Nandita Das

To read or not to read

  • October 1, 2009

I remember as a child the written word in the newspapers was seen as nothing but the truth. The ultimate endorsement of anything used to be “it’s in the papers!” And now just a few decades later, we look at it with skepticism and dismiss most things that are reported. I used to be an avid reader of the morning paper. Probably one of the very few addictions I had. But today I find myself free of it.

The dilemma ‘to read or not to read’ is not that easy to solve. I firmly believe that it is important to keep oneself abreast of the happenings lest we take refuge in our ignorance. In fact I used to judge those who didn’t, as I saw it being self-absorbed in one’s own little world and uncaring of what was happening around. I would ask myself, how can one be at peace when so much was going wrong? And reading the papers was one way of keeping one’s sensitivity alive. 

But I have slowly begun to love to hate the papers. I don’t want to even venture into the world of television, as I am afraid I may sound far too negative. Giving up watching the idiot box (whoever thought of the name must have been a seer) was much easier. But there was always an interesting editorial or an insightful piece or simply the happenings in the world that was a must read. However increasingly I find all these hidden too deep in the rubble of sensational news, agenda filled views and inane gossip masquerading as information that adds very little to my life. 

After much confusion I decided I would read the bare minimal that was needed to survive and not be apathetic. I began changing newspapers in the search of the least sensational and sell out newspaper. If I am not busy suing somebody or the other, it is because in the last 13 years of my being in the public domain, I have hardly read anything written about me. And whatever little I have, mostly in the beginning, it shocked me at the way facts were misreported, words were put in my mouth, even though often unintentionally. But can lack of diligence, care and authenticated information be overlooked? Who has the time and energy to refute or sue? Is that what makes the power of the pen so unchallenged, so irresponsible?

While I don’t want to paint it all with big brush strokes and sound like there is no good journalism, something that should be the norm is becoming a rarity. The demand for sensational stories and scoops must frustrate even ethical and professional journalists. Also much of what I read seems to be pushing in an agenda or poorly fact-checked, with no rigorous analyses of the various facets of the issue being reported. Seldom do I find multiple perspectives that might help the reader ask the right questions.

Instead of ranting, as I am, if one spent time thinking about the solutions, there do seem to be ideas worth pursuing. Serious journalism is under threat in our country because of over commercialization and even around the world because free online news, while democratizing the space it has undermined the need for the old journalistic model. In this context is it more public and community funding for impartial news an option? Also, can private companies be encouraged to self-regulate without it impinging on their freedom of expression? And finally can we, as civil society, be more discerning about what we want to consume and how? We on our part could support more ethical and honest journalism so as to increase the demand and thereby the supply of it. Maybe the vicious cycle needs intervention at every stage. 

I want to believe that I am not being an escapist, and shying away from news, just because it makes my mornings depressing and agitated. Sure I want to feel more positive about the day and not cynical, as that is an escapist’s emotion. So I do take refuge in reading less and less of the newsprint but the struggle continues to find those hidden gems that still must be read.

Virata Parvam


Director: Udugula Venu

Language: Telugu

Character Name: Shakuntala

Key Cast: Kundan Alexzed, Chakrapani Ananda, Banerjee

Feastivals and Awards: NA

Film Stills: 9

BTS: 11