Tidbits of the region’s media

How should a tiny South Asian state look upon a giant neighbour? Well, in the newly globalised world, as a marketing opportunity. King Jigme Singye Wangchuk said so. Already, Drukyul exports jam, jelly, squash, lotteries, plyboard and electricity to India. Said the king to The Indian Express, "We don´t look upon India´s size with any suspicion. We look upon the 900 million population of India as an advantage. It is a big market for anything we produce." Listen in, Adam Smith.

M. Krishnan, naturalist, photographer, and writer of the fortnightly "Country Notebook" in The Statesman since 1950, died on 18 February at 83. The dour Mr Krishnan, as one obituarist noted, was "an old-style naturalist rather than a new-style ecologist" who did not go with the scientific fashions and never sought patronage. Rather than write eloquent photo-spreads in glossy journals about exotic creatures such as the snow leopard, he stuck resolutely to the everyday offerings of peninsular India. His signatures were the black and white images with which he always began his Statesman columns, followed by use of spare language on subjects such as the common crow, the neighbourhood jackal, or the rhesus monkey. A man and a column to be missed.

The North West Frontier Province cabinet has decided to do away with both whipping and keeping prisoners in fetters, reports Dawn, and we are glad. But there is a distance between the cup and the mouth, in Pakistan as elsewhere. A month ago, at Lahore´s incredibly swanky Press Club, Chhetria Patrakar came across a photograph on exhibition, where the flash reveals a naked man bound hand and foot and hung from a pole with three policemen standing by. Human degradation continues despite laws, it seems,´ and there are courageous news photographers in Pakistan.

The Express Magazine has exposed the shameful victimisation of two Maldivian women by Indian security agencies under what is known as the "ISRO spy scandal". The report reveals that Mariam Rasheeda and Fauzia Hassan were falsely implicated in a case of espionage, used as "honey traps" set by Pakistani, Dutch and Korean interests to lure scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation. The CBI, which took over the case after it was sensationalised by the Kerala police and the Intelligence Bureau, says there was no story. The sister agencies had goofed up. Mariam Rasheeda told the magazine, "The Indian newspapers have written all sorts of bad things about me. But in Male we do not have a single, not a single prostitute." For all the hoopla when the story first broke, there is not much coverage in the press once the fiasco was laid bare.

You can bet your bottom taka that for Chhetria Patrakar it will be a long crusade for the differentiation of ASEAN and ASIA.

How do perfectly intelligent people, world leaders, chief editors, senior diplomats, insist on calling Southeast Asia, Asia, when as clear as Adams peak on a sunny day you know that there is also South Asia right there in the middle? The Europe-Asia Summit which met in Bangkok last month — was a summit between East Asians and Europe, right? Take a look at the latest Ear Eastern Economic Review cover story on the overwhelming use of English in Asia, and Asiaweek´s a few issues before that on 20 "Asian" something or the other. Someone please these guys that their Asia is only ´ASEA´.

In the Dhaka Independent´s Eidul-Fitr supplement, former ambassador Ahmed Farid was engaged in a tirade against Western media, which he said was engaged in "destabilising Muslim societies and bludgeoning their members into psychological submission." The coverage by the press and electronic media was "carefully manipulated to black out the Muslim version". Halftruths and downright falsehood are dished out to prejudice world opinion. "This media domination is invisible and extremely subtle. It is beyond the capability of the Muslim side to match this Goebbelsian avalanche of propaganda." Chhetria Patrakar cannot go along with the theory of a worldwide conspiracy, however, and will await Mr Farid´s book, on the subject "Islamic resurgence and the media", to see if he has anything more to offer.

Mad Cows and Bangladesh—there is a link according to a email notice that just arrived. "Scientists have postulated a link between the ongoing political crisis in the South Asian country of Bangladesh and the epidemic of mad cow disease in Britain. The disease in both cattle and humans is a degenerative disorder and in humans leads to a protracted period of irrational behaviour." The point is that there is a link between British exports of cattle and Bangladesh´s tailspin into chaos and who´s been been eating what. A vicious rumour, no doubt, and we will not believe it.

A Harley Davidson, and, half a bosom showing, a woman clad in leathers with cigar in hand—this is what Living Media Inc. has decided is the need of the hour for apna Bharat to remain mahan. All of the above are to be found on the cover of the first India Today Plus, a quarterly meant to titillate you into forking over IRS 75 for a few pages of glossy fluff. After starting a children´s magazine, opening an art gallery, and a classical music company, Living Media seems to have deided to live it up by going, what I firmly believe is downmarket. Perhaps they had no choice but to take the low road, with Outlook, the upstart edited by Vinod Mehta, going in for Indian nudes. By the way, can one define nudes by nationality like Indian miniatures?

A magazine arrived at Chhetria Patrakar´s desk, SAARC News, inaugural issue dated 1 March 1996. All very well and good, with "SAARC Salient Features", Bhutan as "The Land of Thunder", and Maldives as "The Islands in the Making". But the map-making department needs to, well, take a good look at a map. Presented alongside, the magazine´s rendering of Nepal (a malformed butterfly), Maldives (dots), Bangladesh (sans coastal belt and CHT) and India (which has lost its chicken-neck to the Northeast).

~ Chhetria Patrakar

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