Why we should not criticise the Media for “negative” news

No, I am not from the journo fraternity.

The chances are you would not continue reading this piece for two reasons:

  1. The topic does not sound sensational and
  2. Your mind is telling you either you know the answer or you don’t need to know it.

That pretty much sums it up. I can afford to write without bothering about being read. But media cannot. They write to sell so they have to be mindful of what sells. And we all know what sells because we are ones who buy it.

In order to be in a better position to judge media we need to introspect by asking “If given a choice what would we read?”An article on a plight of child labour or B. a news piece on a teenager becoming a target of a sexual assault?

A. A report on the bills passed by the parliament or B. A report on MPs using pepper spray?

A. News of a dedicated social worker passing away or B. News of a Bollywood actor getting injured?

A. News about an Indian grand master winning an international chess tournament or B News about an Indian cricketer scoring a hundred.

If the honest answer of most of us for all the questions is B, expect such items to be a part of the front page. And that’s how it is.

It is not the media that decides what will feature on the front page. It is we.

Reason?

Is a subject of research.

What I feel is that this is one of the outcomes of the info-revolution that has hit the world.

Once upon a time mail marketing was enough to generate curiosity and would result in deals even in the US. Colorful billboards would capture imagination of one and all.

But then Information Technology entered the scene. And it pervaded all aspects of life from entertainment to medicine to telecommunication to aviation and what not.

It started by mesmerizing the young minds with innovative music videos. Then Apple and computer animation happened and Hollywood started putting life into prehistoric beings, aliens (from ET to Terminator to Transformers) and of course the super heroes. Today, Google has turned every one into a one second explorer and gmail has almost killed the word email. Youtube has changed people into channels and has modified the meaning of the word “viral”. Facebook has turned the world into one big meeting place, “whatsapp” has become the verb synonym of “message” and twitter has become the official medium for the world leaders and celebrities even as the world has got used to hear it from the horse’s mouth.

One of the ramifications of telecommunication boom was the explosion in the number of electronic media channels. Even in a country like ours there are numerous news channels. Another was a burst in the number of products and services vying for the same market segment.

All this was giving nightmares to marketers of products and services alike. To reach out to the customers they not only had to advertise but also slice their spending across channels. Of course preference has been going to the channels with highest TRPs. For print media preference parameter had always been the readership.

Among all this change, something remained constant.

Man’s nature.

It retained its tendency to be bored easily and lose interest. It also retained its obsession with voyeurism, pain and suffering.

Sadly the nature of news hasn’t changed over the years.  If you go through the news of 50 years back the only difference would be the technology used by the subjects.

So there was only solution left for the news papers and news channels to remain viable: report not what people SHOULD know but what people WANTED to listen and watch. And thus give them the satisfaction of that satiating feeling “Yes I knew!”

The only sense of empirical authenticity now lies in numbers. Numbers still keep people interested more than the text does. So tell the number of rupees being spent on Kasab and they will fondly read. Filling the news with number of hours, deaths, dollars, votes, is an effective bait to get eyeballs.

Also, these days, people have acquired high regards for “human rights”. Identifying with the plight of the perpetrator and not the victims has become the new mantra to sell news. Still better ploy is to portray the perpetrator as the victim of circumstances and emerge as a true champion of human rights.

The business units that they are, (apart from being the indispensible social institution) media will always try their best to report something that can tickle our benumbed sensibilities.

So before we blame the media for being insensitive we should ask do we have the stomach for the sensitive and not just the sensational.

Disparaging the compassion of Mother Teresa

Mother-Teresa

Acquiring greatness is a long and arduous journey. A journey for which acquiring greatness may not be a goal at all. People have devoted their entire lives to various causes and still remain unknown or less known. I feel disturbed about two trends which seem to be quite prevalent today. One, greatness is being equated with being famous and powerful. And two, disparaging people with a reputation of greatness is becoming increasingly acceptable.

The recent comment by the RSS chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat on Mother Teresa is a case in point. What he said was “Mother Teresa’s service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian.”

