10 Feb 2017

Is Journalism about narrating a fact or ‘actuating’ a narration? Is a Journalist supposed to be bellicose and heuristic when comes to fighting against the establishment? Simplified the mantra, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, one of the most acclaimed journalists opined, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”

The adamant equation between Donald J. Trump, its administration and media at large is no secret affair but is obnoxious to the limit of unleashing chaos among people. The hate mongering tweets and articles from both the ends have instilled a world of ‘alternative’ facts in almost everyone’s mind. This didn’t start from the inauguration but had its roots sowed much earlier.

@JacoH: @CNN @realDonaldTrump I can't believe how low CNN can go. Obviously a bunch of Killary fans." @CNN only says negative-bad reporters
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2015

And, recently

Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017

The failing @nytimes was forced to apologize to its subscribers for the poor reporting it did on my election win. Now they are worse!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2017

Talking about the crowd size during Trump’s inauguration, in a series of false and tall claims Trump said, “It was a highest ever gathering (inauguration)”. On the other hand, disparaging the moments of maximum gathering during the hours long event, MSMs showed the crowd size of Trump’s inauguration taken at 11.04AM or some other time. However, the event noted its maximum footfall only by 12.09PM. 

Image Courtesy: Vox 
Comparing the crowds at Donald Trump’s and Barack Obama’s inaugurations https://t.co/U4dIVzCKbH pic.twitter.com/zf8hxVDMpO
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 20, 2017

New York Times' clarification that both images were taken 45 minutes before the Oath ceremony is misleading and can’t reciprocate the actual crowd size in either case. An esteemed newspaper is not supposed to do a ‘Jon Stewart’ by publishing/highlighting only parts of the story. 

To be precise, crowd ‘size’ comparison holds true for the largest of both the timelines, Trump’s as well as Obama’s oath events. The science of the scientific comparison had its ifs and buts.Being contumacious media is undoubtedly a courageous act. However, at a point when people’s faith in media is at all time low the need-of-the-hour is to bring forth factually correct information.

Once empowered with the ultimate presidency powers, Trump left no time in exercising it and soon passed a bundle of executive orders. Travel ban was one of them. The very next day, The New York Times editorial read ‘Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Cowardly and Dangerous’. Similar were the headlines and approach of MSMs across the world. Trump’s executive order barred entry into US from seven countries — Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Calling it a Muslim ban is bizarre and illogical as there are over 40 countries in the world where Muslims live predominantly. Technically, the executive order affects 200 million Muslims which constitute only 11.4% of the entire Muslim population. Not only that, media failed to see beyond the Muslims, the problems of minorities living there — knowing the fact that minorities have no voice in democracy.

Joseph Pulitzer once said, “The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations.” However, if such is the journalism standard, media is in no position to complain, better or worse. 

The point is — irrespective of how insidious Trump is — media must keep its facts checked!
Read here

How Trumpophobia is Killing Media!

5 Oct 2016

Read the word – ‘Pakistan’ – what pops up in your mind? To me, it is ‘a rogue nation’.
Recently, taking a note of the Kashmir unrest, Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan nominated his 22 parliamentarians as special envoys to visit major countries across the world and rake up Indian atrocities and human rights abuses in Kashmir. ‘An attempt to appease the disgruntled parliamentarians by sending them on a world tour’ couldn’t hide behind the Kashmir curtain, but became a laughing stock as the parliamentarians when asked about Mehbooba Mufti, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, State's ethnicity and map on a live show were mum asking, “Who is Mehbooba?” The Prime Minister in fact went on to address the United Nations General Assembly 2016 with Kashmir as their main agenda, another attempt to divert the immediate public attention from core issues, such as water and energy crisis, and most importantly, the Panama leaks, Sharif’s latest dilemma.
Home to the world’s most wanted terrorists, Pakistan is one of the biggest victims of terrorism too. According to an Amnesty International report, Pakistan is one of the world's five worst countries witnessing the highest number of human rights violations. However, Pakistan, on international platforms, continues to be garrulous on Kashmir, but boorish towards Baloch, Gilgit and Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir issues. The country is hopping on its endless animosity with India; compels me to raise the point – what’s wrong with the nation?
Besides sponsoring terrorism since 1947, as part of its foreign policy, Pakistan is obstinate, keeping public affairs, unresolved and unaddressed and leaving its origin – vague, weak, gloomy and tense that otherwise could have played a crucial role in pushing the nation forward.

