After a typical day's work, I carried an extra dose of headache as I walked out of office. Before I walked home I stopped by at the nearest newsstand to look for the latest magazines. The newsstand is just a temporary erection by the road side, which actually used the bordering compound wall to hang most of the magazines like clothes drying over the balcony of a flat. Impulsively, I reached out to Frontline only to find hopelessly biased pro-reservation cover stories. India Today ran a cover story on how the Young and the Rich of India is getting addicted to drugs. "Yea, you need a Rahul Mahajan to hit the nail on your head!" I thought. Whatever happened to balanced, pro-active journalism? Actually, The Hindu Group does that from time to time with articles regularly highlighting problems like child-malnutrition and government inaction, contracting river and lake water resources because of bottling companies etc. But with the reservation issue, The Hindu Group, has shot itself in its foot big time. As the train of thoughts got slowed down a bit, I became conscious of a well groomed, good-looking girl in a nice copper sulphate salwar kameez with a white dupatta. Only when I looked up thoughtfully about the journalism in India did I notice that she is a foreigner. She was a blond with fairly big eyes, angular jaw-line, with enviably well aligned, white teeth. Funny how much you observe within a short span of time when you are interested in something. She spontaneously picked up a Business Line and reached towards me to pick up a Fronline. Looking at her spontaneity, I thought that she must have been here in India for a while.
"Excuse me". I blurted out.
"Yes". She looked up at me with a puzzling, but smiling face.
"You've picked up BusinessLine and Frontline. Both are from The Hindu Group..."
(I was wondering if she liked The Hindu Group's way of news presentation)
"Yeeaaaah" she said thoughtfully. "There should be more variety. Uuummm. So, what do you suggest"
(Oh! She must be from the UK. Soon I forgot that I meant to ask her if she liked the The Hindu way of journalism)
"What kind of news item are you looking for?"
"Economy, economic policies development...", she examined my face to see if I make some connection.
"I think The Economic Times is a good one", I started searching for it in the stands, but couldn't find it.
"Oh! Yes, I have seen it before." She started looking for it too!
"Its from the The Times of India Group", I said.
"And in magazines..?" she asked showing me the Frontline she held.
"Frontline, being a fortnightly, offers a good variety of news", I said running my hand of the its contents page. "But, off-late I am thoroughly disappointed with the way it has handled the reservation issue. Totally biased reporting."
"Yeaah! That is because The Hindu is based in Chennai where there is heavy support for reservation".
(Now that is really impressive, I thought)
"I am from Chennai", I grinned wondering if I just took the first step to mess up a good conversation.
"Oh! Really!" she gave a broad smile. "So, are you against reservation?"
"Yea. Atleast against reservation the way it is currently implemented. I guess the press can have its opinion, but the reporting should be balanced a bit....." I gestured a "Balance" moving both my hands up and down alternately, searching for a nod.
"Yea.." She agreed giving the nod and wearing a beautiful smile across her face!
"India Today is popularly read magazine, but its kind of reactive reporting." I said showing her the cover on which a guy was blissfully enjoying cocaine. At times it gets into the self-congratulatory stories like increasing number of malls or how women across India are more open to pre-marital sex (Oops!). They are interesting, but don't really address anything useful for the society.
She looked a little confused at what I said, as she looked at the guy-with-cocaine in IT cover.
"Yea, What's that guy's name...the guy who's in trouble for cocaine abuse? Rahul...mah.."
"Rahul Mahajan" (Amazing!)
"Yeah, this story is based on that right, I think I see what you are saying".
(Ye, I guess my opinions are not as crappy after-all!) I handed her the copy.
"So what are you doing here? I mean.... in India?"
"I am here for my Ph.D research"
"Oh, thats great! Ph.D in..."
"India's economic policies, development, etc.."
"Wow!". I paused letting the thought sink in. "Which University may I ask?"
"University of Bristol"
"Oh Cool". I wanted to say that I have a friend who has graduated from University of Luton. But didn't, since I somehow that it might sound like I am showing off.
"Anyway, I am Badhri, I work here at Synopsys, in Lifestyle Building"
"Carol", that smile again!
"Nice meeting you!"
"Nice meeting you too!"
We shook hands and parted in the opposite direction. I didn't really know why I ended the conversation right there. Here is a foreigner who has considered Indian Economy a worthy subject for her Ph.D and has bothered to travel all the way to India. As I walked towards the bus stop, I realised that the India she sees, is probably the India that the world sees. As a global player, for India, nothing else matters. I suddenly had so many questions to ask her like, what encouraged her to choose the topic and how much of value would it add to her. The obvious question comparing the economic policies of India and China and so on...After just a few paces from the newsstand, I realised that I didn't to get my copy of India Today. Honestly, I don't know if getting a copy of IT was just an excuse to talk to her for longer or if I had really decided on buying it. But when I went back to the news stand she was already gone. I have never missed anybody after such a brief introduction, like I miss her now.