Thursday, June 26, 2014

Intriguing Stuff on Television

There are many things that mystify me on television, and at the top of the list in the last few days has been the coverage of the Delhi University (DU) - University Grants Commission (UGC) face-off.

From what filters through the reports of breathless television correspondents and shrill studio commentary, it is clear the problem is over an attempt to convert DU's three-year graduate degree course into four years.

Beyond that, all is confusion.

The DU Vice Chancellor seems to be the villain responsible for the initiative, ostensibly to “please the Americans,” as one reporter put it.

The UGC seems to have opposed the move.

Today’s coverage began with both sides dug into those opposed positions, holding up for the third day the admission process of some 250,000 students to 50+ colleges in the New Delhi area. Protesting students filled the screens.

There was a flurry of excitement at a report that the Vice Chancellor had resigned, and then that he had not.

Then a DU Spokesman appeared to make a statement. He was given a split screen to make it. In English and then in Hindi he read out a compromise offering: instead of a four year course, students would be allowed to choose an Honours 3-year term.

While he was making the statement the other side of the split screen carried looped silent footage of a group of protesters outside a gated building, shouting and gesticulating amidst a melee of pushing and shoving.

A man with a bandaged head (or extremely skimpy turban) was shoved out of sight along a walkway.

A vociferous (but soundless) plump woman was dragged into the gated yard by a policewoman.

The Spokesman finished his statement and retired to his office, with television reporters hot on his heels.

He endured a barrage of shrill questions for a while then evicted the reporters from his office. As the doors closed on them, one complained of “threats to the Press.”

Over four days of coverage, I did not see a single attempt to explain what was at issue. If the DU Vice Chancellor was trying to “please the Americans,” what were his motives? Who were the protesters outside the gated compound? What happened to the man with the bandaged head and the woman dragged into the compound?

Amidst this surreal coverage, as I was flipping channels to try and find something that made sense, I came across a truly weird commercial

It had a hirsute character sitting in a club chair, looking as I imagine Bertie Wooster would if he went to seed.

In a dolorous voice he says he would “ban” the word “good” if he could.

Good is the enemy of Great, he says. “Would history have remembered Alexander the Good?”

"I want to go for Great!"

And what is that commercial selling?

Bajaj Finserv!

Why would a company that wants you to give them money to invest say it is against “Good?”

Well, perhaps it’s honesty in advertising.

If your money disappears altogether, you can’t accuse Bajaj Finserv of not warning you about their values.

(And by the way, Good is what most people define as Great. The Buddha, Jesus, Guru Nanak, Mahatma Gandhi, to name just a few examples.)

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