Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Satyamev Jayate, in Practice

According to  Wikipedia,'  "Satyameva Jayate" (satyam-eva jayate सत्यमेव जयते; literal English: Truth Alone Triumphs) is a mantra from the ancient Indian scripture Mundaka Upanishad. Independent India  adopted  it as the national motto of India. It is inscribed in Devanagari script at the base of the national emblem.'

On various occasions, many  Indians have used this term to  describe some truthful and noble effort of their own making. Thus there is at least one Hindi  film  called Satyamev Jayate, released 1987; on social networking sites, the name frequently pops up , as declaration of truthful intent, as a userid, as the name of a website .

And now, a just concluded tv series, Satyamev Jayate, without the a at the tailend of the  first word from the motto.

What is Satyamev Jayate, the tv series of 2012 ?

 To quote Wikipedia again :
Satyamev Jayate (English: Truth Alone Prevails) is an Indian television talk show that airs on various channels within Star Network along with Doordarshan's DD National. The first season of the show premiered on May 6, 2012 and marked the television debut of popular Bollywood actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan. While Hindi is the primary language of the show, it is also dubbed and simulcast in other Indian languages such as Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu.
Satyamev Jayate received positive response and feedback from both the critics as well as the public. The show was widely appreciated by several film and television personalities, politicians and social activists for its research, format, presentation and content. The show has highlighted sensitive social issues prevalent in India such as female foeticides, child sexual abuse, dowry, medical malpractice, honor killings, insensitivity towards the physically disabled, domestic violence, overuse of pesticides leading to pesticide poisoning, alcoholism, untouchability, plight of senior citizens and water crisis.'

The final and 13th episode was a wrap up  episode without one single theme --and yet it manged to make a hope-filled final statement as it showcased real-life heroes and survivors of chaotic ungainly modern India.

Over the past three months I have  followed  each  66 minute  episode (running time, without the ads);  it was a  tv show that  informed , often saddened, made me  reflect, empathize , smile  occasionally, reflect anew…sometimes the topic was not one to which I had given much thought; frequently the episode talked of an issue that concerned me almost on a daily basis (episode 8, Toxic Food ; episode 12, on water conservation).

Being a frequent net browser, I couldn’t help noticing that while the general  Indian public  took to the show in a positive  manner, many  supposedly progressive media sites used this as another opportunity to assert their own  so-called intellectual superiority plus  display the latent cynicism that is killing this country. After all here was documentary type chat show on real issues, being helmed, by God help us, an Indian movie star. How could one  openly support such an enterprise? And so, supposedly wise media  names ( among others, a liberal Indian weekly , viz.the cover story of Open magazine dated 9th June 2012 --   http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/art-culture/does-he-mean-it ) --  used  their platforms to mock a well-intentioned tv show –that truth to tell, has been pretty good, if not perfect.

Sadly, the media sites continue to bark even after the show has ended last Sunday. While the show’s followers have bid a warm regretful goodbye to this  well-made and  well-meant effort ( a tv venture that  made temporary  tv fans  out of people who have sort of given up on tv), the usual suspects (like www.firstpost.com) have been banging away their  skeptical  views on a show that  involves  a certain acceptance of idealism towards one’s nation.

Perhaps nationalism and idealism are not exactly cool topics in these tough times. It’s more about surviving  these  uncertain times, when a train trip could leave one in flames.

Still, there are many Indians who seriously feel that  65 year old Free India has not lived up to its  full potential. Rural India soldiers on gamely , muddling through, whilst Urban  India despite its malls and flyovers, is quite a mess. China has outstripped us in the development stakes --  though of course we are a better democracy ; and thank god we are not what  Pakistan is  ( a failed state). But for every plus point, there are many demerits waiting to be ticked off, corrected, if we are to survive as a  sovereign ,secular, socialist  and democratic republic. Overpopulation eats away at  whatever progress has been made. Men and women are still not equal; women have progressed in certain fields and yet…the other day  a group of four louts teased  and harassed a female co-passenger , then threw the protesting girl off the train .

The horror and injustice of it all.

Perhaps the times are also ripe for a show like Satyamev Jayate, a  tv show that takes a   good long look at topics that have been brushed aside in the race to survive. Thankfully it’s been a 360 degree look, where the  warts are uncovered, but a resolution is also attempted.And the show did end on a note of hope.

