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Friday, July 24, 2015


When the eldest of my Mamas (maternal uncles) suddenly died in 2004, the extended family had an impromptu conference discussing a seemingly serious matter as to who all had cried, how much, with how wild frolics and who had NOT. I was not witness to it, but someone told me about it later. Apparently all the family members unanimously concluded that those who failed to shed tear or show antics at the obvious sad incident were less human, loved Mama less and needed overwhelmed condemnation. And those who did shed tears abundantly are better human, loved Mama more and should be praised wholeheartedly. Ironically, the widow had fallen in the first category.  
Those were the time when Facebook had not become the universal vulgar, perverted platform of vindication and show off. Social gatherings like death, birth, religious ceremonies and the occasional visit to the house of friends and relatives were the arena where we tried to outperform each other. Your grief was my secret happiness even then. And boasting of achievements used to take shape of a new piece of jewelry or cloth that you wear to the occasion to show off, and small talks limited to topic like the marks your children had scored, the college that he/she secured a place in etc. Parent felt unhappy if their children were not as smart as those of others. Wives felt unhappy if their husbands were not making as much money as the husbands of others. But, on the face of it everybody showed perfect happiness at the achievement of others.    
Shedding tears or crying is possibly the first emotional outburst that human being register after being born. As they grow, learn the ticks of life and acquire the so-called civilized norms of social behaviour; they learn to control this emotion. We teach our children how to control tears. Not because, we hate to see tears rolling down their cheek, but because we want them to be strong – at least emotionally. We were taught males do not cry; at least not in public. There are also people who are structurally incapable of showing this raw emotion in public. Yet, not being able to show your raw emotions becomes a yardstick for measuring your social status, your upbringing, and your character.
The widow had more practical issues, more pressing worries, and more immediate priorities – like how to raise the sixteen-year-old son alone. She possibly could not afford the luxury of giving vent to the raw emotions at that time. And who knows how much did she cry in private? Even if you cried out loud once the dust - created by the storm of sudden and untimely death of someone who had ever been the fulcrum of your life - have settled; does it make any difference?
Twelve years down the lane, the scene has not changed much. Only that the social gathering has been replaced by Facebook. So, you do not have to cry in public, just click a photo of you crying at your own leisurely time and post it. If someone had died in the family, just take a selfie at the crematorium and post it with a comment like – Me, at cremation of my uncle, feeling sad. Social etiquette of Facebook says you ought to comment on the photo of me with my wife in Singapore with line like – oh! sooo cute. Although, something inside you would continue smoldering in jealousy until you can you post a photo of your being in Las Vegas.
Your grief will always remain my secret happiness, my vindictiveness will always catch you peeking at the photos of my being able to savour better material comfort then you can muster. Just, do not hesitate to call up your friend and relatives to tell how much you cried. And of course, do not forget Facebook.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

When ethics went for a toss

A baby was born to a pair of parents after the mother went through a series of miscarriages. The parents were happy and grateful to the doctor who helped in the process. A private hospital in Guwahati was also involved in the whole exercise.
At a personal level, apparently it is a happy news; may even be exceptional. I hope nobody would doubt that. Having a baby, by all counts, is a personal experience to be shared with friends and relatives. It, however, hardly qualifies as news unless you are a Princess or a celebrity. Nobody would perhaps be interested in Nomal kai becoming a father. Would you like to read it on first person from Nomal in a newspaper that one has to buy paying money?
The first cardinal rule for a something to be news is that it has to be new. Newspapers are deluded with news everyday and all newspapers has a policy (either declared or undeclared) of selecting news. One of the widely accepted thumb rule is that the news has to have relevance to the public. The unwritten ethics in newspapers tell all editor to be on guard against advertisements passing as news. When it happens, we call them paid news.
Now, read this piece in The Assam Tribune under the headline "A New Lease of Life". (I am also placing a downloadable image of the piece at the bottom, in case the internet link becomes inaccessible). The parent was all ga ga abut the private hospital and the doctor involved. He wanted to share it with readers of the newspaper and the newspaper gave him space to do so. Apparently nothing wrong in that; except the fact that para 6.1.1 of the Guidelines of the Medical Council of India says - "A physician shall not make use of him / her (or his / her name) as subject of any form or manner of advertising or publicity through any mode either alone or in conjunction with others...". It also says that the doctor shall not permit the publication of any report to boast of cases, operations, cure or remedies through any mode. If anybody cares to complain, the good doctor may lose her license for being a part of the publicity.
The other issue here is finding "point of public interest" in the piece. The page on which the item appeared also carries 'Obituary'. One can understand the logic of carrying Obituary as a homage to the departed. But, what was so extraordinary in the birth that warranted it to be a news and not an advertisement can best be deciphered by my esteemed readers. Or was it so that an advertisement has actually been passed as a news? If it actually happened in a newspaper like The Assam Tribune, its time to become concerned.