August 29, 2003

Mid-Week Break

To wake up at 3 am and to sit and write in the only light of the computer screen has to be, arguably, one of my most favourite bits of time that I get to spend in a week. After a prolonged stretch of time in the dumps, I am finally beginning to find something that remotely resembles strength that would help me pick myself up and get back on the same old struggle, this time with a little less whining and the odd stroke of silver lining making a rare appearance for a refreshing change.

It has always bothered me why is it that most things that I do, do not have any particular reason behind it. I keep doing the stupidest of things over and over again, even when I ask people close to me to refrain from doing it. I think I have come around to the reasoning that, it is more like a message in a bottle. It is a little favour that does not cost you much. If it comes back at you, it would be wonderful, even if it does not, it would have made a little change in someone's life.

Began writing again on paper this week, it is not really a diary, just notes, observations and so on. It feels nice to write to amuse just yourself, but my handwriting is a nightmare, looks more like an ECG machine itself suffering a serious stroke or something. Last time I kept a diary was from 1997 to 1999, it contains some of my most psychotic crap. That along with the very few actual fictional bits that I have ever written remains now with someone as a parting gift.

I still have small bundle of letters I received from that time, written on sheets torn off notebooks, in cheap ballpoint ink. Have not read them in years now, nor do I intend to. They are not a painful experience, on the contrary, they are the only bits of relief from fast fading memories of times of past. When the grey ones finally give up on me, at least I would have those yellowing torn sheets to age with, to read and have something to fondly smile about.

An author must take risks. I cannot know what millions of readers over the world will think about what they are reading. I write for the one person whom I know reasonably well - myself. Every creative undertaking is an adventure which is at once painful and fascinating: on the one hand, there is the fear of discovering our own ghosts; on the other, the excitement of knowing we are more interesting than we thought we were.

— The soul's harvest by Paulo Coelho.



I have never read Coelho, but cannot agree more with him. Maybe not the whole extract, but most of it, minus the last bit. I honestly do not think we are that interesting. In fact, I believe most of life is about coming to terms with how ordinary you are. Take away one redeeming factor about a person and what is left is mostly quite ordinary, nothing fascinating about it. Somehow the presentation is where writing matters, after all the sun can actually set in only one way.

Screen narrative is not about writing dialogue and writing action descriptions. It is about events, and the order in which they take place. The outline stage presents you with an opportunity to prototype the story until you get it right. It ensures that everyone in the film-making chain knows what to expect. And it forces you, as the writer, to nail your vision of the film in a simple, declarative form.

— Who's afraid of Sylvia Plath? by John Brownlow.



I guess the same holds for every act of creativity and not just for writing a screenplay. It is the reason why, other than a sheer lack of discipline, I would never write anything substantial in my whole life. It would mean putting yourself out for judgement by all and sundry and then what is most scary is that I might not even be half as good as what I thought I was. Or even scarier, it is like having a total brain fade during the two hours when it matters the most, an examination.

August 26, 2003

And more

"Why in the world did you turn left? We should have turned right, taken the short bumpy ride and gone home."

"I do not know, I do not have any particular reason."

"Oh God, we are going again on one of those early morning 'dude-I am-so-cool-and-free-wind-in-my-hair' rides, are we not?"

"You can get off if you want to, no one is forcing you and you know that damn well too and by the way, the wind in the hair bit does not apply since I am wearing a helmet."

"Whatever!"

"You know, these rides are valuable, they teach you so many things about life in very simple terms. For instance, take this red light, I love the fact that it is perhaps the greatest leveler. I have nowhere to go, the people around me are in a mad rush, to schools, to offices and god knows where, but here we are all equal, time stops for roughly three minutes. We are bound for those 180 seconds by the unwarranted pause to our purposes, or the lack of one in my case."

"Err.. I beg to differ there. You have a home to go to. You are hungry, there is breakfast to be fixed, sleep to catch up on and around 40 pages of print outs that you took 15 minutes back to read through. So please spare me this hideous amalgamation of Deepak Chopra, The Traffic Light Shrugged and Edward De Bono. By the way, do you seriously intend to read all that? Struts, MVC and other gobbledegook? "

"Well, the house can wait, it won't die if I am not there in another hour or so and there are plenty of roads to be ridden. As for the MVC, if I think I am describing an apple, they too think I am describing an apple and apple it is that we both want to discuss, what is the problem if we are actually describing an orange? We all are happy in the end, right? And oh, you can now please stop begging."