Many  Indians ( and surprisingly,  a section  of  non-Indians too) have watched the show  through  three months –  and   at least some viewers, would have understood the need to be hopeful and positive  --  much like it’s actor-anchor  Aamir  Khan. The man has in fact said so in his last column ( which has been appearing in the Indian press as a corollary to the show, on Mondays following the Sunday telecast). Here  are some excerpts from  Aamir’s  latest and last column
‘The future of our nation depends on whether we decide to be determined followers of dreams or cynical naysayers.’
‘I think somewhere along the way too many of us have become a little too clever, a little too practical, a little too cynical, a little too materialistic, a little too selfish. Maybe we need to let go a little. Allow a little space in our hearts for hope, for idealism, for belief, for faith, for trust, for innocence and… for a little madness. If one Dashrath Manjhi can move a mountain, imagine what 120 crore Dashrath Manjhis can do.’

Well, Aamir has had his say all these weeks; he now  returns to his filmmaking.  He has said that he and his team are game for a second season next year, as a follow up; he has mentioned that they will follow up on old topics, plus cover new ones untouched so far, but needing attention.

Meanwhile, people – viewers, journalists,  bloggers, all – are perhaps   rightly wondering whether the  thought process started by the show – will it fizzle out? 

My feeling is that it is upto us, to keep  alive, the hope of a better India, better life. All we need to do is put into practice what we occasionally  debate – and let go, in the hurry of every day living.

For starters, rewatch this show’s episodes as and when time and inclination permits. They are available on  youtube. Here is a guide to the show, courtesy cnn-ibn channel’s website.

Also, and this is important, do check out the ‘ASAR' programmes  telecast on  ABP News (Star News in new avatar), on the Friday following the Sunday telecast. These asar (impact) shows are as good as the original  episodes .  They discuss the  episode's immediate  effect ,  involve more experts, government functionaries, plus of course  Aamir himself, along with the channel’s well-informed anchor, all discussing the cumulative fallout of the last episode.  Asar  every week, it’s  one solid  hour-long meaningful show;  all  are available on youtube --

One understands that the various NGOs involved with the show, these worthies can still be helped with donations, till August 31st 2012.

And here is the show’s own website --  http://www.satyamevjayate.in/

Now on to  some practical suggestions, with regard to keeping the spirit of a show alive and going.

Start by watching episodes that  one has not watched; or revisit a favourite. All have interested, touched  me, some particularly. And I have actually hooted with laughter at the comments made by certain guests--like the feisty Dr.Gulati ( Medical  Malpractices episode); or the silver-haired, sharp-tounged ,wise and witty  Kamla Bhasin (Domestic Violence episode).

So watch, and decide what steps one can  take,  to improve one's life and society. I have generally been pro-active in this respect, but this show certainly woke me up even more.  It has helped  marshall my thoughts and action ... a few pointers follow.
1.The monsoons should hopefully be upon us soon, without playing truant too long. If you are a Chennai-ite like me,  check whether your  rainwater harvesting pit is clean and clear enough to let the water percolate through to the ground. As mentioned in episode 12, Chennai was fortunate to get the services of an IAS officer who worked with the state government  CM and made rainwater harvesting mandatory. Thanks to the efforts of these fine ladies (back in 2002-2003 when Chennai was reeling under the impact of increased urbanization and decreased water table), we now in 2012, are in the happy position of being fairly comfortable with our ground water supply.

Anybody who lives anywhere in  India—harvest rain water, catch it, store it. Ask the experts and act before rain water gets wasted into the sea or open drains.
The sooner we become self-sufficient in many respects, the better for all of us. The government’s piped water supply is erratic, dependent on availability. Use it only as a bonus or standby.

2. The episode on Toxic Food (Poison on the Plate, episode 8) –it affected me in a big way, particularly because this was an issue that I was well aware of. For some years now, we have  all been aware that the shiny plastic looking pears  apples and tomatoes  may not really be all that perfect for consumption. So one has taken recourse to  available  known  measures –buy organic when possible, or soak  vegetables and fruits in rock salt solution, or cook in same, then drain out the  residual pesticides (hopefully). The best solution would  be growing veggies in one’s own vegetable patch/pot, whatever possible.
In  episode 8 and later in the follow up Asar programme, Aamir himself said something interesting –he related something that a farmer had told him; a black spotted fruit may actually be better than  a clear looking sprayed and cleaned up fruit –since a fruit bug has found the fruit good enough to eat and left behind a black mark!