Pakistan: The Making of a Rogue Nation

31 Aug 2016

Published By: Penguin Random House India
AuthorGunjan Jain
ISBN: 978-0670088850
Genre: Non-Fiction

NR Narayana Murthy is counted as one of the 12 greatest entrepreneurs of our time (Ref. Forbes); Mukesh Ambani, undeniably is the richest person in the country, but how many of us are aware of the achievements of Sudha Murty and  Nita Ambani? Sudha Murty is not only one of the most successful and accomplished authors but also the woman behind the genesis of Infosys. Nita Ambani is handling a number of portfolios successfully, but often gets discredited. Chanda Kochhar, Kiran Mazumdar, Anamika Khanna, Anu Aga, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Saina Nehwal are some of the stars who have set new standards in their respective fields, be it business growth, corporate governance, fashion designing, acting/entertainment and sports. Written by debutant author Gunjan Jain, 'She Walks, She Leads' offers brief glimpses of the lives of 24  extraordinary Indian/NRI women, set to inspire its readers. The book has covered almost all their aspects—relationship, leadership, philanthropy, parenthood, childhood, marriage, dark clouds and more; thanks to the author, reading them is like entering the persons' portion of lives and taking a part of it.

Starting with Nita Dalal, a Bharatnatyam dancer in her childhood, the author has successfully delineated the making of Nita Ambani, an educationist, philanthropist, environmentalist and sporting woman. Interestingly, her unknown love life, Mukesh’s proposal in the middle of a traffic jam on Bombay's Arterial Peddar road. Hardly does anyone know, Nita has planted over 3.4 million trees over the  2500 acres area; she  chairs DAIS, an international school that provides quality education to over 15000 children. To her credit, there is much more...

Included in their topsy-turvy memoirs are some titillating stories that will surely help you understand and decode their success. For e.g. during Sudha Murty's wedding, the bride and groom split the cost which was Rs. 800. An IISc Alumnus, Sudha went on to write to JRD Tata against Tata's policy 'to hire male engineers only'. Tata not only changed their policy but hired her for a Researcher profile.
It was Sudha's savings that became the capital of Infosys, then.

I am 5ft 4in tall. I come from a lower-middle-class family. I can never be rich. You are beautiful and intelligent. You can get anyone you want. But will you marry me?
- NR Murthy to Sudha 

To me, the most interesting and inspiring was reading Kiran Mazumdar Shaw who earned her master’s degree in Malting and Brewing from University of Melbourne, Australia. “But, back in India, the greatest challenge that Kiran faced in the brewing industry of the 70s was that no employer was ready to hire a woman for a job that involved running the brewery, handling labour unions and late nights at the plant. Kiran even approached Vittal Mallya, Vijay’s father-Chairman of UB. He told her, “It’s difficult to give you a job; this is a man’s work.”

“I had to take on the challenge.” Kiran was up against many barriers, as she started going about setting up the business in the garage of her rented house in Bangalore with a seed capital of Rs10,000; a 3000sqft shed nearby served a factory.

The book has many moments to trigger its readers, delving into the lives of Shabana Azmi, Mary Kom, Indu Jain, Shobhana Bhartia, Ritu Kumar, Anamika Khanna and many Sheros, as SRK calls them. Some are hilarious, some are comic. Yes, 'Aishwarya Rai' was one name that I missed.

She Walks, She Leads

Gunjan Jain, Author-She Walks, She Leads

Delving deep into the lives of India's most successful women, including Nita Ambani, Sudha Murty, Indu Jain, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Yasmeen Premji, Sania Mirza, Priyanka Chopra, Mary Kom, Chanda Kochar and Mira Nair and more, Gunjan Jain, the author of 'She Walks, She Leads' brings forth the stories of  achievement to trigger both the younger and older audience. "While the specifics of every achiever will always be different, the overall lessons we learn are bound by common values", says Gunjan in an email interview. Excerpts...
This is your debut novel and what a grand launch it had! How does it feel?
It feels very special for me! I have been consumed by this book for the last three years. First, of course by the whole writing process and then last few months it was all about the launch. I wanted everything to be perfect and it was even better, so yes I am enjoying the afterglow.

There are a number of books on women biz entrepreneurs, market leaders, sportswomen ...but when it comes to connecting all, from different verticals, I can’t recall any single Indian book. What inspired you to write this book?
Precisely what you just said…the fact that there was nothing like it that had already been written. The way I look at it, successful people do have some common traits or values. Yes, the approach needs to be tweaked depending on the demands of the field one is in, but there are many traits that remain the same. For instance, Anamika Khanna does not have a formal fashion degree but today, she is one of the top names in fashion. Similarly, Anu Aga does not have a business degree, but when the times demanded it, she was able to successfully steer Thermax towards the position of strength it is at today. One did it because it was her passion; the other did it because it was the need of the day. Different fields, different ages, different backgrounds…the common thread is the self-belief.

