Illusions- Optical and Otherwise

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Our apartment is on the first floor of our building. I have a habit of drinking my coffee, standing at the window that looks down on the open space in our compound. One afternoon, a few months ago, cup in hand, I was looking out of the window, when I noticed that the distance from the window to the ground below seemed to be much less than usual. I looked more carefully, but the result was the same- the ground seemed to have come up at least six or seven feet.

I have mentioned here before, that for the past few years, I have had a neurological condition called Multiple Sclerosis. One of my first symptoms was, that I had problems with perception of depth/ distances. When I walked, I would put my foot on what I thought was the ground, but was actually a few inches above the ground. An object ten feet away and another fifteen feet away, would seem to be at the same distance. If I went to place a book on a table, there was every possibility that I would let it go, not on the table, but in the air beside the table.

As you can imagine, this made any everyday task, particularly walking, quite an adventure. This problem lessened considerably after treatment, but for a couple of months it made my life very interesting.

On that particular afternoon, when I saw the ground to be higher than usual, I thought that my earlier symptoms had recurred. By the time my husband came home in the evening, I had pictured all sort of dire future scenarios in my imagination, and had become very upset. I related to my husband what had happened, and to my surprise, instead of sympathising with me, he started laughing!

It seemed that they were laying down new pavement tiles in the compound of our building. That morning a truckload of gravel had been deposited right under our window, to be used in the tiling work. It was this mountain of gravel that I had seen when I looked out of the window, and thought that my eyes had begun to play tricks on me again.

Needless to say I was very relieved to hear this explanation. After I was certain that there was no problem with my perception, I was able to see the humour in the situation, too!

I am reminded of this experience of mine, often, nowadays. Every morning, as matter of fact, when I read the newspaper. It appears that neutral and factual reporting has become a thing of the past. We read about political or social happenings, but get to know only one viewpoint- the reporter’s. Some facts are suppressed, others are twisted, so that not the clear picture but a distorted one is placed before us.

If the print media is bad, the news channels are even worse. News channel anchors play the role of spin doctors, on behalf of whichever politicians they are associated with. The Indian television media has become quite expert at creating illusions. In screeching tones, the television news channel anchors bombard us with carefully scripted stories and opinions. We hear them over and over again, until we begin to believe them, whether they are true or not.

Let us wake up before it is too late. Let us not allow the media to distort our perspective. Let us ourselves go into our society and see what the reality is. Let us consider only the facts, and make our own deductions. Let us ourselves measure the distance between the ground and the window.

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28 thoughts on “Illusions- Optical and Otherwise”

  1. Talk about the media ! there seems to be a buy-in for such kind of crass stuff around the country !I remember a news item on a news channel where the chap panted 'billi bolta hai' and then a 5 minute story on a cat who made sounds that sounded like words ! Perceptions and illusions rule. And if you have a TV camera in front of you, well, God bless viewers !

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  2. I am waiting for sanity to return to Indian television.Yesterday I caught a few scenes from big boss and did not know whether it was entertainment or torture. My daughter informed me that it was one of the most watched programmes of Indian television. God help.

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  3. Nice story, beautifully developed. Maya is everywhere…these days it resides in the media most of the time. It is easy to say that we must go out and see reality for ourselves and not rely on the illusions that a biased and committed – sometimes bought too – has created. May be one way to do it is to get more and more normal citizens become citizen reporters, not of any media house, but independent and free, to disseminate information to all over the net. So far, this effort has not been organised, perhaps should not be as vested interests will infiltrate, but as internet penetration and mobile 3G density increase, a real alternative to the media will become available to all. Hope it happens.

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  4. Kavi– 'Billi bolta hai' sounds like some very important 'breaking news'! :DAre they filling news programmes with such news so that we will not notice the important events that take place?Aparna– I have seen just one episode of Big Boss, and by coincidence it was the one where Rakhi Sawant's mother joins the show- Never again! 🙂

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  5. Sunder– True-we do try to influence each other. But trying to influence by stating facts and discussing things in one thing, and distorting reality is another.Also we expect and should get objectivity from the media.Vinodji– It is of course not possible for us to verify everything ourselves- but a network of ordinary citizens sounds like a good idea.Use of the internet is one way, though we see that independent writers (blogs, etc) on the internet can be as biased as the media.

