A frustrated citizen's guide to
Facing the Press
One of the dangers of walking on the street since the time the country began to be flooded with desi channels is the possibility of a telly-sangbadik popping up a microphone out from nowhere and asking a startled you your 'valued' opinion about anything ranging from the cat strike by petrol pumps in Venezuela to a strike by cats on the tin roof of the office of your ward commissioner.
These days the cats love the dare and can afford to make the rattle because many a W.C. (pun not intended) has gone into hiding, either voluntarily or by compulsion. For instance, a few weeks back one was apprehended when he came in aid of his long patronising local businessman, who was obviously on the wrong side of the law, and his support was also quite obvious. But, today we are not talking about lawbreakers but about jawbreakers.
Assume you are asked a question as innocent as what is May Day, and if you have an answer and can say it on camera without twitching your nose, well good for you! They will telecast those bits that are favourable to their story line, or they may make you feel like Hrithik Roshan in the cell phone ad. You may have said and moved a lot but they only took your 'yes' or a 'no', and made you look half smart.
Per chance you said a 'I don't know', chances are the channel will make a caricature of that statement and you may have to hear yourself repeatedly utter 'I don't know' at an accelerated artificial pace. The problem is a millions other people are also hearing you being mocked on telly without your permission. That is poor journalism, but then economists will tell you, we are a poor country not necessarily only because of our shabby economics.
There's no denying that you have to be out on the street to make a living unless you are rich enough to stay home and do e-business, that is, ek-tarofa business, and have lakhs of taka stashed in your pillow, or in some friend's bank account.
Out there you are bound to bump into one of them mike-wielding, camera-rolling crew, who also have the right to be caustic. As a means to find a way out from their clutches, the best way is to prepare for that dreaded moment, unless you can convince someone to give you a job as a reporter seeking public opinion.
Rule 1: Confuse them. Suppose they ask you about the rise in price of rice. You could say, 'I take bread'. They are sure to pounce on you with, 'but the price of atta is also on the rise'. You should then be prepared to say, 'I never express myself more clearly than I think'. That should move them on to the next (in their language) bakri.
Rule 2: Always carry your own camera. Start clicking their picture as soon as they ask you a question of national importance. Do it on your mobile, even if it has no built-in camera. You will be surprised to find out how camera shy they are.
Rule 3: Start coughing and sneezing. The bird flue syndrome is their bread and butter, so they know the effect of your body moisture. Offer them your hand after blowing your nose. You will discover their awareness about health and hygiene.
Rule 4: Ask a question for a question. We are very good at that. Like, if some one asks, 'what is the time?' The respondent asks in return, 'what time do you require?' The original questioner asks 'why do you want to know that?' The respondent asks, 'is that any of your concern?' And so on. This works very well, because there is no end. Suppose they ask you whether there is a shortage of water in your elaka. Ask them in return, 'what is the situation in your area?' Or alternatively, 'where had you been for the last six months?'
Rule 5: Be armed with a quotation. This is rather useful and can be supplementary to the other rules. Memorise some quotes from anywhere, and reply with that, whatever be their query. For instance, if they ask you, 'are you scared of mastans?' Your prompt reply should be: 'I do not fear a mastan half so much as I fear those who fear him'.
Then if they ask you, 'do you think drug use is on the rise?' You could be a smart aleck and counter with 'you mean in our hospitals?' But a better line to take them off their feet would be, 'I tried sniffing coke once, but the ice cubes got stuck in my nose'.
Their query, 'what do you think of our national politics, the eternal locking of horns by the party in government and that in the opposition?' Strike your right collar with your forefinger and roll out as smoothly as you possible can, 'the reverse side also has a reverse side'. Now strike your left.
Suppose they ask, 'what do you think of this continuing channel invasion?' You could swiftly say, 'never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups', but you will only be able to say it if you have it by heart.
At one stage, they are bound to ask you threateningly, whether you are aware that you are being videoed. That is when you say something that makes no sense at all, but will make them sensible and pack up. Your killing statement: 'Never test the depth of the water with both feet.'
They will surely look at their feet. That's when you click your camera.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007