out with these semester-publications where poetry of Mahadevi Varma and the like would be covered---not for once bothering to consider the fact that a majority of the 'target segment' would hardly know if Smt Varma was a poetess or their neighbour's grand aunt's neice's daughter-in-law! And a lot of Student money--(these came under the Union's purview after all) went into all this--so we couldnt even say, we care a damn about what trash our erudite friends publish.

The movie for example speaks about the need for co-existence--of serious journalism and Page 3 snippets. Thats anyday what a sensible press would do. How often did our press speak or probe into problems of Admissions and their skewed nature--though these were hot topics across dining tables in messes or late night laccha sessions in hostels? How many times did they give us insights into career prospects or tips on higher studies or resources we could tap for the same? How often did they give the Administration constructive feedback for improvement? Was the problem posed by monoculturization in Pilani ever discussed threadbare---not to my knowledge atleast. Isnt the press supposed to be the 'voice of the students'?Isnt it supposed to probe problems and issues, suggest remedies for the same----at the same time also carry interviews of Euphoria or an Aman Ayan ali bangash who might have come to campus and swept folks off their feet! The CF ofcourse did keep going through positive changes some years-depending on who the editor was and how sensible and sensitive he or she was; but the monthly/bi-monthly issues were still trash that used to get littered outside mess dustbins after dinner time!! The one time i remember the English press having done some really serious and truly commendable journalism was when they actually confronted the administration in the brutal way stray dogs used to be caught and killed on was a sight that would move the hardest of hearts; and you possibly cant cuddle up in a razai when a dog outside is howling for help, even as the blacksmiths employed to catch it, pulled it along the road like some aborginal hunt! Full marks and commendation to EPC on this one--something that shook the authorities and made them stop this barbaric practice. Now thatz what i call the power of the pen...The chief warden and the rest might be powerful souls, but a collective public opinion is something even they cant withstand and the onus of breeding and nurturing such opinions stems from the press....which was sadly conspicuous by its absence(atleast in the 6 long years i spent in the desert!)

All said and done, we all have our fair share of blame as i said for not having stepped in enough or participated with as much zeal as we could and should have, despite having the ability to...or people like me who tried tried tried, failed and decided to give up cos of other preoccupations. I just hope someone somehwere--especially the current batch of students who man the press in Pilani manages to read this post, continue not to hate me, take it as constructive criticism for their own improvement ( not reacting violently like some Cf editors chose to at times when criticized for a shoddy job!).

Well, too bad a topic i guess for a debut post... may be reminscing and glorifying the past and taking a trip down nostagia lane would have been a saner and politically more correct option...but just thought that was getting too very cliched and straight-jacket..when u get out of a place, all one can do is eulogize and feel that it was milk and honey that flowed there!!
As some wise man had said- I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody!!


Blogger Sanketh said...

2 issues with this post:

1) The EPC/HPC work within their constraints and what they achieve is admirable. There are a lot of factors that go into publishing those flyers and we will do well to appreciate them for their efforts. There are only so many publications that the Press can bring out in a semester and I believe that severly dents their efforts to question or generate "awareness". Moreover I believe most BITSians are aware of things that "matter" to them as and when they come along.
As far as your issue of "monoculturalization" goes I believe the administration is in the best position to judge who attends our university and there isn't much you can do about it. They make an effort to keep it fair and for a period it didn't work out the way they wanted it to. Lets not thrust the onus on the press to raise hackles.
I sincerely feel some of the problems in Pilani exist because some people take themselves and their opinions too seriously.
I also believe that your claim that the Press is the haunt of the privileged few is also way off the mark. I wish you were around to watch the EPC flaunt its 30+ recruits in 2002. The press is not exclusive and I am sure I am not the only one who believes that.

2) So we BITSians aint poets! What is the big deal? CF is an opportunity for people with a creative edge to flaunt their talent. It is a matter of choice. If people choose to contribute they will. I believe in the end most CF teams have been headed by tremendously creative and resourceful individuals. I have always enjoyed reading CF and I don't believe there is an issue there.

To sum it up I feel you are reading too much into what you have seen in the 5 years that you were in Pilani. You shouldn't generalize. I don't think it is fair on the current bunch. Lets not look for problems where none exist.
I believe there are a lot of other issues that need addressing. Like the general quality of education at Pilani. I belive it is about time ex-BITSians made a genuine attempt to give valuable feedback to their alma mater. There is a wealth of knowledge in the BITS Alumni Community. I belive our institution needs to put that to good use. Infrastructure isn't enough. There has to be a concerted effort to "educate" and share experiences.
I understand that BITSAA makes an effort but I feel more needs to be done on that front.


4:05 PM  
Blogger vivitsa said...

Very well written post Vikram.. ..On a related note,I might be wrong on this,but sometimes, I have wondered about the relavance of HPC to to the system at all,given that there are diverse linguistic groups in the student body.English, I understand, is the universal mode of communication in such a scenario.There are people with a lot of talent in writing and poetry,in their own native language, if each such group were to have their own press,I daresay it would do the already tight budget any good.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Vikram said...