Disparaging is the mildest adjective that can be used for the remark. Mr Bhagwat is not alone in his view point. From across the world people have raised doubts about the beatification of Mother Teresa. Western author and journalist Chistopher Hitchens  used the words “fraud” and “fanatic” for her way back in 2003. These words can be mildly called  polemical but are nothing short of being iconoclastic.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2003/10/mommie_dearest.html

I don’t want to debate the factual grounds on which such criticisms for Mother Teresa are based. Neither do I have any right to infringe on their freedom of free speech.

My point is quite simple. Man is a bundle of errors with a potential for greatness which is rarely realised. The greatest persons that have lived on  Earth have had their share of flaws. When a person acquires fame both – the virtues and the flaws – are magnified by the lens of public scrutiny.

There may be some truth in the allegations against Mother Teresa that she was a glorified missionary. There may be some logical justification in the objections to her beatification. But should that allow us to question her tireless work for the destitute? Did Mother Teresa ask to be beatified?

If she was just another glorified missionary then why in the last so many years the world has not been able to “create” another Mother Teresa?

This is because the principal ingredient that goes into the making of such greatness is passion – undying, lifelong passion – to think about and work for mankind. And such passion is the rarest of rare virtues. No wonder we have so few Gandhis, Mandellas, Irom Sharmillas, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irom_Chanu_Sharmila)  Martin Luther Kings, Baba Amtes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baba_Amte)  and Mother Terasas.

Today people-  especially politicians and journalists – never waste any opportunity to tarnish the revered images. This they may do for various reasons and interests which may be personal or societal.

But I believe that greatness attached to the names of such great people should be preserved. There are so many young impressionable minds who imbibe a sense of responsibility towards the weaker sections of the society by knowing and reading about them. And it’s not only the children but also the grownups with not-so-radical outlook who feel disillusioned with such attacks.

For so many years Mother Teresa has symbolised compassion, service and kindness. Her legacy is ever so important in today’s world marked by expanding corporate influence and contracting sensitivities. To dismiss her service as being solely driven by the motive of a missionary would be an example of narrow mindedness.

I wish we all believed in just celebrating greatness of people as dedicated and committed as Mother Teresa  and believing in the fact that despite and amid all evil,  good exists.

How to Write a Statement of purpose (SOP)

With a global surge in the inclination for higher education, there has been a rise in the number of applicants for various post graduate and doctoral programs. But it has been more so in the field of management especially for MBA.

This has made selection process quite a challenging task for the top universities and the Institutes. The selectors want to ensure that they get exactly the kind of talent they are looking for.  So the selection process has become multi-stage and multi layered to make the assessment of applicants as holistic as possible. A standard written test score, sound academic record and a statement of purpose have all their share of importance.

For many students, written test and academic record make straight forward sense, but they seem to be at loss when asked to write a statement of purpose. This post aims to familiarise you with the basics of the SOP and the process of writing SOP for MBA.

What is Statement of purpose

As the name indicates the University or the Institute wants to know the specific reasons behind your decision to apply for the program. They also want to know about whether you have assessed yourself for the suitability for the applied program and also whether you understand the benefits  of the program. In short they want to know whether the applicant is clear about where the program exactly fits into his/her larger scheme of things.

So a good SOP should include the following

  1. Career Goal
  2. Your background and experiences correlated with your Career Goal
  3. Appreciation of what the program offers.

Let us understand these one by one.

  1. Career Goal

Career goal is the most important aspect of an MBA SOP or the answer of the question “Why MBA?”.

For most of the under graduates and even graduates these are the most confusing and amorphous words. They mean it to be some kind of prediction and seem to be wary of it going wrong.

To put it simply the career goal is a statement of intent and aspiration and not a prediction. While stating a career goal, one is expected to state the professional level one desires to achieve at the top of his career over the next 15- 20 years.

For example: “I aspire to be at a position of strategic leadership in a Fortune 500 company.” Or “I desire to have my own business in the field of e commerce with a global presence.” Or “I see myself as the leader of a trans national retail organistaion.”

Although a person must ideally decide to prepare for the written test only if there is clarity on career goal front, students often write the test with a vague idea like “a better job” or “everybody does it”. So at the time of application they feel quite uncomfortable in stating a convincing career goal. They should understand that there are no good or bad career goals. There are only clear or vague goals. And to arrive at clarity some bit of research is indispensible.

