It has been nearly half a decade since I was in a place where I interacted with several people from countries and cultures. Such interactions are always interesting, even if you do not agree with everything you learn.
In recent times, there’s been a general dissatisfaction over the way things are portrayed in the media. I understand, as a former reporter, that “news” is something that is current and notable for its cause alone. But there is a horrible distillation of “news”, which essentially comes down to what is controversial and what is sensational. While some of the news that is spoken about has to be highlighted, it ends up being a one-side story all too often. The other side is rarely highlighted.
One such instance came to light in the recent meeting. I was chatting with a woman from Zimbabwe and I asked her to tell me something about her country that we wouldn’t know from reading news stories. She wrinkled her nose and said “There’s so much! Everyone only writes about how Zimbabwe is a horrible place with so much violence. But we’ve a beautiful city, and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.”
Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya is considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It is supposedly more stunning than Niagara Falls, which gets a lot of PR and talk.
I had heard about it once upon a time, but honestly, I wouldn’t have recalled it without her mentioning it.
Our conversation continued, and she expressed surprise that I was wearing a dress. She had been worried about India, with much of the international coverage focussing on the horrible rapes in the country. Well, this is an issue that needs to be addressed. But from the sounds of it, India had been portrayed as a horrible country for women. That women were being raped everywhere, and a woman couldn’t walk in the streets in broad daylight alone.
We cannot deny that is entirely untrue. There are enough stories going around about this. Then again, the perception created is of a country that’s similar to the Middle East, with archaic laws. Where are the stories about the progress in India? Where are the stories about our vast growth and developments?
For a country with a population of over a billion, some of the advancements we’ve made are quite commendable. For a population that’s essentially as diverse as the world, some of the laws we’ve changed are definitely noteworthy.
I’m not going on a India-praising spree. I know the shortcomings of our country. But in recent times, some of the comments of international media are getting annoying.
We launch a space program, and they say why aren’t we spending more on removing poverty. We sign a climate agreement, and people ask about trade agreements.
I’m really glad that people from various countries came to India and saw the reality of the country.
The Zimbabwe woman’s parting statement was “India isn’t really any worse off than my country. I’m not sure why media makes it out to be a nightmare, then again, they write about my country as a violent one as well.”
So essentially going back to the question I had when I chose to quit reporting: Who do we believe?