Gandhi in the age of Social Media
I am compiling and editing a monograph/book on ‘Gandhi as a Journalist and Editor’ and presently I am living with it all my waking time.
Last night I was thinking: how would have Gandhi fared in an age of social media? Would he have been tweeting his comments and advices? Would he have engaged an army of social media hacks- to disseminate his thoughts? Would he have been trolled and how would he have reacted to it? In Gandhi’s times, when his papers were stopped from publishing the Banar Senas would physically copy his addresses and distribute among the masses. Probably they would have done that now using snapchat.
How would have Gandhi reacted to that? Gandhiji had reservations against technology of all sorts. His communication with the mass was primarily direct, through his lifestyle and choice of symbolic action. He considered cinema as an evil machine. But he realized the power of tools of communication.
Once when asked to stage a picketing against films, he said in a lighter vein, “If I do so, I would lose my Mahatmaship“.
Book shops across the world are shutting down. India is no exception. Well-known bookshops across the country are either shutting down or moving into selling other items including stationaries or turning it into Book Café, a cross between a club, a tea house and a bookshop. At airports the size of the bookshops, including in Kolkata the mecca of book lovers, are decreasing every month giving way to stationaries and trinkets. The lone bookshop in Bhubaneswar Airport closed down within months of opening. The wheeler book stores at railway stations are fighting for survival.
In this grim scenario comes good news from China. Beijing city officials have decided to grant subsidy worth about Rs 51 Crore to sustain the existing bookshops and open about 700 more in the city that has a population of 2.2 crores, almost same as in Mumbai.
Why is Beijing doing this? The answer Zhang Su, deputy director of the Beijing bureau of press, publication, radio, film and television gave is important. “Brick and mortar book stores are an important part of a city’s cultural infrastructure. They carry the memories of a city, they embody a city’s cultural heritage and they affect a city’s cultural ambience”.
Are our city administrators listening?
The Fallen Trees
Whenever a road is widened, the first thing that is done is to fell the existing roadside trees. That is exactly what is being done, where I live. Large trees are felled on the roadside to widen the National Highway 55 (earlier it was 42) from Manguli to Sambalpur. The stretch from Bali to Dhenkanal had hundreds of mature mango trees on either side of the road. The mighty trees are now lying on the roadside. I saw people taking away its branches and twigs to use as firewood. The trunks are neatly cut by machines and stacked to be carried away for sale. We’ll not see the canopy formed by trees on both sides of the road, we’ll not smell the heady fragrance of mango flower in spring. We’ll have wide black topped road- like a overfed python stretched endlessly gobbling up the greenery around.
I am told in developed countries, the administration transplant mature trees instead of cutting it. Can’t we try that?
There are several Kadamb, burflower (Neolamarckia cadamba) trees in the campus in which I live. I have seen them growing from tiny sapling (some of them I have planted myself) to mighty tree. It flowers during the rainy season. The trees are now full of orange flowers in dense globe-shaped clusters. The flowers have a tangy scent and are used in perfumes. The flowers are often used by children to play as a replacement of rubber balls.
As I look at those round shaped yellow flowers, I remember my father and Jagu (Amit Chatterjee) my son playing with these flowers in Balasore, Odisha where I used to live. My father is in heaven now and Jagu has outgrown the age of playing with kadamb flowers as a substitute of rubber balls. But the memories are etched in my mind.
Tailpiece 1: Imran Khan
Imran Khan being sworn in as Prime Minister
Imran Khan: Qabool hai, Qabool hai, Qabool hai
His aide: Janab Khan Sahib yeah nikaah nehi hai yeah oath taking hai.
(Coaurtesy: Debajyoti Chanda)
Tailpiece 2: God of Toys
Conversation with Anay, who just just turned seven with his mother.
Anay: Is there a God for toys?
A: How many gods are there?
A: And none for toys! Ok, name those you know
M: Saraswati for Education, Lakshmi for wealth, Vishwakarma for machines
A: Hang on. Vishwakarma should be fine. I can ask for robots or stuff like that.
(Courtesy: Sanghamitra Mazumdar)
Mrinal Chatterjee, a journalist –turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. Presently he is compiling and editing a monograph/book on ‘Gandhi as a Journalist and Editor’, which will be published by October 2018.