neelwrites/newspapers/essay/710words/26/01/2018

OH LORD! GIVE ME MY DAILY NEWS, OR 

WHY NEWSPAPERS WILL NEVER GO OUT OF FASHION  

Image result for NEWSPAPERS
By Neel Anil Panciker

A recent nationwide survey conducted among 25,000 students between the ages of 12 and 20 threw up certain revelatory statistics.

A staggering 82 percent of them were unable to answer all the 20 questions that were put to them. Only three percent of the interviewed received a centum; answered all the two score questions correctly. Worse, 48 per cent of the children failed to answer even one question correctly.

And pray, what were these questions like? Well, as simple as ‘Who is the President of India? What is our National Anthem? What is the full form of UIDAI?

A pithy aside to all this is that over 77 per cent of the interviewed had at least three social media accounts and logged on to one or the other of them for at least two hours every single day.

One would like to believe that the knowledge level of these tech savvy children, exposed as they were to such a dizzying array of mind boggling media platforms would be very high.

Alas! that is sadly not the case.

Which brings me to my contention, which is that despite living in this fast paced technologically advanced age when every single thing that we want and need is available at the click of a mouse, our children are intellectually stagnating and not growing. Their understanding and knowledge levels are at best rudimentary, superficial. They have become the unwitting victims of a huge business enterprise  that believes in serving low quality, half baked, at times absolutely untrue news and information__all served in the garb of ‘insta’ hot news, breaking news et al.

‘Breaking news’, I fear, is just that__broken.

Instead, what we need is wholesome, holistic, well researched information that is unbiased and doesn’t slip through our doorways as advertorials and self serving

Promotional material.

And who best to fulfill this other than the tried and tested, our centuries old daily intellectually cuppa__ the newspaper. It is the not the paper that is of relevance here but the news that comes embedded in it.

News, in a newspaper, doesn’t just break unlike in Twitter, Facebook and all other ubiquitous newsfeeds platforms that are dime a dozen in the worldwide internet space. The ‘news’ in the paper, is real, actual, and meaningful and is broken down into its identifiable parts, its every single component, analysed threadbare, the ramifications thoroughly researched and made intelligible sense of.

And to top it all, simply have a look at the kaleidoscopic array of options that are available in the hands of a discerning readers.

Open any reputable national newspaper and you will find there is everything of something for every single one of us cutting across age, gender, social, ideological  and intellectual spectrums __all systematically arranged and segregated into neat symmetrical columns that are easy on the eye as well as easily identifiable.

Block headed into standalone pages such as CITY, NATION, INTERNATIONAL, OPEN ED, BUSINESS, LEISURE, SPORTS et al_, none, not even the most hardcore online news junkie can undermine the quintessential supremacy of newspapers over all other Johnny come lately ‘news’ sources that pop out of tablets , mobile phones and laptops__ all high sensationalism but rock bottom when it comes to content doing nothing but merely feeding into our inner depravities and innate voyeurisms rather than satisfying our intellectual curiosities.

On the other hand a good newspaper functions as a mid-path, quite removed from the puerility of ‘insta’ news and a mere arms stretch away from the great books that lie awaiting us in bookshelves to be picked up and read in depth.

To all those naysayers who aver that newspapers are an endangered species soon to be as dead as the dodo, to them I say that’s time they woke up and smelled the coffee__ with the feel of crispy newspaper pages in their hands.

For, such is the paradoxical nature of life that the more the internet grows and serves us ‘breaking news’ the more we will gravitate towards newspapers because unlike the former the latter doesn’t take recourse to short cuts merely to capture more and more eyeballs at the cost of ‘news’ that questions, probes, analyses in complete depth, not just for the moment but for the days and weeks that follow.

©neelanilpanicker2018 #newspapers

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neelwrites/x-mas/non-fiction/25/12/2017

MERRY CHRISTMAS 

BY NEEL ANIL PANICKER

The merry season is upon us. Yes, you guessed it right__ Today is Christmas.

