Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Reader-Author Jugalbandi

Some 5000 read my Jab We Met review. In 2 days? Bollywood topics sure attract the readers, no?

MSN allows the reader to rate it, some 49 of these readers have taken the pains to mark a very middling 3 out of 5 in their rating. It only means this: Next time, shall keep in mind that the saamnewala is - right this moment - scoring me a low grade :-) when I hold forth at gatherings and parties.

Did the scores get averaged out? If I give myself a low rating of 1 out of 5 now... wonder how that'll get reflected in the overall scheme of things...

Earlier today, I seemed to come across the Dalai Lama everywhere. (In every paper and magazine I mean, aam aadmi jo hum thehre). Here is one revered individual who we get to meet, mediated by the skew and tilt of the newspaper and the lens of each writer. Newsweek, just arrived at our doorstep, for instance, starts off the entire interview by asking Dalai Lama straight out something like ‘What happens when you die?’


One can even hear the casual Amriki twang in the tone of this question & little matter if there is an Indian journalist Sudip Mazumder who’s also supposed to be partially taking this interview. He speaks Newsweekean. Ultimately, it is what 6 billion plus non- Amrikis see as the inward gazing ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude. The overall article is full of innuendos and quotes on the Dalai Lama... The way he is spoken of, is full of 'He said he was driven to tears' (instead of - 'he was driven to tears') or look at this line : 'Meanwhile the Dalai Lama is losing his ability to rein in his militant followers' . Or this one: The Dalai Lama's 'great respect' (quotation marks of Newsweek as if let's begin to doubt if this is real) for Hu Jintao etc. Newsweek just a week or so back had this article on how 'we' are oh-so-unbiased, but in the overall sum and substance, is the media's new smart and sneaky way, to go out and be as biased as you wish.

The magazine ‘Time’ was lying in the HSBC waiting area. Here, the magazine does the ‘We know Dalai Lama the best – after all, it is Asian Pico Iyer who writes on His Holiness for us, over the years, 1987, 1997, and now in 2008’. (Thus kal- ka - chhokra Pico Iyer shares his name and almost equal space on the cover, with the revered DL). More of a sense of deep respect evident through the article, beginning with how the young Pico kept a picture of the Lama on his desk all through his childhood, and yet, Time is another magazine out of the US. Bending backwards the other end.

And Vinod Mehta of Outlook does the ultimate Indian reverse snobbery thing – the ‘I-don’t believe-in-these-spiritual-types-though-I-am-an-Indian’ . But one who reveals his totally dehati and desi roots when he owns up to touching the Dalai Lama’s feet, before he leaves his presence!

Am reminded of Foucault’s ‘What Is An Author’. The author as the origin of something original is deconstructed by Foucault. Right now, how we plebeians view the exalted soul, depends on what we read in the media and who writes about the Dalai Lama.

The only point of view is that each medium presents a fragmented point of view. The truth is, there are no universal Truths, even when His Holiness is involved. Perhaps even more so when Buddhism is the central theme. Each author is nothing but one more manifestation of the current social dynamic. Each one somewhere deep down dwells in and revels in his (his magazine’s) own ‘Will To Power’… to quietly swell his chest in his role of mediator in moulding and creating a reader perspective. (Aside: I use the pronoun 'he' purposefully in these politically correct gender times we live in :-) )

The identity of the Dalai Lama then shifts from the reader perspective – from author to author. All we get to see - in today’s media-exploded, internet enabled world, is that the author-function is murkier than ever before.

And if we hapless readers give a low ‘grade’ to the media spewed output, like I'm doing at this moment, all we are doing is deluding ourselves on having had a say.

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