Friday, July 16, 2010

It's a Small World

by Abhijit Bora

“Country roads – take me home – mountain Mama, West Virginia“

While going to and from Cleveland/Pittsburgh through the picturesque hills and wide expanses of grasslands and farmland and forests I could not but help remembering these lines from the famous song of John Denver who was my favorite.

This has been a dream come true for me. Being a journalist I always wanted strongly to visit the USA – among the top defenders of freedom of expression in the world and see first hand how it was sustained. So when I was selected for the Study of the US Institute on Journalism and the Media, I knew that my dream would be realized.

And, once in the country and being a part of a such delightful, energetic, resourceful and understanding people from across the world I know this is a lifetime opportunity for me. Not only to know about the U.S. media and other cultural aspects. But also I would be able to know so many things from my colleagues from seventeen countries spanning each of the continents, almost.

The lectures, demonstrations, and cultural tours to nearby places as well as Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, the theatre show, informal interaction with faculty members and other experts are converting this study tour into a beneficial activity to the optimum extent. Gratitude goes to the group of our organizers every member of whom has been leaving no stones unturned to make the programme a grand success and make us feel comfortable at every step.

Another interesting aspect for me personally is that it is not for nothing that it is said that this is a small world. This is because coming here I find that Suresh from neighboring Nepal understands Hindi which is my national language and I feel at ease to a big extent in speaking in this language. Also with Mofizur from Bangladesh, I can share quite a few words in Bangla and we both are somewhat familiar with each other’s country and culture. After all, we were part of the same country before 1947.

Then there is Julien of Rwanda, who asked me about a very popular and nice song in Hindi – Made in India on our first interaction and asks me about our films in Hindi which are highly popular in Rwanda. In fact, this song which is a favorite of mine also used to be a household song in the 1990s. I was quite surprised when Julien specifically inquired about this particular song.

Even Gambo of Nigeria and Kenny from Zambia surprised me by telling me that Hindi films are highly popular in their countries also. Though I knew that these were popular in many of the countries in Middle East and several of the former USSR constituents I did not know that this was so even in some of the African nations.

Here are some other interesting things I've learned... the national airliner of Indonesia (Nurul’s homeland) is Garuda – a giant mythological bird mentioned in Ramayana who was follower of the legendary character Ram.

The kings who ruled the part of India to which I belong to for about six long centuries migrated from Pirongrong’s country, Thailand, in the 12th century.

The first time I talked to Nicole from Jamaica, I asked her about cricket legends Viv Richards and Courtney Walsh – the people who have introduced me to this nice country of West Indies right in my school days.

I am proud to be an Indian and am enjoying this ‘cultural bonding’ which is a much more cementing factor for enriching our ties. Initially, before joining the group I was not exactly sure whether I would be able to mix up with the team. But after coming here I find to my surprise that it is absolutely fine.

So it is seen that we already are enjoying a certain amount of fraternity amongst us which would be more cemented by this opportunity to be spending one-and-a-half month of close proximity.

Now, coming to the field of interests to pursue here, I am committed to ‘narrowcasting’ as well as community media because I believe the huge ‘mass media’ are not able to do justice for the masses in countries like India where a good majority of the population are not adequately literate and need a smoother flow of information according to specific requirements.

Even though I had been thinking of this country (USA) as a mecca of big mass media yet after getting to know about Public TV and Radio, and visiting WQED in Pittsburgh and meeting its journalists and also the Public TV journalist working in the Ohio Statehouse Bureau I think differently about its importance and utility which could be applied for my country also.

One very important aspect of the U.S. media that attracts and makes me like it is the ‘regional/local’ nature of the media as the majority of the newspapers, and TV/radio stations are happy to be catering to their immediate communities rather than trying to grab the entire national audience with their programming.

In India, we do have a mix of both nationwide as well as regional media outlets. And in India also, nowadays large scale concentration of media houses is becoming the order of the day in the name of ‘cost cutting’ and offering a better fare to the audiences.

These are some of the issues I look forward to learning during my study tour. Further, this is needless to say that I am already highly impressed to enjoy the serene knowledge-pursuit-encouraging atmosphere of a U.S. university campus like that of Ohio University. This is a great boost to my knowledge pursuit even though I'm on the wrong side of the thirties already, but then Shakespeare said that life begins at forty.

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