Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: Cobrapost exposé shows rampant corruption carried out in name of press freedom

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Media watch

The Press Council of India has failed to maintain the sanctity of the institution (“Cobrapost exposé shows Indian media is sinking. Now we can fight back or be drowned for good”). It should be dissolved and its structure revamped. In the name of freedom of press, the press council allows rampant corruption in the industry and self regulation is abused to the highest possible level. Journalists and employees of corporate media houses are helpless and spineless. Existing legislation is ineffective to punish the offending media houses who are responsible for the moral degradation and degeneration of the society through yellow journalism. Politicians are their accomplices. Cobrapost attests the international perception of the corruption of the Indian Press. – Bhabani Prasad Chattopadhyay

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The Cobrapost revelations raise several questions. How much did the information fed to us prior to 2014 influence the way we voted that year? How much of what we believe today is influenced by the information we have been bombarded with over the years? What should a citizen to do in light of the Cobrapost revelations on big media? Should citizens believe the forwards sent to them any longer? Manufacturing consent is an old industry that now returns as a hydra-headed digital monster. It plots and it plants. Earlier, we in media were told to beware of hidden persuaders. Today, we are the hidden persuaders. – Rakesh Katarey

Painful prices

There is very little humour and only deep pain due to this price rise (“As India’s fuel prices keep rising, cartoonists try to ease the common citizen’s pain with humour”). If the trend continues, the law of diminishing returns may kick in. The unabated rise in the price of petrol and diesel surely poses a challenge to our present administration. Ancient India, according to our ministers, was very proficient in science and technology. People were flying around in their Vimanas without the benefit of petrol bunks or oil refineries and were proficient even in modern technologies like the internet and related developments in science and medicine. Surely there must be some reference in our ancient texts on ways and means to bring prices down. Our ministers who often talk about past achievements can find an answer to the present dilemma of rising oil prices. India needs this expertise. – HN Ramakrishna

Letter row

Innocuous? As early as 50 years back as a district collector, I had to deal with priests sitting near polling boots as a gentle reminder to vote “properly” (“Why is bishop’s innocuous letter asking Catholics to pray for India being seen as an attack on Modi?”). If you have a problem with Hindutvawadis, then you need to apply the same yardstick to others. Have double standards but do not insult readers. – Srirangachary Varadachary

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Why? The answer is simple: ideologues fear truth. Always have, always will. – Daryl A

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I see no wrong in the letter. Nowhere does it mention anything about the Vatican. Why did Arnab Goswami drag the Vatican into the picture? I am not one who will stay quiet. Also, in Mumbai, there are a number of priests who support the BJP. Sad but true. – Neil D’Monte

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Anil Couto’s letter borders on sedition and should be denounced by all sound-minded Indians. I am shocked that it could even be debated what his intentions were with this incendiary letter. Being a religious representative, he is supposed to stick to matters of religion in this secular nation of ours. Instead he uses his pulpit for politics. Such stuff does not deserve publicity. – David Hogg

Karnataka verdict

Fair headline (“If the JD(S)-Congress alliance is unholy, what does that say about the BJP in Bihar or Kashmir?”). And in the interest of fairness, I would love to see an article asking Rahul Gandhi whether money was used to achieve this verdict, and if so, how much, given that Karnataka is larger state than Goa or Manipur. After all, he made the insniuation that money was given after the BJP formed the government in Goa and Manipur in similar circumstances. – Anirudha Dutta

Golden word

Thank you for publishing this article on Annappa Chougule (“Why a 66-year-old Maharashtrian villager has been sending congratulatory postcards to strangers”). In today’s cruel society, he is preserving precious moments and expecting nothing in return. This indeed is one of the best things I have ever heard.

This heart-warming article has not only brought tears to my eyes but has truly inspired me. Humans are blessed by god to fullfill their passion through free-will, no matter one’s financial status. Chowgle is an ideal of innocence, beauty and inspiration. May god bless him a long life so he can bring more beautiful moments in people’s lives. – Krunal Parekh​

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Congratulations for a heart warming article, I still write letters, perhaps that why I feel this way about the piece! – Avinash Prem

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My warm regards and congratulations to this unique gentleman for his untiring commitment to remembering people while they are still alive. He is absolutely right and needs to be encouraged by family and friends as well as those who have the means to assist this sincere efforts. May he have a long, healthy and fulfilling life. – Ahamed

Building bridges

This is a wonderful effort that comes as a silver lining in these difficult times and shows that humanity prevails (“What is home? Indian and Pakistani artists explore the question through stories of Partition”). Everyday we are being confronted with words that show that our two countries are enemies. And yet there are those among us who have something common, though they may be religiously different. I congratute Manisha Baswani for her dedication and hope she will continue building the bridge. – Anjan K Basu