Shop wisely for food, try and use  your own groundwater ;  it is less likely to be contaminated --  as compared to commercial canned water or even municipal supply, if at all it is available.

3. Child Sexual Abuse, at home, as delienated in episode 2 -- it was frightening as it was enlightening. What one has read about frequently in the papers --the topic was finally discussed on tv, probably a rarity on Indian tv. Ironically there was a positive fallout even to this grim episode –over a lakh cases of child abuse was reported  to the Childline  helpline 1098, advertized on the show. One learns that Childline is spread in many towns all over India.  Similarly, the Alcoholics Anonymous number too was used  to good effect within a few hours of  the telecast of  episode  9.

 Moral of the story –it helps to know that there is a lifeline out there. So many lives could be saved in so many ways.
4. The episode on medical malpractices –besides raising the ire of a section of doctors – it also raised the important question about the need to make available medicines at an affordable price. Thankfully, state governments have  started taking this  issue seriously, and  many Indian states  are now in the process of setting up generic medical stores. Check out the  inexpensive and safe options available already…and watch out for further news in this regard.

5.And as  one expert noted in epiosde 11 (Sunshine Years, Sunshine  Life)--retirement is a time to Rewire, not Retire. Well said.

Knowledge  empowers ; it helps one make the right choices --  and help others in need.

People, books, films…they have always inspired. Now a  tv show has done it. Let’s not dismiss it.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Summer Note …and some Summer Wine

Let me first get the unimportant bit out of the way—Summer Wine is simply a favorite ol’ song I’m plugging in --  check out the link here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=325jxJIJkJM

Well , after the desktop got straightened out early in  April –  the tv has again got relegated to second spot, except for special occasions--  occasional  doses of an old favourite (Masterchef Australia) ; then  the new weekend favourite of this summer (SJ, the  truth serum show that tells tales which need to be told, not brushed under a carpet of apathy and ignorance);  or  a definitive must-watch film -- Saudagar,  the graceful Nutan-Amitabh starrer from  1973; or The Help , currently on  tv today.
Sadly the film has never made it to our  Indian theatres; incidentally, the book is  good too, in my uninformed opinion—since a section of American public seems to have had problems with the tale  ( as per web reports).

However, browsing of world wide web remains a staple activity, beyond, home, books, real  life ; and the  variety it throws up can lead to engagement in a good way, occasionally, or despair at the cynicism  and frivolity pervading our media spaces. 

Take my disenchantment with  a magazine that began so well in 2009 – Open magazine, the news weekly that started off as  really  different, open-minded with a new fresh voice.  Check out their archives --  http://www.openthemagazine.com/archive/146
And check out their recent  issues :  a cover story that  is plain pessimistic and disbelieving -- (http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/art-culture/does-he-mean-it
Or you have  another one , simply superficial  and  out of touch with  an India that matters  --  http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/living/the-vagina-wears-diamonds
This last story made me go  --  ‘ugh—does this matter as an inside story, leave alone  a cover story?’

Glad to see though that an old favourite is still doing good.   Two years back,  Tehelka  weekly wrote two consecutive cover stories about something that touches us daily—the irradiated and deadly air around us, courtesy the friendly mobile cell phone tower  in your neighbourhood,  a place it has no right to inhabit.

The second issue offered a simple solution to  householders faced with  the dangers  of  mobile phone tower  radiation in their vicinity :
‘Look at simple steps in the house that might help, like placing plants in balconies and by the windows, because plants tend to absorb EMR to an extent.’

 I need to plant a Jasmine or Bougainvillea creeper in my balcony asap.
I am not sure how much it will help, but whatever the benefit, it’s surely better than being fried by  invisible rays, courtesy, the looming  tower  visible from my balcony.
Meanwhile, to get back to browsing matters, here is the latest issue of Tehelka : it  talks of a picturesque Indian state  that is, in great part, being abandoned !

Excerpt –
The ghost villages of Uttarakhand
Over a decade after the state was founded, nine of its 13 districts are facing a crisis of migration. More than 1,000 villages have been deserted for the comforts of the plains, reports Baba Umar
Close family  members  honeymooned in Uttarakhand  less than two years back spoke about its heavenly beauty and calm.
Can’t this state be turned into a tourist paradise, bring employment to its young, revenue to its coffers?
Won’t  migration to plains make the latter even more overcrowded and uninhabitable?
Wish our media would  write about topics which matter—not ghastly essays on personal adornment and surgery that is horrendous to read, leave alone experience!