Today one of the front page headline in a leading newspaper
is: Rivals allege ‘dirty tricks’ as Delhi Gymkhana polls turn ugly.
I am aghast and perturbed. In our country as vast as ours with manifold issues that need urgent solutions, the elections of a la-di-da club I personally boycott though I am a member (will tell the tale later in the post) is in no way, in my non page 3 mind, national news. I am sure there is a lot happening in our city and country that warrants space on the first page after of course the larger than life ads. I must confess I have had to relearn reading my newspaper and am still not comfortable with these new advertorial front pages. That two candidates were seen dancing together is of no interest to me. The only thing that caught my eye was that there is a woman candidate and probably this is the best opening for my insignificant, and yet empowering to me, story.
The husband applied for membership of the club just after we got married. Then it was oblivion for 20 years. I had forgotten about the issue as I am not a club going person. One day a letter arrived. It was an interview letter that would decide if we were 'worthy' to be member of this hallowed space. I read the letter and one sentence jumped at me. It said: your spouse is expected to attend
! The dormant feminist was up in arms and I told the husband there was no way I would go as I was not an object to be paraded, nor did any one have the right to expect me to do anything.
The interview was a few days later and I guess my better sense prevailed as I did not want Ranjan to miss the boat because of my high handedness. I however swore to never visit the club and have more or less stuck to my decision. The fateful day dawned. The get together as it was called was at 5pm. I would have liked to go in my frayed jeans and t shirt, but again I did not want my behaviour to spoil his chances so I wrapped myself in a sari and even painted my face and sprayed expensive perfume. Had go play the role. We were taken into what seemed an open enclosure. There must have been a dozen couples all in their Sunday best. We stood there like cattle at a fair waiting to be appraised. There was no tea or even water to drink and of course not a single chair. After some time a posse of men arrived and began the assessment process. Each wife dutifully stood by her husband. The forbidding looking posse would stop at every man and exchange a few words while we stood in silence. I guess they looked us up and down but we were neither introduced nor acknowledged. One felt like cattle at a cattle fair. Blissfully Ranjan got his coveted membership and I have rarely set my feet in that place.
But let us come back to the front page article. I am really astounded that such petty news should make front page. I know the club members read like a who's who of Delhi, but honestly is is front page news. I know spicy and gory news increase readership, but who do the on goings of a vestige of the Raj which concerns a minuscule speck of our population, interest. But Darling this is India and nothing should shock you.
Newspapers have a role to play and it should be a responsible one. They can increase awareness and make people answerable. When in was elected citizen one by a leading media group way back in 2005, I had suggested to the editor of the news paper to run a column every week whereby they would follow the work of the one that had been honoured and make sure that they walked the talk. You guessed right, my mail was never answered.
There is a role that newspaper can play and that would be very positive. In a country where children still die of hunger everyday, where social programmes remain on paper, where promises made to the highest Courts of the land, responsible papers should not stop at reporting the horror stories, but go a step ahead and follow the story. I may not be clear so here is an example. If an aberration occurs in a midday meal programme then it would be nice to have an audit of all the midday meals in the city and those running well should also be highlighted and applauded. So many 'stories' make the India wants to know
prime time show. India does want to know but is never told. So India wants to know many things but certainly not the on goings of a club election!