"But honestly pal, ease up, don't you think you are overdoing it a bit now? When was the last time you went home straight instead of taking the long route around as if you were doing a detailed study on what effects this strange and prolonged spell of rain has on the city roads? I do not mean to criticise you, but I just do not get the whole point about all of this."

"The point is that there IS no point. Do you honestly do not get it or are you always this daft?"

"We just passed yet another U turn, how much further do you want to go? Besides, the traffic is getting worse now, it is more pain than pleasure, even the sun is now uncomfortably bright, please stop acting like a jerk, let us turn around and go home. I might even fix you breakfast for all you know!"

"Yeah..."

"Now, stop acting like a sulky 4 year-old child, you know as well as I do that even without my saying we would have turned there. And do not forget to get that half pack of bread, have you noticed how brown bread these days is much softer than the regular white ones? And for heaven's sake please stop humming that song, I do not know what is worse, that you can't sing or even hum for nuts, or that you are humming my favourite song? Oh God, oh God, did you see that?"

"See what?"

"That girl in the green car yawned at you as she passed by, congrats, you are not the only person to be yawning and driving early in the morning."

"Thanks a ton, you just done wonders to whatever microscopic quantity that is left of my ego. I mean, the best I can do is to elicit a yawn, these days?"

"You know, I am having second thoughts about going home, now that I am off my high horse."

"But we have to, traffic, breakfast and you know the drill..."

"Yeah."

"Yeah, let us go."

August 24, 2003

Conversation

"The patient is not to be allowed any visitors, continue his time in isolation in the box with a box and the picture cards, routine medication to continue", says the doctor to the nurse after a cursory look through the case sheet.

"I am not getting any better doctor?" Asks the sullen patient.

Putting his best smile on, the doctor says, "Of course you are, you are doing quite well, it is not as bad as it looks, you will have a normal life, within the box with a box and of course, we are happy to have you here. So, really, there is nothing to worry about".

"But I have not been feeling well doc, I feel as if the world is gradually falling away from me, that I am entrapped in this box, and a box within it and the picture cards are fake. I can hear music, I can see things like I am told to, but I do not feel any of them, there is only a growing numbness."

"Nonsense! it is all very real, see how they all like you, how they all love you, how you love them and how it is all perfect"

"But I am sure you have not felt the way I am feeling doc"

"Like how?"

"Have you ever felt like disowning every single word you have every said, to drain yourself of every single bit of emotion that has ever existed in you, to give up your own self and watch it roll down the hill and be devoid of hope any desire to desire anything?"

"But why would anyone want to give up on hope, don't you think it would be wonderful when it is all better?"

"That is my point doc, I can see that you are fake, the box with a box is fake, that you are only artificially creating what does not exist in me, hope, the concept of life exists for me only in the gut-wrenching pain I feel, the pain that you cannot see or feel, the pain that all of these little toys only serve to increase."

"That is a fine yarn you have spun mister patient, but I will have none of it. Not a single word in my big fat books match the description of you condition. So it cannot be!"

"But doc, I FEEL it!"

"That is immaterial, this is just a phase, it will pass, now get some rest, tomorrow is another day!"

After pulling the drapes on, the doctor vanishes.

August 22, 2003

Free Fall

Between unhealthily large doses of caution, trepidation, flashes of love and all-encompassing desolation, the watch for that thing continues. The enigmatic proportions of the concept is growing so huge on me that I am slowly being forced to accept that it could possibly not exist at all. Part of the problem is that the concept in itself looks quite hypothetical or downright unrealistic at times. Does that mean I can stop looking? Do I have a choice either?

Time as it progresses has taken a great fondness for marking its passing in an extremely staccato fashion and so does the moods associated with it. There is so much beauty in every thing at times that your little spot of darkness does not amount to anything and living becomes worth the effort and pain that goes into it. Then there are times when you stick to the shadows for the fear of the world seeing the real face of your self.

