A few days back, I got an old photograph of some of the newsreaders of days gone by. This is a photograph of the four ladies, taken sometime in 2003. I got this on WhatsApp, by the way.
So, I saved this picture, and I called it “Grace”. You see, I grew up watching these ladies read the news on “Doordarshan”, the state TV channel.
The picture brought back memories of a time when news was read in a dignified, and graceful manner. Even though I was never a newshound, these ladies made the news a pleasure to watch. In fact, I used to watch the Hindi news just for Salma Sultana.
So, I sent this photograph to my old friend, Hira Singh, and I asked him the question – “Hira, where has the grace and dignity gone?”
For those unfamiliar with news channels in India, there are cacophonous people like an odious gent called Arnab Goswami, who yell, scream, posture like some sort of cock hen.
So, I repeated my question – “Hira, where has the grace and dignity gone?”
I asked him if this was a symptom of the malaise that affects the modern world.
He nodded sadly, and said ‘yes’. Then, he reminded me of a film by Charles Chaplin called ‘Modern Times’. This was Charles Chaplin’s take on the dehumanisation of people in the modern industrial world.
“Times change”, he said. With each disruption, things change. Some for the good, and some for the bad.
These days, he felt, are indeed worse than anytime that he remembered. Modern India and Modern Pakistan were two countries formed out of religious hate, and the personal ambitions of three old men.
He spoke of todays India, and lynchings. He spoke of Trump.
As the world becomes more crowded, it becomes more and more difficult to stand out. Voices are raised, and so are tempers. Violence rules, and the days of quiet dignity are forgotten. Those who espouse such values are considered weak, as brawn becomes prominent.
“For all the data and knowledge we claim to have in today’s time, our actions are increasingly driven by the most base needs and desires.”
As inequality increases, anger rises, and people want to gain riches at any cost.
“This is depressing”, I said.
“Yes”, he said. “The Hindus believe that Vishnus final avtaar, Kalki, will rise and destroy the world so that it can be reborn, like the Phoenix. Nostradamus is not that far away. The road to Heaven is paved through Hell..”
“There is hope”, he said.
He then spoke of George Orwell, and ‘1984’. “We are not that far from 1984”, he said, as he walked away. “We should, next week, speak of Artificial Intelligence.”