Unfortunately the yuletide spirit has slightly soured, marred as it were by the loathsome activities of a few lumpen elements, at best grossly misguided, at worst mere thugs and criminals, masquerading as self appointed and self anointed torch bearers of Hinduism.

Image result for christmas violence in india?

How else could you justify the umpteen attacks on Minorities especially Christians in the past few weeks?

Here, chew on this:

A group of Catholic seminarians and priests were attacked, forced to abandon what they were doing, which is but singing carols in Satna, in Madhya Pradesh, the heartland of India.

Worse, their car was set on fire, cases slapped against them for “hurting religious sentiments”, FIRs lodged booking them under the stringent Anti-Conversion Law.

In neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, the Hindu Jagran Manch has let out a not so veiled warning to all Christian-run schools of Aligarh not to celebrate Christmas.

And the icing on the cake: A serving Chief Minister’s wife  is castigated and viciously trolled on social media. Her crime: she suported a Christmas-themed charity event.

 She should have known better. For wasn’t it our very own recently re-crowned ‘omnipotent’ PM Modi who had so grandly announced in 2014 that December 25 would henceforth be celebrated as ‘GOOD GOVERNANCE DAY.’

So friends, here I am, painting the town red celebrating Christmas  for who knows for all we know there could be no Christmas to celebrate next year onwards.

That’s what good governance is all about, right Mr Modi?

Merry Christmas to all, and especially to those who see singing carols as a precursor to forced conversions.

(c)neelanilpanicker2017 #X-mas #non-fiction

 

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Hosted by the ever reliable, ever resourceful Reena at https://reinventionsreena.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/reenas-exploration-challenge-week-10/

rebellionrebellion

 

REBELS WITHOUT CAUSES

By Neel Anil Panicker

The other day while on my regular walk around the park I happened to bump into a septuagenarian, an ex-Armyman, one who I am privileged to occasionally chat with.

As I sat down beside him in the corner bench after my regular five rounds of brisk walking around the oblong park, the conversation got flowing and then ambled towards the current times that we The retired gent touched his beard and with a far off look in his eyes very soulfully remarked, “I pity you and all others who’ve missed out on the olden golden days of yore. Compared to today’s fractured times, those days were a blessing.”

I nodded my head in acquiescence but much later in the privacy of my room I mulled over what the old man had mentioned.

It dawned on me that he was in all probability right.

Currently, it’s not a happy world that we inhabit.

Violence, unrests, schisms, divides, hatred, animosities are all taking a huge toll on the human psyche.

As one flips through the newspapers, turns on the telly, surfs past umpteen channels, swirls around roundabouts, hangs around coffee shops or roadside kiosks or what have you, our ears are bombarded with just one thing __ everywhere the singular sentiment uppermost on peoples’ minds is a deep overriding sense of negativity bred by unhappiness, sadness, gloominess, pensiveness__ call it by whatever name you chose to.

It’s as if the entire world is shrouded in an all pervasive blanket of pitch black darkness.

And amidst all this if there is one word that has rather surreptitiously climbed onto the top of the popularity charts. And that word is OPPOSE.

Oppose! Haven’t we heard this word quite often of late. It’s so predominant and deeply entrenched in our everyday vocabularies that it has become the numero uno word in the English language.

World around, cutting across boundaries, territories and geographies, only one single tune is heard, loud and clear: Oppose.

Pray, what exactly is this beast?

And to find an answer to this, I decided to go strictly by the book.

As per the Oxford English Dictionary it is a verb and means and here I quote, “disagree with and attempt to prevent, especially by argument.”

Now let’s decode what all this means.

But before that take a look around you and what do you see?

Cast the net far and wide and you will notice the entire world and its nanny__every Tom, Dick, and Harry, and if I were to speak in the Indian context___every Ram, Shyam, and Ghanshyam___has jumped onto the ‘Opposing’ with a capital ‘O’ bandwagon.

This is a so in your face world. It seems as if intolerance is the glue that binds all of humanity together. People screaming themselves hoarse, talking nineteen to a dozen, talking the hind legs of a donkey, opposing one or the other thing; or the other group, person, institution, country, ideology, orientation or whatever it is that is bugging them badly.