Maybe the only consistent bits in this game are the meaninglessness of statements. It does not matter how, what and why I appear as anything. Labels do not matter anymore nor does belonging. What good is any system of, when your own system can't find a footing of its own. When my mind speaks in words that mean different things at different times, what does it matter that the language we speak cannot express truly what I want to express?

It is when regularity becomes the curse of avoiding the mundanely regular that you know that you have become way too successful at dismissing everything. Congratulations, you just defeated yourself now and thrown away what was probably your last straw. Belief system? What is that? Are you awake or are you dreaming? What is it that thing that makes you what you are? Do you even know? Would you survive if you were separated from it?

How much of what I think I am is actually what I am? How much of it is what you want to see me as and what I want myself to be seen as. If the majority agrees that I am a 'nice' person, would that actually make me nice? It would not matter, right? Because neither you nor me is interested in what I actually am, we are just interested in what it is made out to be. It is way much more convenient that way.

Alternatives? I do not know. Does it matter at all when there is no demand for it? Sounds overly pessimistic or fatalistic? Or is it just that it is quite a lot more comfortable to dismiss things to the cheapest available denominator? A blank cheque of being causally carnal carries the day much more easily and effectively than having to deal with explaining an emotional investment in its place and its repercussions. Cheap, indeed, does sell.

August 21, 2003

Strange

How come a test of our strength is actually only a measure of our weakness?

August 16, 2003

5:39 AM

Two national flags, three running computers, can't be assed to count the ones that are not turned on, two empty, unwashed coffee mugs, open bag and helmet, weirdly large number of chairs talking in silence among themselves.

Colleague one: sleeping in his chair. Colleague two: pottering around the room, shuttling between her computer and the printer.

Me: Drowning, in headphones pouring out heavy jazz tracks from here.

Who needs dope when there is music like this?

When you spend half a day drying and cleaning the innards of your cell phone, only then dawns the realisation that you have been riding out in the rain way too much. Life number two started around evening.

The line with which Coyote Ugly ended. What do you do when all your dreams come true?

Answer: Kiss the bitch and wait for the credits to roll with a mush mush song song as the background score. And there was no spare cash to shoot the sunset after the cameo by LeeAnn Rimes.

August 15, 2003

Technophobia

When my father started using computers at his office, it must have been way back in the late 1980s, it had an operating system that used to reside on a floppy disk, no intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI) or any of the bells and whistles that we take for granted in a computing environment these days. So one would assume that as things progressed towards the new millennium and the average computer user's experience began to become more synonymous with the eye candy of Windows XP than that of the monochrome command line, things would have become a lot more easier. Rather interestingly, the answer is a definite no.

To be fair, the story is of a double-edged sword. To drive down the entry level cost of the computing experience, it was required to drive up adoption on a massive scale. This was not quite possible with the rather non-existent ease of use features of the command line. It is quite pointless to go into the story of who gets the credit for the GUI or any technology or brands related to specific companies. The angle of interest here is on a different line. Coming back, the "for dummies" approach, it did end up meeting the adoption and price targets, maybe it even overshot it. But, my father just cannot make any sense of it.

It is rather baffling for me to understand why a person who could once comfortably trot off 50 odd commands and majority of the flags associated with them could not have a much better experience with the "point and click" paradigm. Before we head down this road any further I would like to furnish some disclaimers. What is going to follow is thinking that is mostly speculative and opinionated in nature. I would not in most cases have specific instances or studies to back up my assertions nor am I pretending to be an authority on what is being written about. If you have a problem with that, this is where the exit button can be pressed.

As far as I can understand it, a lot of the lousy user experience can be blamed on, yes, lousy interface design. If you put three people together and ask them to achieve the same objectives in the same computing environment, the odds are quite high that they would have three different approaches to doing the same thing. I have observed this a lot at work, where some people even go to the extent of downloading and reinstalling a software just because the normal shortcut that starts the program has been changed or is absent. Even within broad categories, be it a power user or a novice, per user approach differs.

