Of dowry, its advantages, and Social Media craze

What to make of this dowry and media coverage?

A prestigious institution in Bengaluru seemed to have given Sociology notes to its students; may be it gave text books to its students. Doesn’t matter, as long as there is something to keep our idle tongues wagging.

The next thing we see is a Facebook post from a VIT student claiming to be in Vellore, and claiming to be member of three different groups. I feel pity for those companies/ groups. (By 21st Oct. the said woman had changed  her profile  of affiliations to “intern at Softgel Healthcare Private Limited; Core Committee Member at Becoming I Foundation;  Outreach and Documentation Head at IETE VIT; Studied VIT University;  Went to National Public SChool, Chennai; Our Own English High School, Dubai; and Lives in Vellore” to just four: “Gulf Inject, Intern at Softgel, NPS, Dubai, and OOEHS, Dubai”. As social scientists and adults, do we read something into this? [By the way, is she really Vellore-based or Bengaluru? Are all those affiliations honest? Is misleading the public deliberate? If so, then it smacks of a deliberate conspiracy?]

Fine for some [engineering] students who have to keep themselves occupied. May be that is the stuff some of us are made up of. You also need to locate it in the context of technology-at-finger-tips contexts. You will visit more of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp than go after what you satisfies your baser instincts.

With brains shrinking day by day -in this lazy technology-driven world-, we don’t like to take the trouble to VERIFY our sacred knowledge. That is the curse of most of us. It gives us cheap power to condemn against every tangible evidence. And who doesn’t enjoy power – power of all sorts -information, gossip-mongering, getting “likes”, being “favourites” of someone wielding power, and of course, uppity!

Look for yourself: this posted page is ONE of the pages; and the page has a number “159”; it means there are 158 pages before that and some more after that. What we are missing is the whole context. Why are other pages not posted online? If you are concerned about an important issue, shouldn’t you post the entire text? Why is this selective highlighting of a page? Such selective posting can’t be innocent. And then the social media audience laps it up uncritically! This is a generation which swallows even poison, if it looks attractive, and then regret the blunder (if they survive to!)

And a glaring blunder on the part of the woman and the misled public is, the page begins with “Generally, though accepted as an evil practice, dowry has its supporters. They want to retain this custom in one or other form. According to them, dowry has some advantages. The important ones are: ”

The College in question says it has no practice of prescribing text books. Definitely not in my department. In the Department of Communication (which houses Masters in Mass Communication and Bachelors in Visual Communication). I know most departments don’t that practice. Many of us are dead against giving notes. Vocally against.

Many of us suggest thought-provoking material for students to debate on. I do that – that is when you see students at their best – discuss and debate. You, as a teacher, provide a framework for that debate. And for me, that framework is always Constitutional, moral and ethical. Students learn the best when they start rubbing shoulders with their classmates and teachers and authors – irrespective of the content.

[By way of distraction, I may say, syllabus is only a rallying point; not the end of all. That -for me- serves and should serve as framework within framework. And that is why we need to update syllabi every year, every semester, and even -why not- everyday – depending on the changing social, political, economic, cultural canvas. Otherwise, the outdated anti-academics will take education the dowry-way. I pity the “teacher”/ university (many of them have a rule NOT to change/ update!) who says, ‘don’t change syllabus for the next three/ six years; you are killing education; stunting growth of generations to come; you are doing disservice to the nation]

I checked the syllabus of the said Sociology course. It is there for all to see. There is no text book prescribed. I found absolutely no reference material in the long list of reference books. Then I contacted a few students who took that course. All of them told me there was not notes given to them. They were given some pages to photocopy, and they forwarded me those pages by WhatsApp – pages on dowry-deaths and wife-battering, and other social evils and violence against women. I asked them specifically if this “viral” text was given. ‘No’, was the answer.

Serves well for the publicity-mongers. After all, when there is cheap social media, and a gossip-crazy audience waiting there, we don’t need to spend anything except our nothing-to-time and not-valued-energy to get that kind of mileage.

 

The mainline media has lapped up the gossip from the social media. Good for them, they can’t be left out, lest they should be out of business.

 

One reporter, who identified herself as Meghana, from Deccan Herald called me to clarify.  I gave her some inputs. She agreed to these goals of education, debates, and discussions around issues.

 

In the next few hours, Deccan Herald website publishes the news. But not a word about the version this perspective. This reporter has gone completely with the flow of the populist sentiment; and, you know that populist sentiment lacks brain. Deccan Herald, a reputed newspaper should have done its job as a public conscious-keeper. Otherwise, how is it different from the high-decibel Arnab and his channels like TimesNow (formerly) and Republic? It only adds to the pollution. Remember, the same Arnab and his erstwhile TimesNow had declared JNU student Umar Khalid a traitor – based on a video doctored by a BJP law-maker. This is the fate of our commercial, mainline media. Cheap!

This type of warped reporting speaks badly for our mainline media, Deccan Herald and its reporter. Don’t be surprised if someone calls into question their brains and ability to comprehend simple situations.

 

Mainline media and their reporters need eye-balls to survive; but they also need some intelligence, credibility, and respect. And that respect and credibility need to be commanded, not demanded.

 

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