Needless to say such opposition needs to be accorded its due respect and made dignified by according it the status of a noun.

So henceforth I am going to refer to those who oppose as Opposers.

Now, in my deeply embedded research on this phenomenon, I have unearthed some very interesting tidbits about this hallowed group of Opposers.

For one, there exists a very subtle caste system even within the Opposers.

Here’s how it goes. I have discovered that there elementally are three kinds of Opposers in this world.

Here they are in no particular order.

First comes those who oppose for no rhyme or reason.

These are the ones who will make noises, scream their lungs out,

Shout and scream themselves hoarse from every single stage, podium and rooftop without having one fig of an idea what the issue is all about.

I rightful question then is why do they do what they do so very well, which is nothing but make noise and shatter the peace of all around them?

Despite beating my head a lot I still couldn’t come out with a plausibly convincing answer but all I can say in their defence is that they do all this and then some more because the mere act of Opposing something or someone_ be it man, woman, child, animal, dog, bat, rat, cat, Taj Mahal, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Scientology, Astrology, the neighbor next door et al is in their blood, it’s part of their chemical composition, their DNA.

These are the ones you see milling around protest meetings, rallies, circled around lane ends, sundry  bylanes and parks and every other public square, forever opening their mouths and mouthing inanities, not the least bothered about what exactly are they protesting about.

They are the lucky brothers and sisters of this world who have risen above such mundane tasks as studying, working towards a living, striving towards improving their lot in life, pending quality time with their families etcetera for they are ever wedded to their profession chasing imaginary ghosts of their own creation.

Have cause, will protest is their sole abiding talismanic mantra in life.

They are rebels without any causes and in doing so they cut very sorry figures as people see them as crusaders but crusaders of what, none knows.

And if you ever have the audacity to simply ask them what exactly are they protesting about they clam up, turn tongue tied and cut a hasty retreat only to rear their over-active, over and ever busy heads someplace else.

To paraphrase a famous movie advertisement jingle, the are forever playing in a cinema near you.

Then there is the second category, slightly higher up the food chain__the ones who protest and they know exactly what they are protesting about.

The cause of their protest could be anything, beset as the world is with an endless array of  problems right from the falling economy to the evils of globalization to the demonic monster that is  demonetization to heart wrenching and pocket pinching taxation policies to widespread doping in competitive sports to gender imbalance to global warming to what’s bugging the humble fly in the wall from leading  an active sex life. The range and diversity of issues the protestors protest about is stupendously staggering and beats the finest ingenuous minds of the world.

I mean who would have ever thought of sitting in protest, ostensibly to protect the interests of the ever docile cow who of late wasn’t giving as much milk as it used to earlier.

These and then some more, no topic is too small or big, too high or low for this band of Opposers to flex their muscles.

There is one last category in this very august list of Opposers; those who oppose as well as propose.

These are the guys who have taken Opposition to the next level as they don’t just tell you Trump is bad but also suggest alternatives.

They don’t scream themselves hoarse during television debates that the Taj Mahal is not an ode to eternal love but is a symbol of tyranny, debauchery, opulence, and a slap on the face of human dignity but also propose what to do with it. That is, demolish it, convert it into a air condition public lavatory, metamorphose it into a grand Lord Rama temple, or turn it into a National Lovers Park.

Now I am not lambasting all this, nee not even telling that Opposers are all wrong and are always wrong.

No not at all. I am of the firm view that for any society to prosper and turn better, it needs its due share of Opposers, Rebels, Dissenters, Mudslingers, Whistle blowers blah blah blah…whatever names or shades of colours you may chose to address them as.

Here I am reminded of the words of Hubert Humphrey, 38th Vice President of America and a very strong votary of world peace, who said that “freedom is hammered out on the anvil of debate, discussion, and dissent.

Because that’s how we as human beings have won our hard fought freedoms across every nook and corner of Planet Earth. The symbiotic correlation between these 3Ds- debate, discussion, debate- and freedom is hard to miss. In fact I would further and say that it is more than a correlation; it is a causation. One begets the other. The other is the direct result of the one.

