Two events, occurring in quick succession in the recent past, have been very disturbing. One is the sounding of death knell by Mark Thompson (director general of British Broadcasting Corporation), of the Hindi radio service of BBC. And the other is an unabashed reality show doing its rounds on a popular FM Radio channel for the selection of the biggest lout of the city of Lucknow.
The crunch of funds from the UK Government has forced BBC to discontinue after March, five of the 32 world services language services that it currently operates, including its Hindi bulletins. So paucity of funds has killed a non remunerative but very good quality news service. Perhaps a similar resource crunch and psychological crisis has prompted the FM Radio Channel to find and fund novel, albeit demeaning, programmes to up its popularity and revenue graph.
These days, the city of Lucknow, once famous for its etiquette and grace, is the scene of a new search for the 'city ke kaminey', which is being sponsored and aired by a popular FM radio channel. Yes, the quest is on for the biggest scoundrel of the city, and young boys and girls are plunging to unimaginably degrading depths in order to grab the prize money and the title of 'city ka sabse bada kameena' (scoundrel of the highest order). The more repugnant their lies, the filthier the abuses they can mouth, and the nastier their demeanour towards their friends, parents and relatives, the closer they get to the crown. The announcer of the show proudly states that 'the rule of the game is that there are no rules.'
Yes this indeed is a different radio reality show. Till now we have had contests for the most beautiful woman, or the most handsome guy, or may be for the best dancer, singer, and cook or quiz mistress /master. This one, however, is rewarding ones vices, by encouraging the youth to become more bad mouthed and more uncouth in their behaviour, all in the name of fun and prize money.
The whole show is a repulsive commentary on our times and lives, where the desire for cheap popularity and revenue overshadows basic human qualities. It has suddenly become fashionable to be brash and indecent in behaviour. Talking loudly on the cell phone or to each other in public gatherings (including cinema halls, restaurants, class rooms and hospitals); breaking the traffic rules with a vengeance; showing scant regard for others seems to be the new mantra of life. A total disregard for the finer points of life and a blatant show of consumerism (which in most cases is supported by indulgent parents), from early childhood, is robbing us away from the niceties of life in thought, word and deed. The age of promiscuity seems to have decreased in the same proportion in which brutal sexual assaults on disabled and adolescents, even infants, have increased. A horrifying increase in incidents of violence points to the fragile mental status of our society. Our youngsters do not think twice before taking away a life - be it their own or someone else's. We are becoming more and more intolerant. We refuse to accept failure or take a 'No' for an answer—whether it is wooing someone we take a fancy to; or asking for bribe; or trying to overtake a vehicle on the road; or making absurd demands from our elders and teachers.
Chivalry has been replaced by sycophancy. Rights are gaining precedence over responsibilities. The youth of today is a confused lot and we as elders need to accept the responsibility for the chaotic situation. The only role models we can offer to our children these days are scamsters, corrupt officials, scandalous reality shows on TV and radio (which are far removed from life's realities), and an insatiable yearning for unbridled power and wealth. We are instilling in them an insatiable desire to get rich and famous, without guiding them about the right path they must tread to reach their goal.
This is a wake up call for all of us parents, teachers and guardians. Let us not give our kids too much too soon. Let the lust for money not override the quest for love and tolerance. Let us spend quality time with them and cater to their psychological needs as well, rather than go overboard in fulfilling their material needs.
Shobha Shukla - CNS
(The author is the Editor of Citizen News Service (CNS) and also serves as the Director of CNS Diabetes Media Initiative (CNS-DMI).She is a J2J Fellow of National Press Foundation (NPF) USA. She has worked earlier with State Planning Institute, UP. Email: [email protected], website: www.citizen-news.org)