How long did it take to write the book? Did you have/set any time frame for writing this book?
From the time I first conceptualized the book to the day, it was published took about three years. Three years of 20-hours long working days! No, I had not really set any deadline or timeframe purely because this was my first book. I was learning as I went along but yes there was something inside me that was constantly pushing me to drive in the 5th gear.

Deciding the present format/style...
I let my instincts guide me as much as possible in terms of deciding on the style. It was a conscious decision to keep the style across all profiles. As mentioned earlier, there is no common thread binding the women in terms of age, profession, background, etc so the common format ensures cohesiveness across the narratives.

Challenges that you faced while researching their lives…
The biggest challenge, of course, was to unearth something new about these women because they are already so popular and there is so much information about them out there. This was largely achieved by talking to their near and dear ones as they brought in a lesser known perspective to the stories.

Then, of course managing the research was a gargantuan task. I accumulated piles and piles of it which I had to sift through, and decide what to retain and what to leave out. That was heartbreaking!

Best piece(s) of advice for writers trying to break in?
Write every day.
Don’t give up because it feels tough.
Get your coffee source in place before you start.

Any plan to write vol. II?
Much as I admire the achievements of these women and so many others who are breaking boundaries every day, I don’t see a sequel of She Walks, She Leads on the horizon. I have not written this book to eulogise these 24 women, the idea is to glean inspiration through their lives. While the specifics of every achiever will always be different, the overall lessons we learn are bound by common values.

What’s next? Would you like to step into the fictional writing?
I have started the ground work on my next book and will talk about that in due time.
At this point, I don’t have any plans on writing fiction. I think I will always be a non-fiction writer; it’s also always been my preferred genre for reading. I feel that my sensibilities are geared towards non-fiction. But, you know what they say- never say, never!

Favorites – Book, movie, place, hobby and sport.
Book – Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg; Movie – Shawshank Redemption; Hobby – Travelling and Yoga; Place – London; Sport - Tennis and Swimming

In Conversation With Gunjan Jain

13 Jul 2016

Reviews are mostly done immediately after the product's use/consumption; however, in the case of books (fiction), I usually do after three months of the read, only if it keeps popping up somewhere in a corner of my mind. Written by Julian Barnes, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011, The Sense of an Ending is one such, a bit boring, but worth to your attention.

To keep its complexity as simple as possible, Julian has made Tony Webster, a common man in his sixties who has never done anything wrong to anyone (this is what he thinks), a protagonist; Adrian his friend, a hero in the background story and Tony's ex-girlfriend Veronica who later turns to be the wife of Adrian, an equally strong character in the book. They have common friends – Alex and Colin.    

Let's stop beating around the bush, the book is not about its characters, but its prose, written masochistically. With a punchline in the starting paragraph, “[Thinking about some incident] This is not something that you actually saw, but what you end up remembering, and that isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” The style, logic and message seem to be the whole and soul of the book, not the messengers. So, my advice; don’t go for the characters and their connectivity with the story. After all, who will be obsessed about a letter addressed to Webster even after 40 years? I found it bizarre. The plot was so weak that I too had a feeling, “Am I just wasting my time?”   

On page no. 32, Tony: “If you want to make people pay attention to what you’re saying, you don’t want to raise your voice but lower it: this is what really commands attention.” Alas! The approach has almost killed the messenger in order to pay attention to the logic. Tony, the protagonist himself is so dull and vague that as a reader I could nowhere found myself eager to delve into his philosophies of life and beyond. 

However, the However, the question that keeps you engrossed is, “what is the sense of ending?” Forget euthanasia, the entire human society/media has always perceived a person fragile and weak who commits suicide, what if it’s not, what if s/he does because of the “sense of an ending” where s/he has nothing left to explore?  

In a conversation with noted Indian author Ashwin Sanghi, he questioned the authenticity of history, “The very first book on Chanakya was actually written 900 yrs after his death.” Julian clarifies, “We need to know the history of the historian in order to understand the version that is being put in front of us.” And, defines, “History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

And, then redefines,

History is not about the lies of victors, but the memories of survivors.

Adrian, the most logical and profound character commits suicide while Tony survives to tell the tale which he didn’t know. Later, he came to know that Adrian had written a letter to him unfolding, “The sense of ending.” Tony who was feeling nostalgic owing to the powerful recollection of strong emotions – and regret that such feelings were no longer present in his life – then pleads himself guilty, ever read that letter?    