  1. Background and experiences correlated with career goal.

The objective of including background and experiences is to strengthen the candidature by showcasing your strengths, interests and inclinations.  So it is advisable to include those experiences which logically relate with one’s choice of a particular career goal. This part can include experiences and instances from school and college life – both academic and extra-curricular- , interactions with friends and family, social interactions and also from work experience if applicable.

For example “I discovered my interest in business when I participated in a Business plan presentation competition at my college. Right from doing the research and crunching numbers to presenting the plan and winning the competition, I went on to realise that I have inclination towards identifying and exploiting business opportunities.”

Or

“I derive a lot of pleasure in cooking and fine dining. I even like to give feedback to restaurants on improving the dining experience. In many instances a restaurant owners have appreciated my feedback. Over the years I have developed a desire to blend my interest with my career. “

  1. Appreciation of what MBA program offers

Many students who apply for MBA programs have a misplaced idea about what an MBA exactly offers. They mention words like “personality development or personality enhancement” or “to hone my managerial skills”. While personality development is a by product of life in a B School it is not its express purpose. So what does MBA really offers.

MBA program from a reputed Institute or University offers both inside class and outside class learning. The primary purpose of MBA is to equip the students with key skills and core competencies needed to run and drive the growth of a big business.  In the process the student’s involvement with peers during case discussions and co curricular activities, interaction with visiting Industry experts, and  summer internship provide a boost to various soft skills needed to excel in the corporate. Besides, the alumni connection boosts the placement scenario and strengthens the brand of an Institute. The brand advantage is one of the biggest intangibles offered by a top B school.

Features of a good SOP.

A good sop is one in which the background logically support the career goal and the skills needed to achieve the career goal are the same as those offered by MBA program. Often a word limit – ranging from 100 words to 1000 words – is provided while asking for the SOP. However, if no word limit is provided SOP of around 600 words is highly desirable.  The language should be as simple as possible and jargon should be used only when necessary. Also remember that often the SOP serves as the basis for the subsequent Personal Interview, so you should be absolutely clear about the meaning of special words and the jargon used in the SOP.

Final word

Writing an impressive SOP is a process that depends on decent language skills, proper research and patience to write multiple drafts and edit them for improvement and removing any errors.  The two essential qualities of a good SOP are clarity and conviction.

Who is Kailash Satyarthi? My salute to the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Indian Children Right Activist Kailash Satyarthi Won 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Even as a man from India with a pressing social cause is crowned with the world’s most prestigious recognition – the Nobel Peace prize 2014, I as a common Indian am going through a strange mix of pride and humiliation.

I am proud that a country of millions of people with thousands of problems has at least one person who has been selflessly working for a social cause without any political axe to grind. I am also proud that he has been fighting to save the most precious part of the human life cycle- the childhood. I am also proud of the fact that in this journey spanning over 30 years Mr Kailash Satyarthi has even risked his life while facing seemingly insurmountable perils.

At the same time I am feeling humiliated that I came to know about a great man when his efforts and struggle were recognised by the highest award on the planet for such contribution – The Nobel peace prize 2014. I am even more puzzled than humiliated that how his entire contribution has gone unnoticed by Indian media.

As I got the news that Mr Kailash Satyarthi from India has won the Nobel Peace prize 2014, I got overwhelmingly interested in knowing more about the man.

I tried to search for more about him and I could find some scholarly literature on labor rights that studied Kailash Satyarthi’s mammoth crusade against child labour and its significant impact on the same.

Kailash Satyarthi was born in Madhya Pradesh in 1954. He is a graduate in Electrical engineering and a post graduate in high voltage engineering. He pursued a career in teaching in the city of Bhopal.

In 1980 Kailash Satyarthi decided to play an active role in addressing the plight of the child labor especially the bonded child laborers. His goal was to free these children from an exploitative system and also provide them with proper avenues for education and rehabilitation. He founded an organisation “Bachpan Bahchao Andolan” (Save the childhood movement).

