When you use fiction to cover up facts

Is journalism and literature the same genre? Well, this has been a long debate with no conclusive answers. But being a journalist for most part of my life, I can vouch that the words of journalists are like live broadcast. They may not be great with vocabulary but sharp with observation. So when a journalist turns into author, don’t forget sit back, relax and order the book because this is the only way you can know your country.

Now, many journalists in India are turning into authors. What they could not publish during their career is brought into books. Newspapers, magazines and TV News have their own compulsions. They survive on advertisements and they have a limit in antagonizing their patrons. But news and facts are chilling and naked to the core.

Take the case of two books I had gone through recently. Gujarat Files by Rana Ayyub and A Feast of Vultures by Josy Joseph. Both journalists and both books indict so many contemporary politicians, bureaucrats and many corporate big wigs directly with documentary evidence. Yet, none of these characters are making any hue and cry about these allegations. They now prefer to do a new and very successful trick — Just remain silent.

This silence is killing the country. They are silent because readers prefer cheap fiction than to facts. Most Indian middle class who are affluent to afford books prefer not to touch reality. The result is that a host of mediocre writers have come up with best selling but cheap books. One of the respected journalists, Harish Khare, in his editorial points out that we, Indians ‘are so used to buying shoddy goods from shoddy salesmen in every arena of public life that we are no longer capable of recognising the gold standard.’

“Mediocre books by mediocre writers like the Chetan Bhagats and the Shobha Des are sold in millions. It is a case of the mediocre feeding the mediocre, edging out any globally competitive potential. We are content with being unrecognized globally. Our sights are so limited“.

They cater to a new creed which prefer to stay away from the cruel but real India. They attend positive thinking classes, watch a lot of such talks and go to sleep not bothered to know what happened to the majority of Indians. They skip page of newspaper that report accidents, rape, murders, arson, violence, betrayal, corporate robbery — all because no one is held guilty. Instead they prefer to the entertainment pages and to sports pages and then leave for offices.

The common feeling is that you open the newspaper and what you see are horrific incidents — accidents, rape, murders, arson, violence, betrayal, corporate robbery to name a few. One friend, who is well educated in a convent school, recently asked me why newspapers can’t print positive stories. Negative stories, he added, should be hidden. We can improve country’s image by not reporting these facts, he told me.

How long can we live under the shadow of a fantasized country, a fictionalized world? Instead of discussing and debating the wrongs, the country is silent. As if the entire civil society has gone blind. With such an insensitive population, where on earth are we headed to?

Recently a long form article appeared in The Caravan Magazine on the murders of three septuagenarians who worked to end the age old curse of everything that is wrong in religion. They were physically old but the killers wanted to kill their thought process. Very few in India supported them and the case is still dragging in the court with no result anywhere near.

Not that reading a couple of books will change the world. But not questioning the status quo will. Have we lost our stinging power to question each other? I don’t know.

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