Still fresh

I am really proud of my Prestige pressure cooker (“Indian innovation: The pressure cooker fix that saved TTK Prestige from imminent bankruptcy”). I have been using it since I got married 33 years ago. I have faced no trouble, except that I have had to change the handles twice. I am still hesitant to switch to new models or brands. I bet nothing can beat Prestige. – Vijaya Pasupathi

Assam citizenship debate

I totally agree with the fact that the new ordinance for the Citizenship Amendment Bill is based on the BJP’s communal agenda
(“The Daily Fix: Assam protests should persuade Centre to reconsider the citizenship bill”). If passed, it will segregate immigrants on the basis of religion. But the parties and all the students’ organisations resisting the ordinance are opposed to any kind of acceptance of “foreigners”, as they consider them, which is not in keeping with our tradition and culture. This side of the story is missing in the debates of regional channels where BJP MLAs peddle lies and make communal remarks, bringing up Partition every time. This point is also missed by the anchors cheering the students’ unions who fear that Assam indigenous people (meaning those who speak Assamese at home) will lose their existence with this Bill. This also alienates the Bengali-speaking-Assamese who are proud of their mixture of Assamese and Bengali culture. This regional nationalism has the same root as Hindu nationalism, only their narratives are different. I hope Scroll.in will give different perspectives on this issue. – Rajesh D Sarkar

Publishing row

This is about the article authored by AR Venkatachalapathy (“In English language publishing in India (at least), women have shattered the glass ceiling”). My intention is to draw your attention to opinions that have no basis in facts (or are referenced suitably to make them tenable) and on some factual inaccuracies. It says that “There is no doubting that the Indian English publishing industry is gendered.” What is the source of this statement? This is an opinion with no basis in fact. Second, it is written, “In a limited book market as in India, publishing houses cannot be great paymasters.” The highlighted text is inaccurate. According to Nielsen’s report on the Book Publishing Industry 2015, India ranks third in the world. The article further says that Sage was “under the stewardship of Omita Goyal for some years after Tejeshwar Singh’s death”. That was never the case. Omita Goyal and Tejeshwar Singh parted ways when the latter was very much alive. This is a factual inaccuracy. He also says, “why then are editors in developed book markets mostly men?”. What is the source of this statement? Again, an opinion that is not supported by any facts.

As for the statement “a good English Literature degree is usually a prerequisite for entry into publishing, and women have always done well in this sphere”, what is the source of it? As the head of a publishing house for the last 13 years, I am qualified to say that the statement, is false. I have 13 years of hiring data to prove it. The author also credits David Davidar with “triggering the trade book revolution in India”. What revolution is being referred to here? If there is a revolution underway then perhaps that should be clear or is the revolution so unique that only the author sees it?

I read both the article and the rejoinder by Urvashi Butalia with interest. It seemed to be less about publishing and more about gender discrimination. Urvashi has craftily stayed within the realm of an opinion and ensured her statements were generic enough to slip scrutiny. But I wondered why she didn’t open up about women in publishing and stayed within the realm of responding to Venkatachalapty and his editorial gender bias?

Why is that this industry with such a large women workforce doesn’t have a single voice that stands up for women? Why is one MD who lost his job for sexual harassment now being hailed as an industry leader? Why is that no one talks about another MD who has (continues to?) had to face a sexual harassment lawsuit? Has any woman (in publishing or outside) spared a thought for the women who are constantly fighting an uphill battle to make careers without being treated as objects? For the 13 years I have spent in mainstream publishing I still cannot stop the bile from rising every time I hear that women who succeed are only because they have ‘put out’. It’s almost that they have nothing else to bring to the industry. Urvashi talks about the past and how even today in feminist circles they talk of ‘opportunities’ that don’t go to women. How about supporting those who get opportunities by ensuring that men in powerful positions exploiting women are named and shamed? Is it then a fair conclusion that the silence of the women is only adding fuel to male chauvinism in publishing? – Vivek Mehra

Aadhaar woes

The headline of this article is misleading (“In one out of five cases, Aadhaar verification in fertiliser subsidy scheme is not working”). You have mixed two different data points. First, is the 20% adjusted transactions. Second is that 97% Aadhaar authentication happened in first three attempts, which is a very positive outcome of this pilot. You have mentioned negative points only in the article. Even the positive outcome regarding the Aadhaar authentication has been painted as negative. The pilot has many positive aspects, such as retailer training and the efficiency at which it is being conducted, farmers paying the amount as mentioned in the transaction receipts, impact on diversion and the fact that a majority of farmers and retailers prefer the DBT fertiliser system. The author could have given a holistic view. – Ritesh Rautela

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.