He visited rug manufacturing units in the eastern Uttar Pradesh and saw the child laborers working in appalling conditions and having an uncertain future. The eastern end of Uttar Pradesh state, in a triangle from Varanasi to Mirzapur and Bhadohi, is the center of the carpet belt, where it was estimated that several hundred thousand children were at work, mostly under conditions of dismal servitude and bondage. Despite the denials of government and industry about bonded child labor in the carpet belt, Kailash Satyarthi’s crusade, aided by the Indian Supreme Court, caused the liberation of thousands of children who were discovered in raids by these activists.

ks1

Kailash Satyarthi realised that the problem is not exclusive to India and therefore the solutions cannot be developed for India in isolation. This is because while the production of lot of goods happens in the poor and developing countries like India, the consumption of these goods is at a global level and particularly in the developed nations. Due to attention by a foreign TV channel which captured the plight of the child labor in the rug industry in eastern UP, the issue was noticed by the International labour rights organisations. It also resulted in the extension of Kailash Satyarthi’s network. He started collaborating with similar NGO’s from the other South Asian countries.

He also realised that conducting raids and rescuing the child laborers cannot be the complete solution and there was a need of some disincentive for the use of child labor.

He envisaged incorporating the “child labor free” aspect to be necessary requirement for a product to be accepted by the  domestic and the global buyers.  Thus he came up with the concept of “Rugmark” – the child labor free certification. The factories without the Rugmark certification would face problems in selling their products.

rugmark

To read the entire struggle you can visit: http://laborrights.org/sites/default/files/publications-and-resources/CARPETRugmark.pdf

Rugmark is now known as “GoodWeave” label.  To know more about the GoodWeave concept and be associated with it you can visit the following site:

http://www.goodweave.org/home.php

GoodweaveFINAL11909web

According to a blog by Kailash Satyarthi his profile states the following:

“In 1998, Mr. Satyarthi organized the Global March against Child Labour (GMACL) across 103 countries with participation of over 7.2 million people and 20,000 civil society organizations. It is the largest peoples’ campaign on child labour that led to ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour. It has been successful in the formation of the Global Task Force on Child Labour and Education, which is a working committee of UN agencies and GMACL for policy coherence and concerted action on child labour elimination, education for all and poverty alleviation.

Global Campaign for Education (GCE) – The education initiative led by Mr. Satyarthi is the coalition of civil society networks, foundations and teachers association campaigning for the implementation of Dakar goals of ‘Education for All (EFA)’ through international advocacy and lobbying work.”

The complete profile can be read at http://kailashsatyarthi.net/blog/

According to Wikipedia: “Satyarthi has been the subject of a number of documentaries, television series, talk shows, advocacy and awareness films.[27] Satyarthi has been awarded the following national and international honours:

 

Although I believe that such a man is not driven by any awards or recognition, I truly lament that none of the awards in the above listed is from India.

Today India needs more NGO’s like Bachpan Bachao Andolan. I salute Mr Kailash Satyarthi for winning the Nobel Peace prize 2014 and hope that he will inspire many more to fight the malady of Child labor.

Understanding the Villain – III (Concluding part)

Why is it necessary to understand the villain? Or as I ended the last post “where do we find villains apart from the fiction and movies?” Before I answer this I would like to sum up in one line the essay so far. The villain is characterised by some indomitable and creative spirit which is at odds with the standard idea of “good”. To answer the above questions,  we need to look for these traits in real life. Today the news papers are filled with news of crime, terrorism, corruption. Who are these people? Don’t they realize where the world is heading! Where are these people found? To find them let’s look inwards. Human beings are naturally infested with some villainous traits.

  1. Anger: Anger is the real villain. It can possess. It is creative and indomitable. It manifests itself in ways that are often destructive.
  2. Greed: Greed is really stealth. It is almost impossible for a person to detect and/or accept that he/she is driven by greed. And yet under the influence of greed a person turns creative and adventurous. Greed for power, money, love can make people behave in the most unexpectedly devious ways.
  3. Arrogance: “Humans are equal and deserve the same basic rights”. This is a good guiding principle which I have rarely seen implemented. This is because in form of arrogance a person has the antithesis to idea of equality. Arrogance is usually driven by lineage or achievements or by both. A person driven by arrogance is capable of tyranny.
  4. Religious Intolerance: My God is the real God. My religion is the best religion. When these rather innocuous ideas get translated into “God of other religion is a devil” and “every religion other than mine must be wiped off the world”, it can imperil the entire world.

