And Then Silence

It’s now two whole days since the awards ceremony concluded. There has been total silence from the press, with not even a routine parroting of official press releases. As Supriyadi comments on the preceding post, so far it’s only my blog and the Penguin site that have anything to say about the awards. Penguin just has a short notice saying that books published by them won in all the judged categories; Mike Bryan, the new CEO, was there to receive certificates on behalf of the Penguin authors who couldn’t make it. No major newspaper has so much as let the name ‘Crossword’ slip from their pagemakers.Mike Bryan at the awards ceremony

This is partly because of the fact that most major Indian newspapers do not even have a books page, let alone a literary supplement of the type of the TLS. At breakfast yesterday in Bombay I talked to Robin David who’s an assistant editor for the Times of India in Ahmedabad, and whose book City of Fear was shortlisted for the Non-fiction category. He was in fact reading the Times of India for 3 July at the breakfast table, which was all about the fire at the Mahalaxmi Race Course. Robin said rather doubtfully that the TOI has an early deadline and the inordinate length of the ceremony had prevented the news about the award from being carried. His doubts are fully justified by the fact that the following day’s papers carried nothing as well.

Picture of me at the award ceremony, courtesy Sivaraman Balakrishna of CrosswordThis, oddly, includes the Calcutta-based papers, all of which have books pages, primarily because no Bengali will proudly say he does not read books even if it’s true (compare the urbanites of any other metro). Perhaps the events in Bombay were too remote and low key to make an impression on them. It’s also true that although the Crossword team worked tirelessly to make the actual event a success, there appeared to be a disconnect between the event managers and the publicity team. It seems that two different groups (or three, if there’s another lot for the website) deal with different aspects of the event and its fallout, and this is not efficient. Ideally, Crossword should have a permanent standing group working on the award, both during the seven months between the closing of submissions to the actual award, and afterwards, and they should be in charge of everything. The ceremony itself will not be news without buildup, and that buildup was entirely absent. It has to be part of a concerted campaign or it won’t happen.

Me and Kai FrieseThe Indian press, regardless of what they might think of themselves, do not make news. They only react to whatever organisation or individual decides to tweak their tail. If you tell them forcefully that something is newsworthy, they believe you. Come to think of it, the media everywhere are like that, but perhaps more so in this country. Here we still think that if it isn’t politics or foreign, it isn’t news. Hence the continuing greater coverage given to the Booker Prize, because the foreign papers and channels cover it, and agency wire services syndicate it. You can report on the Booker Prize without ever leaving the side of your teleprinter. Anything that does not fit the paradigm will be ignored, or reported on only by people like me, who pay for their own webspace and can shoot their mouths off with impunity. The Crossword Book Award is not news because (a) no one was murdered, (b) no one threatened to withdraw support from the government, and (c) no one kissed anyone on stage.

Aha! Now if only Shilpa Shetty would write a book.

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4 Responses to And Then Silence

  1. Indi says:

    Hey Rimi,
    You’re absolutely right about the eerie silence in the papers. The Bombay papers apparently carried the event. Just to make up, the Hindustan Times is carrying a small bit about the awards on Sunday. And the Bioscope launch went off all right. Although the low ceiling at Oxford Bookstore was a bit eerie. As in not-good eerie. 🙂

  2. Eeriness all round. Glad the launch went off well. Which Bombay papers carried it? TOI had nothing. It’s all very frustrating.
    Oh well, that leaves me to be first with the news.
    Must meet up when next in Delhi 🙂

  3. Hello Madam,
    Let me tell you first that I absolutely don’t belong to the intelligentsia where I can comment on your blog. But unfortunately I didn’t have a choice. Well, you see we met at one of Srijan’s rooftop meets. I was invited by my Orkut friend Inam. You read one of your poems and it was really mesmerizing. Now I wanted to add you on Orkut cause it is an honor to be in touch with someone of your likes, but I read on your profile that you are not frequent on Orkut. So am commenting here. I would be really grateful if you could please allow me to keep in touch with you be it on Orkut or through your blog. I believe we have a lot to learn from you.

  4. olidhar says:

    for one thing, that business of voting is towtully weird and should be chucked. if at all, it should be done in a far more organised manner, and NOT through mobile phones. certainly not through only those mobile phones that have vodafone sims. the idea of awards for books in different categories is quite marvellous. what’s the harm in keeping to books, then? or if i may put it the other way round, in making the thing inclusive enough so people who read can say their say?

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