Ideally, we should not be discussing the shortcomings of UI design and the end user experience in this age especially when the GUI is credited with winning over so many users to the stupid white box that takes away so much of our time. Yet, for some strange reason the "cancel" button on the latest Red Hat Linux distribution was on the left side, before the "yes" or "save" button, causing me to impulsively cancel things instead of saving them. For a software philosophy that is so strongly grounded on "freedom" most of the GUI add-ons on Linux end up being a disgrace by trying to a better Microsoft wheel than charting a new and better course.

But then, can Microsoft be left far behind when it comes to messing things up? There used to be this nifty yet hidden configuration utility in Windows 98 called as msconfig.exe. Mind you, it was something that could still have given the average user quite a scare, if he decided to use it. Msconfig's main use was to show the settings and importantly most of the programs that would be launched on start up. And when they launched the Home edition of their latest OS, Windows XP, instead of improving on the utility, it still remains hidden and the only visible method to check services that run at start up is to fiddle around with the "Service Control Manager". Any XP users here know what "Provides the endpoint mapper and other miscellaneous RPC services" means?

The malaise, though, is not totally the blame of a few misplaced buttons or icons. It is symbolic of a much larger issue, of the over-dependence on the API paradigm to approach interface design problems. An API, in very simple words, are terms of reference provided by a program that would generate a specified set of responses, without necessitating an in-depth understanding of what the program is or what it actually does. To further simplify things, it would be like having a few common hand gestures for communication all over the world, enabling anyone to survive anywhere.

I am not saying for even a single moment that it did not have its uses. A lot of what we take for granted on the Internet like web-based mail would not exist if it were not for the use of this approach. If it were not for this layer it would have been impossible for the programmer and interface designer to provide the context to what is often just meaningless integer or character data sitting in a relational database. Yet another very important function would be the consistency of interfaces and rapid application development and deployment.

Time to bring the father back in. The problem now for him is that there are too many layers or just too many complications in a single layer. So many that even most of the programmers who make these programs are getting distanced more from the core technology and the end user (the API decides what the interface looks like) at the same time.

In another 10 or 20 years we would have a generation of coders who would not have any idea about the most basic of things like the transport or the protocol layer, because there would be some one line procedure that would do it for them. You do not believe that? Take a look at the number of new projects being released on Gotdotnet. This is the next stepping stone of the experience I had at my first job, where I had excellent Visual Basic programmers working with me, who did not know what a system DSN meant.

The issue gets even more complicated when you take the case of the average user. Take even a single aspect out of their normal user experience and they are stuck, even when there a dozen workarounds for it. But there is literally no "thinking out of the box". They are not encouraged to it, they are not used to it. The layers are scaring people off technology, so much that as long as it works the way they are used to, they do not care what other things it does at the same time or what it is capable of. Case in point is the large number of machines on broadband connections used to launch distributed denial of service attacks.

The apt word is intimidation. And that is what the API approach does to most users, it scares them from using and exploring things further because it looks complicated while it is not. The fundamental framework of computing even now is the basic 0 and 1, and everything must translate down to that at some point or the other. And adding to the whole mess are the geeks at the core of the development process.

A CEO of a respected and suitably large newspaper's online edition, faced with the question of implementing syndication via RSS feeds, shot off the question to his tech head "What the hell is an RSS feed?". Even the other chap had no clue. And development is already underway for the next syndication specification. It does not matter as long as at least the developers understand it. End users and the rest of the world can be damned. We can always write a new specification.

A result of this disconnect is the phobia for technology from people who do not understand it. The most adverse impact this has in on privacy issues. A 10 minute packet capture of any corporate network can make for a very interesting study of insecure communications and the port/worm scans that I get on the dial up from home is even more scary. I know at least 20 people with computers on broadband lines who would not have heard of the latest RPC worm and some of these are system admins of large networks that span the country. And here I am worrying about my father!

August 12, 2003

Destinations

The warmth of a child's touch so easily shatters the wariness for the cold comfort offered by an adult. So natural, so pure, there is no conditionality, no need for external interpretations, meanings, it is so self contained. It shows the futility of putting up a fight, there is nothing to fight for when the greatest one is already lost. What is left are a bunch of two penny jokers and the odd traveller waiting for the last bus that is to arrive any given time.