But then let’s also not carried away and heed the wise advice of another great visionary, the charismatic intellectual giant, the 34th President of the United States of America, the very reluctant politician Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower who said that “ may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion”.

And Eisenhower would know having dealt and admirably so with all manner of people, nations, nationalities, and ideologies.

I am reminded of his profound words when in the course of his inaugural address to senior graduating students of Columbia University he said , “To blend, without coercion, the individual good and the common good is the essence of citizenship in a free country”.

Look around us and we will understand that what an upright American President said in 1945 applies all the more in circa 2017.

Five years later, in 1953, almost a decade after the end of the Second World War and the world around was still scrambling on their feet, he said something more, and this time addressing the student populace across the world.

He said and I quote, “The true purpose of education is to prepare young men and women for effective citizenship in a free form of government.

And if that education empowers and prepares us for effective citizenship then protest and rebel we must to build free forms of governance which are equal, equitable, and cater to all interests and interest groups that go towards the making free societies.

But sadly, in the absence of the right kind of education, we are simply churning out an assembly line of half or ill-informed young men and women who end up as very ineffective citizens hell bent only in subverting the long enshrined tenets of good conduct, civility, righteousness and what constitutes rightful conduct.

Until then it’s one big mad house out there.

(c)neelanilpanicker2017 #reena’sexplorationchallenge #shortstory #essay #rebel #protest #education

neelwrites/wintersareawinwin/nonfiction/myfavouriteseason/09/09/2017

WINTERS ARE ALWAYS A WIN-WIN

Image result for cold winter days

By Neel Anil Panicker

We all have our favourite  season of the year, don’t we?

Winter is my favourite season. I have always loved the winters.

For me the joy of winters begins much before the actual four month long winter season sets in.

 There is that slight chill in the air, especially in the early mornings, when while walking past long blades of grass over to the park, you feel the slight moistness in the air; the soil, if you care to touch leaves you with a sweet tangy wetty feeling.

 And soon enough the air above changes as the sky changes hues, quickly going from bright red to mauve, to mahagony and a hybrid orangish, magenta,  pink mix.

 

The air all around becomes dense and hangs like bat’s overhanging wings casting long dark shadows all around.

All through the wintry chill you feel as  if enveloped in a dank embrace as the sun, hitherto bright and sparkling, begins to play second fiddle, only occasionally peeping out through dark nimbus clouds, showering small little petals of  heat, just enough to warm the cockles of puckered hearts.

Winter is also the time when I get to cover myself in glory, adorning my already stocky frame in layers and layers of my favoured clothing materials__be it plain jet black and smoky maroon silk scarves, pure leather multi-pocketed jackets, knee high boots et al.

Winter again is when my sartorial senses come to the fore allowing me to raid the cupboard to extricate the best of woollen wear, dusting and drying them weeks ahead, even sending them to the dryers if need be, and then gloriously waltzing down the chilly snow laden streets, gently rubbing mummified fingers wrapped in gloved hands and exhaling deep pearly breaths into the rarefied air.

And how can I forget the gastronomic pleasures that await a foodie such as me during this cold season!

Leisurely mornings are best savoured lying tucked in bed under the comfort of heavy silk blankets while biting into hot samosas and pakoras dipped in green chutneys, sipping hot Darjeeling tea in crystal glasses while locking horns with crosswords and sudokus.

I mean I can go on and on as there is no end to the delights that await me come the winters for this is one season that I never whine about but instead always pine for.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #nonfiction #winter  #myfavourite season

neelwrites/nonfiction/essay/350words/14/01/2017

WHO GIVES A CRAP?  WE DO.

 By Neel Anil Panicker

The other day I heard our PM Narendra Modi rolling up his sleeves and then after the customary ‘Mitron’ salutation, going forth to ridicule his bête noire and heir apparent to the Congress throne, Rahul Gandhi, even going to the extent of mimicking his speaking style and then ending with the downright demeaning “the kid seems to be learning to speak now”.