@sanky and nair:
Hey that was quite some comments posted:-) i fail to understand how the constraints of quantity ("There are only so many publications that the Press can bring out in a semester ..") limits the quality and content of a publication! You might have just one a year, but one that has a judicious mix of stories.

please dont tell me u have been vauguely involved with the press, cos the stmnt "Moreover I believe most BITSians are aware of things that "matter" to them as and when they come along. " belittles the very need for a press and thatz such a depressing statement. If BITSians are 'aware' of things, they are also aware that X YZ came to Pilani, sang a classical concert or a rock show, what are the love-haunts and eating joints in Pilani, ABC teams came to BOSM --why report all this then??

yeah the admin is in charge of admissions, and may be "there isn't much you can do about it"--but thatz what a free press always aspires to do pal...challenge the status quo if it feels therez smthing lacking in it...could all our dailies shut shop just because we perhaps cudnt do antyhing about deposing the UPA govt or the Bush administration?

You are so right in the last paragraph where you list a series of things which need redressal..thats in a way your acknowledgment of the role the press can play and the role it isnt playing right now! If the institute isnt putting alumni knowledge to good use, cudnt EPC publications have a one page 'alumni column' where through networking u cud elicit their views.

and in conclusion, i was very much a part of EPC and hence i dont speak from the outside..i know winds of change r blowing there so far as composition is concerned...and if this is happening its only too good and long overdue...the problem that Pilani faces is people tend to oversimplify problems and try to find an easy escape route for everything possible!

@Vivitsa: I agree 100% with you...its not too necessary i guess to flog the 'national language' sentiment when the target audience barely understands or appreciates it..the rationalization HPC gives is that thatz exactly why they r there--to promote the language and make ppl more aware..dunno if thatz possible by having highly stylized and erduite poems and prose writings of the langauge's literature! so there we go again, the relevance of our press!!! :-)

8:41 PM  
Blogger Sanketh said...

First things first .. never been part of the press.

You have got to be kidding me when you say the number of publications doesn't make a difference on what you can cover. You are essentially eliminating the possibility of debate which i believe is necessary. With lesser number of publications you may never have the opportunity to cover all possible aspects of a "problem". I believe the Student Union can offer a much better outlet of opinions if it does something about it.

When i said "BITSians are aware" i anticipated criticism on your part. I guess i need to elaborate. In my experience on a average BITSians know what is happening on campus. At least the things pertinent to them. It is issues that they are not directly related to that the press helps draw their attention to.

Please refrain from drawing parallels between the mainstream press and EPC/HPC. Come on get realistic. I was of the opinion too that the administration is doing nothing about admissions but my short stay in the Senate showed me the other side of the story and my opinions are obviously influenced by that. I know the system ain't perfect but the point is it is pretty good.

About the alumni getting involved I am sure the press can play a significant role. Who said no! Maybe that is something they can take up.

The fact I am drawing attention to are two fold. Let the press do what it is doing. They are doing a good job. That is a personal opinion. Academics should be the primary focus of your BITSian stay. Let extra-curriculars stay that. Don't thrust them with more responisibility than they can handle. Again my personal opinion.

We obviously belong to two differnt schools of thought. I don't believe in complicating things. I believe in keeping them simple. Especially when you are at Pilani. There is a lot more you can do that way. I reiterate that most problems that we see on campus stem from people taking themselves more seriously than they ought to. The unnecessary and inconsequential aspects of BITSian life often garner more attention than those that finally matter.

In conclusion, there is scope for improvement in certain aspects of BITSian life. I guess everyone can do their bit. The press is doing its bit, IMHO. I don't think your piece is fair to them.


9:14 PM  
Blogger chitra said...

my good friend.. there are things u say i agree with and then again at someplaces u did falter.
quality of press/Cf needs improvement - i agree 110%. having been an integral part of both, i have no qualms in admitting that. however, everytime something has to be chosen for publication , it is insisted (by the union who handles all this money that the gbm contributes) that the language and style of articles be restricted to something the "lay" bitsian can as far as CF is concerned the attempt in the last 2-3 years has been to do away with stuff that is too abstract and stick to themes that the majority could relate to. its a difficult balance to strike and its been made tougher by the fact that the quantity and quality of contributions is at an abysmal low at the moment.its either a lack of talent or time, but most of all i guess its inertia - that major bug that all BITSians suffer from.

As far as the press is concerned :
a recent chat with a press clubber brought about the remark - 'well nothing is "happening" in BITS , what do we write about?'.again probabaly a result of inertia. a recent feeling i got was that all the "co-curricular" activities in BITS were happening more as a result of tradition and less because of initiative. so there's nothing new or remarkable about any of the "page 3" events.
about issues i would like to point outthat a various points of time , the admission system, the state of the messes, the academic problems (like course structure), the ticket booking procedure for train/bus, many pangas with the union coucil have all been covered. in fact the press now publishes an unbiased report of all Union Council meeting and activities - a sort of beat.
the point that must be remembered is that everytime we coose to challenge authority in any form, there's a lot of diplomacy that has to be maintained, coz gsu holds the right to determine the content of what we publish, even though he doesnt monitor it. so if any one "up there" doesnt like what we print - we get jacked fo rit. so before raking up an issue we have to consider wheteher its worth getting jacked about and then decide whether to print it or not.thast why only a few hot topics come out in print each year.

suggestions are always welcome, becoz no one is perfect and no one claims to be either. if u think there is something the press can/should write about thn it says so in every issue that u can mail ur comment/suggestions to the sec. if any BITSian has something to say, the press is and will be open to it.

9:19 PM  

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