Initially it is a bit strange, you fight because that is the only thing you have known all your life, gradually the realisation dawns that the only absolution is in the defeat, you can choose any road you wish, it does not really matter when all roads lead to Rome. Between the start of the journey towards yet another promised destination and the deliverance of absolution in the ever-consistent failure, lies life in all its much-abused whorish glory. Relish.

There is only so much you can cry. After all, there is no Greek tragedy that is being written here, no sad tale of the forfeiture of childhood innocence. Some of the ilk are born wicked, covered in grime and filthy in the mind, so much non-special, so much non-pristine, so much stop-gap and so very discardable. Little kid misbehaved again today? Disown. Find fake smile, you are not allowed to cry, draw one one your face, mix in. We like you again now. Very well done!

When the last of the stolen logs ashen in the wake of its previous life as embers, the cold starts to gain in strength again. The city has closed out, doors and windows firmly shut, the light that falls from the windows have no useful warmth in them and there are limits to even a thief's best abilities. There is only so much one can steal. It is another cold winter's night, no more firewood in sight and I still don't have a home to go to.

August 11, 2003

Home Truths

One of the hardest things to get a grip of when you are living alone is the right measure of "how much". Ideally, it should be something as simple as half the amount of whatever you were consuming when you had a flat mate. Apparently, it is not quite that simple and even half a handful of rice that you add or subtract from the amount that is already in the cooker can make the difference between having just about enough to last you for two meals or throwing a considerable amount of it away or even running short if you happen to be in a particularly peckish mood.

Or take the case of vegetables, if you buy them in bulk, one or two items inevitably rot and get thrown away even without being used and if you buy too small a quantity you always run short at the most inconvenient of times. And it is not rare for me, even after almost twelve months of the solitary existence, to find half a packet of biscuits that I had earlier stowed away in the larder for consumption at a later date, only to forget about it. But the most ridiculous instance has to be the time when I had two large packets of detergent at the same time because I had forgotten to check before I went shopping.

Housekeeping is a great way to learn how economies of scale function. Cooking for just one person is not very cost effective if you cannot get it right. The more people you have to share the costs, the better it is, as long as everyone contributes. But it is quite a healthy way to live since you are cooking only to satisfy your own taste buds, So, it is not unnatural for me to start with something that is an Indian dish and then make it bland in the way I like and improvise later to add touches of Italian or Thai to it. Would you like your double omelette fried potatoes with salsa chunks?

But something I have come to appreciate and respect from all this is how women, especially housewives, manage all this. Keeping a house running is 24/7 operation, there are virtually no off days and there is always something that needs your attention or fixing and it is absolutely unthinkable for me to imagine adding kids and a job in the the equation. I for one would certainly lose my mind if put in such a situation. Hats off to them! But there are the bright sides too, to have a nice organised place in which you can live just by your own rules is a huge huge plus that makes all the hard work worthwhile.

August 09, 2003

Twilight

If it were not for the crickets there would be total silence around the house. A faint glow of light from it paints an uneven circle de-marking itself from the surrounding ever-threatening darkness. In the windless still of an orange sky, the trees line up shoulder to shoulder, unmoved and frightening in their silhouette.

Cold comfort, behind and under me, in the form of the black, polished rock of the verandah makes for the usual perch. There are toys and footprints scattered barely visible in the glow. Everyone has left and the last of their echoes die into a graceful exit.

There is still not a sound, even the crickets have gone quiet. It is going to be yet another long evening with nothing but the voices in the head for company.

August 07, 2003

Rules

I never thought I would get down to writing this, but then what the heck, it is much better than having a long winding inconsequential commenting spree. Let us get one thing very very straight here, this is a personal journal, I write purely for my own personal reasons. The primary, or for that matter even the tertiary, reason for this page existing is not to satisfy or make sense to any of you. Of course, if it happens to make sense for you too, great, I might even go out of my way, a little bit, to try and make it happen, but that is just about where I draw the line.