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  6. Those of us who were children in the non television/media explosion days, are more "grounded ", it seems where perceptions of what is being shown by the media goes. Todays kids never get the chance. They are so bombarded with media, the ground beneath their feet is constantly moving. I hope they get a chance to read what you have written, and do their own sensible ground measurements…

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  7. I like the way you develop the story in your posts, Manju! I am learning from you…my 'tiger sitting on an elevated place without knowing how to come down' post…I developed it with my cats' adventures!I felt like the way you described, when I first used my 'chaalees' specks, for the first time! I was not able to judge where the steps were and was putting my foot down slowly, for nearly a week! Thank god, you are also out of it, now.I had some glimpse at 'bigg boss' while changing channels and shuddered watching the way they were behaving with each other. I agree with your opinion about the print media and television news channels. Some commentors are invoking god for help! Let me join them, Manju!

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  8. The picture drawn by the media of itself is quite different from reality,which people have seen through.It may sound silly,but I feel TV channels get a brief—–depending upon the brief—they develop the headlines for next morning and "story through the day".Let us not forget,the ambition of any media man is to be on the right side of the Govt and is always vying for a seat in the RAJYA SABHA.Also,media is business where they want a good return on the investment.If you study carefully,it is media men and the lawyers who are always in demand from the political parties.The two major national parties are full of lawyers and media barons.It is not a coincident–it is a plan.

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  9. How well you have brought out this fact!I think we no longer have independant media houses.. specially due to lack of funds they are now depending on many..As for bloggers, even if some of them may have a biased approach, I think the blogger is more open to discussion and hence one finds further enlightment on a subject from the comments… we may be influenced but not until we have used our own brains to figure it out…

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  10. very good analogy..now a day every case has a media trial first..and they are making a fool of us, because we could nevr know all the facts, we know oly what they are telling us or they want to tell us.I have seen in many areas, all the things are connected, some magazine, some channel, some movie,somtimes I dont know whats going on, as they are all trying to promote their own bussinesses and in the process giving us below grade content.

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  11. Anrosh– Thank you!Solilo– I try to avoid mention of MS here, but nowadays most of my experiences are connected with it, so that a bit difficult. 🙂Sraboney– I agree, it would be difficult to change the way the media reports- so we'll just have to change what the readers/ viewers demand from them!Ugich Konitari– Yes, the reach and influence of the media is far greater today than it was when our generation was young…

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  12. Sandhya– I remember your 'cat' post. Nice post with great pictures!And God helps those who help themselves! 🙂Chowlaji– As you say, it is natural that the media tries to stay on the right side of the government. Sometimes they cross all limits of biased reporting, though!Happy Kitten– Thank you!I agree- with bloggers, there is the chance of discussions. That is a very positive aspect of blogging.Renu– Yes- very good point about trials by media. This is something that should be stopped- maybe there is some way to enact a law discouraging this?

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  13. Hello Manju,Nice way of introducing the subject. This is the day and age of form over content. Packaging and instant approval is the established order of the day.It is not just restricted to political opinions. It extends to influence the universe on culture, food habits, lifestyle habits, social habits…..etc., in short a marketeer's delight.Goebbels, the I&B Minister in Nazi Germany was the first to understand the power of mass media. He introduced the famous maxim – "A lie repeated a thousand times becomes a truth".So true today……it is explicit subtle marketing.

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  14. Roshni– More than a grain of salt- sometimes there is no truth at all in the news reports! As you say though- we do have a choice of which fairy tales to hear/ read! 😀Mavin– You are right- this is not restrictd to political news.We will soon become a society completely fashioned by the media!

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  15. you have connected one experience with the other so well.. Mr. Pinto would have a lot to say about the thing you have mentioned about reports.. he was extremely strict with our reporting classes and taught us some wonderful things about how a report should be without opinions.. opinions go in a feature piece, but these days there is no such demarcation..

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  16. How nicely you have related a personal experience to the present situation. Responsible journalism is a thing of the past. Sensationalising news that is of no importance is the order of the day.

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  17. A question – since Mysore is the featured place on your blog. As you enter the city there is a cemented structure that is high above the ground on tall concrete pillars. It does not seem to be a bridge – are they water lines? Have asked so many, but none have answered this question.

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  18. You have chosen a wonderful way of putting the point across Manju. True, it is not 'neutral or factual reporting' rather the news according to the leanings of the channel or the newspaper that we get to hear.

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  19. Gauri Gharpure– You are right- there is a difference between news reports and feature pieces, which has now become blurred. I am sure that this trend must be hard on journalists who are conscientious about writing news stories objectively.Radha– Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend- to sensationalise unimportant news stories.Unfortunately, I can't answer your question about Mysore. We were there only for a few days, and I do not know much about the city 🙂Shail– Thank you!Yes, that is true- it is the news according to the leanings of the channel or the newspaper that we get to hear.

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  20. This made to the final selection for voting 🙂 Good Luckhttp://alchemistpoonam.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/final-nominations-in-avant-garde-bloggies-awards-2009/

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