Agreed, detractors of Rahul may have a long list of grievances against him including his apparent “non-speaking skills”, his utter lack of political acumen,   his ability to keep putting his foot in his mouth every single time he opens his mouth.

But does that in any way allow one, and especially so, the PM to deride and denigrate and demean the poor soul from every single forum that he graces?

And if you are one of those who doesn’t care a crap about the Congress Party and/or what ails its most prominent poster boy, then all I can say to that is: I am sorry, but I do care a crap.

And that’s  because it is not just about competence or the lack of it; it is not merely about a particular party enjoying brute majority or another tottering in the doldrums, it’s also not just about one being a leader with spell bound oratorical skills or another one who looks as if he suffers from lifelong stage fright.

It is about certain abstracts that help a society remain social if not sociable; attributes that one can’t put a monetary value to such as dignity of the individual and respect for all including and especially towards those who may not match upto our expectations.

I hope Mr Modi and his ilk who day in and day out throw around their awesome weights to pull down ‘outdated’ symbols and institutions and people not to their likings and temperaments realize this.

And I hope this realization dawns sooner on them than later for even if they don’t give a crap, the right thinking, peace loving citizens of this country and elsewhere do give a crap.

©neelanilpanicker2017#essay#igiveacrap#350words

neelwrites/nonmfiction/essay/17/12/2016

ESSAY-NONFICTION
Of kites, winds, and flying high
By Neel Anil Panicker
A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against the wind, not with the wind. John Neal, the great American writer and critic was not off the mark when he said this. History is peppered with more such rich tales of struggles and successes thereafter right from Christ and Mohammed and Buddha to Abraham Lincoln and Malcolm X and Winston Churchill___the last, the man who battled the wrath of Hitler and saw England through the tumultuous World War Two years. I am of the firm conviction that a person should welcome all manner of adversities in his life as they not only help build character and discipline but spur one to greater glories.
Take the case of the ongoing cricket series. What a match has it been. If India trumping the formidable Englishmen is a sweet enough pill, the icing on the cake, though some would add a nice little cherry to that as well, has been the sheer brilliance of our very own Virat Kohli, who incidentally notched up his third double century of the year.
Predictably, thereafter naysayers came in and the rather inconsequential English bowler James Anderson butted in with a particularly nasty comment that just about questioned Kohli’s achievement and alluded to “favourable pitches behind his success with the bat”.
While cricket aficionados would dismiss this unbecoming comment with the contempt it deserves and tell Anderson and his ilk to simply “go, fly a kite”, knowing Kohli as we do, it would be a safe bet to say that he would take this opposition in the right spirit and harness it to his advantage.
Moreover, now that the subject of kites has cropped up, it reminds me that in less than a month’s time the Equinox occurs in this part of the hemisphere and we will be celebrating Makar Sankranti, the festival that celebrates the Sun’s entry into the Equator, kicking off the long Indian summer season.
Though I have been a kite watcher and a player of some calibre almost all my life, it is only now in the past few years that I have looked at this joyous activity with fresh eyes, as something more than a cherished childhood pastime; as a great dispenser of some every elemental life lessons.
Harnessed to the Earth, the kite is symbolic of humility even as it soars up in the skies waiting patiently, expectantly rather, for the wind to cross its path and to ruffle its frail self. Unfazed by strident opposition, the kite holds on, steady as the Rock of Gibralter, unruffled by the twists and turns of its fellow beings (read enemies), to take off into the stratosphere, inviting awe and a fair amount of envious looks and odd barbs.
So, come 2018, in Lords, England when captain Kohli continues to send the red cherry racing to the boundary as he most certainly will, then he would need to thank a certain Anderson for stoking the fires of passion in him with his outlandishly offensive remarks. Yet another affirmation of the age old maxim that criticism and opposition are the best insurance against failure. So, if one wants to scale the heights of glory then the war cry should be ‘keep them coming, man’.
(c)neelanilpanicker2016#nonfiction#essay#kite