In other words I am trying to say that villain inhabits all of us often in a dormant stage. So does it mean that we should not bother about all this.?

Actually no.

In movies we often see that the villain is often humongous. It engulfs and destroys entire cities or civilzations. In real world the villain manifests itself as a collective form. It is not visible as a particular individual like “the Joker” or “the Megatron”.

When a number of people get greedy we witness the monsters called  “Corruption” and “Crime”.

When a number of people feel arrogant about their color or race, it is manifested as “Racism”.

When a number of people are driven by religious intolerance we suffer from communal disharmony and genocides, Sectarian violence. 

In movies the villain is overpowered or killed by the author. But in the real life, the seemingly dormant villain inside us feeds and immortalizes the invisible but pervasive villains around us. All “good” people feel bad and criticize the state of affairs. But they feel helpless too. Because, to kill the bigger monsters we need to monitor and cleanse our inner selves.

And that’s no mean task  for a civilization as busy with progress as we.

Why Love Is a Learned Language

An amazing article on one of the most hyped and the least understood emotion: Love

THE KNOWLEDGE DOME

An amazing article on one of the most hyped and the least understood emotion: Love

Excerpt: “Citing famous cases, both folkloric and factual, of human children raised by animals outside civilization, Buscaglia notes that just like we “learn” to be human, we also learn to love. He points to the research of various psychologists, psychiatrists, sociologists, anthropologists, and educators, who have indicated that love is a “learned response, a learned emotion,” and laments a fundamental cultural disconnect:”

For full article:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/06/30/leo-buscaglia-love-2/

View original post

Understanding the Villain – Part II

In the previous post I tried to outline the origin and emergence of the villain.

https://theopiniator.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/understanding-the-villain-part-i/

In this post I shall answer the question raised in the last post:

But what are the oddities  that breed the villain and make some cross the second check?

There can be three possible scenarios:

1. Physical Anomaly

One of the biggest human desires is to be accepted and loved. Any individual at any level cannot live happily in the state of rejection from the society. The problem with a person who is physically at odds with most of those around is that he is most often rejected. Sometimes he may get attention/sympathy/ awe of some docile persons.

So what does a person with a physical anomaly do? He/she tries to impress people and win appreciation and with each attempt finds himself/herself even more isolated.

In some cases isolation is aggravated by insults and insults grow to an unbearable extent.

Then the person is left with two choices. One, to learn live the life of ignominy and two, to create a different world in which more and people willingly or unwillingly not only accept him but also respect him. The latter path leads to the emergence of the villain.

2. Alternative spirituality

God is the supreme power in this creation called the universe. We have to be good to please him and if we do something wrong He punishes us.

What if somebody does not believe in these ideas and rejects them summarily? Instead, he identifies a different purpose of life which is completely at odds with existing notions of right and wrong. Of course the moment the world comes to know about it, it will try to reform the person and try to instil in him the “right” notions of right and wrong.

When alternative spirituality is coupled with superior communication skills, it is possible to attract people who are weak followers of the mainstream faith. Once a person realises the latent power of the masses, he takes it an opportunity to prove that his conception is the true way for meeting the real purpose of life and the villain may be born.

3. Alternative theory of creation or creativity

“Destruction is the end of creation” is the normal notion. Destructive kids are feared and sometimes detested.

What if someone believes that destruction is not the end of creation, it is the essential beginning for a new creation. If he believes that anything that has existed for long must be decaying and must be destroyed to allow and facilitate a new beginning.

Or some other alternative theory of creation or creativity.

The chances are that education and counselling will try to direct his / her creativy in the traditional direction and may succeed. But if such a person is capable enough to move out of the theoretical realm of alternative creativity to devising something destructive (creative) the chances are that (s)he will be unstoppable and the villain would emerge.

But where do we find the villain apart from the fiction and movies?

A simple one but I will answer this in my next post.