What was written in the letter? Does it make you read the entire book?  

The Sense of an Ending

2 Jun 2016

Mused with #whataboutery fact-sheets, I wonder -- why do media hype only few cases viz. Aylan Kurdi, Nirbhya, Akhlaq and some others, particularly when the world witnesses such cases almost everyday. Hypocrisy?

Remember the case of Thangjam Manorama? How many prime time slots were attributed to the poor lady's case? How many arrests and award returns (except one Padma Shree by Binodini Devi) were made in that case? Take Kerala's recent one. You won't see any prime time debate. However, almost all the prime time slots covered Nirbhaya case weeks after weeks. These weren't political.

 Disparities in the news coverage on the basis of regions and religions aren't new, but now so obvious that we choose it to ignore. Thousands in Syria and neighbouring countries have lost their lives due to ISIS attacks. However, it was Alan Kurdi's case that helped end Kobanî attacks in August 2015. 

Disparities are undeniably because of 1) the TRP estimates that further result into ROI 2) the absence of good reporters in the less happening cities/states and some other concurrent issues. Having said that in a world where everything, be it emotional sentiment or else is to be measured in 140 characters only, people go for adjectives. And, when it comes to the scale of injustice, words seldom suffice the emotional requirements.

This is where, come the Nirbhaya, Aylan Kurdi and Akhlaq, new standards to measure one's pain, suffering or calamity... similar to the other systems of measurement -- MKS, FPS, CGS and SI. 

Eventually, you get to know -- how to express the pain and anguish in 140 or fewer characters -- @k^^n: Kerala suffers a Nirbhaya

Scales of Injustice

20 May 2016

'Don't confuse peace with quiet!' There is a big difference. Quiet has strings and so has the killings! The strings that have been haunting the countrymen since independence... 

There have been some BJP/RSS supporters killings in Bihar and Kerala. In some other states, it's the other way around. The scenario is getting more local, ruled by the local mob. 'Kamlesh Tiwari' and 'Akhlaq' cases simply suggest that caste and religion are just part of the strings. The recent 20 deaths in Haryana too, were part of the mob injustice.

The PAT-RIOT takes it to another level. This also questions SC's monitoring capabilities.     

 Let's not deny, there is a growing dogmatism.  
Unverified Pamphlets and letters that should have been brought in the notice to Dean and VCs are now being read in Parliament. 

Biased coverage from both the sections of media helped real hooligans hide behind Nationalism. 


As far as Afzal Guru is concerned, people must realise that Afzal Guru's conviction is just one of the lakhs of jurisdictions. The strong judgement was strictly in line with the nationalism and in spite of all the differences, we must stand by the last judgement. 
We must avoid any situation that could fuel any community to do something done to Neelkanth Ganjoo. This will weaken and damage our Judicial system.


5 Dec 2015

Eight Threats to Freedom of Expression

5 Nov 2015

There are similarities among the Dabangg, Salman Khan, the Arnab and the one & only the PM. With the big fan following, all bhakt types, the trio literally endorse, "Ek baar jo maine commitment kar di, to fir main apne aap ki bhi nhi sunta." 

While it was Dabangg khan who brought this sane idea into the public domain, the holy & supreme judge Arnab has been practising the same for quite a long time now. Once he takes a stand at +The Newshour Debate, no matter how strong the other argument is, one can't help change the stand.

And...so is the curious case of Benjamin, the Government of India, elected by us, the Countrymen. Be it, selecting a bunch of jokers like Rajyavardhan Rathore, Smriti, Arun, Mahesh etc, or tackling issues like  #FTII row, Kalaam's home 2 Mahesh and so on, once it takes a decision, it doesn't listen to any countrymen.  

Suffering from the musings of political-constipation, while writing  typing the sermons & easing out in the washroom,  Linkin Park had to appear to my ipod...

I don't know why
It doesn't even matter how hard you try
Keep that in mind I designed this rhyme
To explain in due time
All I know
Time is a valuable thing
Watch it fly by as the pendulum swings
Watch it count down to the end of the day
The clock ticks life away

It's so unreal
Didn't look out below
Watch the time go right out the window
Trying to hold on, but you didn't even know
I wasted it all just to watch you go
I kept everything inside
And even though I tried, it all fell apart
What it meant to me
Will eventually be a memory of a time when

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn't even matter
I had to fall
To lose it all
But in the end
It doesn't even matter


3 Idiots

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