The stuff written here is not by any means the standards relating to anything ethical, moral or whatever other benchmark you can think up of. And you are quite free to form your own opinions about me or what I have to say, I have no problems with that. The moot point being I do not give a damn. I just do not have the time, energy or inclination to explain myself endlessly and this certainly is not a forum such a sort of discussion. And this is certainly not your 6th grade text book to have 30 guides published after it so that you can understand it.

The long and the short of the story is that I am quite grateful to the fact that people do bother to come here and read whatever is spattered on these pages, but that in itself does not mean I will sit and explain or justify every little word that I write. If you can "separate the signal from the noise", brilliant! But do not expect me to do that for you, nor is this some codification of some law or standard that it has to stand up to everyone's scrutiny. If it makes sense in my world, it is good enough. Hell, I thought it was my personal journal!

As long as no one is being pain in the posterior vis-a-vis in the comments or start offending other people who are also commenting, we should all get along fine. I do not have any issues with people disagreeing with what I have to say and there is certainly no assumption that I am right all the time, nor that what I have written about is the only way to go about something. But please respect another person's right and space to differ from what you might think or have to say. Like I said earlier, this is not a forum for all that, it was never intended to be one.

This page by no means is wholesome reflection of my life. So, the purely academic exercise of arguing or making sense of things here is not something which I give a lot of importance to and the effort that I make towards it would reflect that. No one has put a gun to your head to come and read all this and hey, all it takes is just a little click to make your way out of here. And that is more or less what I have to say.

August 02, 2003

Printline Pontifications

For the very few regular visitors here who also know me on a personal level must have noticed that I almost never write about work or things related to it. For those who do not know me, I earn my daily bread working as a journalist, but I am not your typical microphone/dictaphone toting in-your-face kind of journalist. The profile is more or less of what my former boss is fond of defining as a "Swiss Knife" and those who have worked in the murky world of online journalism would easily understand why it is defined so.

The problem with writing about your profession as a journalist are two-fold: The first is that it is a very thin line that you have to stick to when it comes to maintaining professional integrity and the second is that it is too complicated a beast to get even a mild grasp of, even with many years of experience backing you. Why integrity matters is quite simple, more than any other profession, appearances matter the most in journalism. Even if the majority of the industry treat the "Fourth Pillar" concept as a joke, with huge helpings of cynicism added in, the average bloke on the street still believes in it.

If you are looking for me to state the obvious, I would gladly admit that the image of a journalist is quite very much a lie and an elaborate one at that, since most of our value judgements are made from sitting on our high horses, when we even do not have the moral or ethical authority to ride even a lowly snail. Which, incidentally is also the reason why it amuses me to death when people start campaigns to boycott certain publications, because they openly place stories for a tidy sum. What I wonder is how much of the regular news media would escape such a ban boycott if the same criterion is applied to them?

But why should the others be banned boycotted? It is because they too do the same thing stupid! You are just too blinded by the fine livery of idealism that appears on top to see what actually goes on beneath the sheets. Placing news for money is nothing new. Any journalist worth his name should have at some point or the other done his share of spade work to get that coveted junket. More covert ones take the form of official, but undeclared, policy of giving undue coverage to companies with whom you have tied up in other sectors. It then becomes laughable when the same publications are cited as examples of ideal behaviour. If only they knew better!

So why don't I do the whistle blower act and go riding out in a blaze of glory? Simple reason is that I do not give a damn about the idealism bit. The first baggage that you discard after you get acclimatised to the media industry is the one relating to ideals. It does not exist, swallow it the easy way or the hard way, but you are not going to change the world through this, better sweat it out in NGO if you are keen on that. You will get used to ignoring a greater wrong and write miles worth of text on some inconsequential moronic thing as time passes by. It is just another profession that operates on the principle of margins.

Four years back, when I first set foot in this industry it was around the time the dotcom boom was bottoming out, still I decided to give it a shot after chucking the relative security offered by a deskie job with one of the major newspapers. It was one of the most miserable conditions that I have ever worked in, the peak of summer, 40 degree celsius plus temperatures in a stinking room and an average of eleven hours of work, six days a week. The money was not great either, it got me a paltry Rs. 4000 in a month for all that effort. But the important thing was that I learnt a lot there.

