It rained today, the continuous drizzle was excuse enough for the vendor to not deliver the morning paper. Strangely I was relieved, almost happy. Ignorance can be blissful specially because what I don’t know can’t hurt me.
A couple of years ago I stopped watching the news. I couldn’t bear the sight of seemingly intelligent newscasters make a fool of themselves trying to fill in awkward silences with meaningless blabber. To say something when there is nothing to say. After all, how many ways can you break the same news without looking like an imbecile. How many times can you put an ill shot video clip on a loop without insulting the intelligence of the viewer. This was the expected fall out of 24×7 news channels. Most days were uneventful. News readers were at their wits end trying to create news when there was none.
Their discomfiture was palpable and the onslaught was too much for my senses. Tired of the unnecessary sensationalism and the tussle to grab eyeballs, I figured the only way to shut down the cacophony was by switching off the television. And so I turned to newspapers as my primary source of information. The news is stale by the time it reaches me but it doesn’t matter in the sedate part of the world I inhabit. I have never felt at a disadvantage for not knowing about a tragedy at the precise moment it is happening. In any case, you can’t escape bad news, it will find a way to reach you one way or the other.
For years I have insisted that my newspaper be placed on the laptop in my office. I like to take a cursory glance at the front page before starting my work. Lately with so many tragic events happening in the world, I have started dreading this part of my routine. Because of it, my workday begins with a sense of doom, a feeling that the world is coming to an end.
Diners ending up dead in neighbourhood restaurants and nightclubs, snipers shooting policemen, trucks ploughing down revellers, coups tried and thwarted, unsuspecting passengers hacked in trains, and shoppers getting more than they bargained for. This apart from the regular maiming and mutilation, the frenzied looting and arson, the violent mobs and trigger happy law enforcers, the road rage and honour killings that occur closer home.
In a desperate attempt to restore some semblance of sanity I now put the paper face down and read it backwards. I leave the front page for later, when I am ready for the deluge of bad news. It’s not that good things are not happening around us, it’s just that they don’t make good copy. In a world driven by economics, what sells will grab headlines. And due to a quirky human trait we want to know more about misdeeds, mishaps and tragedies than discoveries , victories and acts of benevolence.
“Escapism?” A friend quipped. “No, softening the blow.” I replied. Even as a child, given the option I always asked for the good news first. I still believe that it helps sustain bad news, makes it more bearable. There must be others who feel likewise and want to start their day on a positive note.
Undoubtedly, we will get the news we deserve. But can’t we highlight inspiring, life affirming stories and bury some of the ugliness inside. To be perused at leisure, when one is ready to take the plunge. Something akin to exchanging pleasantries and indulging in small talk before moving on to serious business. Agreed, we can’t change the news but we can certainly change the way it is dished out to us.
( published in spice of life of HT on 15/8/2016)