At the same time, the boom boys were rollicking on, it would be a good 8-12 months before the attack of the pink slips would start and stories of wild office parties where they would order 70 large pizzas from Pizza Hut for a staff of barely 100 people was still quite commonplace. But there is another side to this story, one that was set in the years from early to late 90s. It was a time when hiring was practically non-existent in the mainstream media. Very few publications were doing well, circulation was rock bottom and it was next to impossible to retain your subscribers and yes, cable television was everyone's new favourite poison.

Of course, there were exceptions like The Hindu. But it snugly fits the definition of a niche and not everyone can have a hyper-rich private trust running the show and still manage to sell a copy at over Rs 3. Meanwhile, "the others" still had to contend with astronomically high rates of newsprint, turf wars between territory managers that often bordered on behaviour normally seen in ghettos and paltry late city print runs that would not even cover the expenses incurred in running the printing facilities each night. It was literally do or die for the print media and something had to give.

The traditional dailies were in a spot of real bother as far its brand placement was concerned by now. The instant version of news was the monopoly of the television channels and the long winding analysis was firmly the domain of the weekly and the fortnightly. The brunt of this downturn was borne by the newcomers to the industry around that time and it was not uncommon for people to start their careers as print journalists for Rs 2000 or less. Compare this to what a trainee gets to earn these days, Rs 6000 - Rs 8000, and that tells a story in itself.

And then there was colour. Not for showing gore, not for showing pain, but for showing skin. That "Times of India killed the news in the daily" is an absolute fact. But all they have done is to create an opportunity from a point of real desperation. They went back to the basics and hit at what is the most basic of our vices - titillation. The corollary is also that it is idiotic to assume that Times of India is a newspaper anymore. It is a daily entertainment magazine, one that appeals to the masses that rush to the movie halls to "detach" themselves from the reality of the real world with the regulation Govinda flick.

It is by no means ideal, it is by no means right, but you do have to give some credit where it is due and admit that they did turn the situation around and made the traditional news media worthy of the effort and attention that goes into it these days. The age where pure idealism gets you places is gone, it is history, finito. You have to first survive these days to even start thinking of any ideals and ideals certainly does not get the Seth to sell you more newsprint on credit the next time he comes to meet you. And if it was such a bad idea, why would it be selling so much and why would every Tom, Dick and Harry follow them too?

What we are seeing is a huge transitional phase. Most of the industry is still run by people who belong to the era of The National Herald and the disconnect shows in most places. The Statesman still uses language that would make dear old Queen Elizabeth squirm in her seat at Buckingham Palace, it is that archaic. It has an audience now, but what happens 10 years on when most of the same would have died? And right now the only thing that gets the attention of everyone from the bloke on the street to the executive being chauffeured to work in his E Class is the barely covered babe on the front page of the Delhi Times.

Around the time when I started working, it was assured that you would be skinned alive if the obviously American words like kids, cop or movie ever showed up in your copy. To understand how much things have changed, grab a copy of the latest edition of The Indian Express and you can see the same being used in aplenty. And what is even funnier is that they are trying to sell what is "proper news" to an audience that would belong to The Hindu with language that ideally belongs in The Times of India, while The Times of India itself uses pretty unfancy language to push news to an increasingly yuppie audience. Confusion!

Like I mentioned earlier, it is a huge transitional phase. It would be hard to believe, but most editorial desks in print media still run computers based on the ancient 486 DX and the mentality towards pushing their product is sort of based on the same era. And on the other hand we have the new media crowd who push things to the other extreme. And mind you, it sells. I have personally done and seen how quoting something out of context or creatively slanting a headline to make it more sensational or titillating gets a crowd, that comprises mainly of Non-Resident Indians, to click on a story that they would have ignored otherwise.

It is very important to not take our eyes off the ball in this game. Ten years down the line we would most probably use portable holographic displays to do most of our reading and it is absolutely imperative that journalism as it used to exist is redefined to find a role in that age. And that lies somewhere between what The Times of India and The Statesman is doing today, but both are equally important and both need to survive. What we see today is not where we will be. The industry is still struggling to find its feet and it will be a while before that happens. And for a change I will have to be optimistic as to where things would end up.