Will 2021 be the year when it is found? Not likely

Will 2021 be the year when it is found? Not likelyIts my tenth month into the pandemic. Luckily, I have escaped the virus till now. And, curiously, so have those around me, at home and at work. But that does not mean Covid-19
has not scarred me. My days in office have diminished from five to two, which leaves me enervated. Work from home continues but is shamefully inadequate. Without human physical contact, I close fewer things. What is worse, my sleeping hours have grown from four to six. Instead of three incomplete manuscripts, I now have eight and a show to write. Nothing seems to work. Not at least the way I want them to.
My daughters have done better. They have adjusted more easily to the protocols of the pandemic era. Digital continues to bother me, not them. I like the smell of ink on paper. I like the feel of newspapers when I touch them. Reading the news
on my phone makes me feel incomplete, untouched by events. Yes, the news comes in quicker on digital platforms. I wonder how it would have felt to interview Rajneesh or Kishore Kumar
or rogue CIA agent Frank Camper on Zoom. The context is everything in an interview. The silences; the unspoken whispers; the static that only words can capture. Images also do, but in part. They miss out on the nuances. In journalism, its the small things that matter. They complete the jigsaw.
Remember Norman Mailers two-part article in
Playboy on Rumble in the Jungle, the historic title fight between the undefeated world heavyweight champion George Foreman
and his challenger Muhammad Ali? Ali won by a knockout in the eighth round before a roaring crowd of 60,000 at the Stade du 20 Mai in Kinshasa on October 30, 1974. It was arguably the biggest sporting event of the last century and a billion people watched it on TV across the world. But what has survived eventually is Mailers coverage, as the finest example of sports journalism.
Has the nature of news changed? Yes, of course it has. It is no longer possible to know how much of a story is actually real. Truth is not the verity it once was. We have unwittingly walked into the era of post-truth where you can choose to believe what you want. The newspapers and news channels, like the internet, offer you multiple variations on the truth (you can call them versions too) and you can choose the one that makes you happiest. Its the ultimate consumer option. Your own truth. Are the farmers protesting in New Delhi
on the right side of history? You know exactly which channels will tell you that. Are they wrong? You have many channels ready to convince you that they are, and that the farmers bills are the best thing to happen since sliced bread.
The biggest protest of 2020
In short, news is today an FMCG product. You can buy the news you want. It will satisfy your beliefs. What happens to what we once called truth? Do you care? Does anyone care anymore? Is it even relevant? Does it matter to any regime (or you, lets say) whether farmer suicides increase or decline? Its just another number thrown at you. It is no longer possible to know what is true, what is not. Even the horror of death evades you. Statistics make everything remote, irrelevant. We are finally inured to bad news. Does anyone keep count of the dying? Or are we all too busy reading about the [60] new vaccines coming?
Hope is the best buy in the market today. Pfizer gets more coverage for its vaccine than it got for Viagra in 1989. Fear gets priority over sex.
Newsmaker or Entertainer?
As the power of truth erodes, fiction gets precedence over news. Entertainment moves into the spotlight. It has escaped the dark movie halls and is playing out on the streets and, through live coverage, in your homes. There are still huge crowds out there in DC asking for Bidens win to be cancelled and Trump to be brought back. They are at work on their own conspiracy theories. In a few months, these will appear as books. Some may even become bestsellers. After all, 74 million people voted for Trump again despite his four terrible years as President. Was he a news maker or an entertainer? That question has still not been answered.
And that is exactly my point. The nature of news has changed. I do not watch it on TV any longer. No one misses it at home either. I stream shows or movies to watch, either late at night or at any time during the day, when I am on the treadmill. Like my unfinished manuscripts, my collection of partly-watched shows has also piled up. So have the unfinished, half-read books on my study table. My restlessness has increased. Next month is my birthday and I will have a year gone, missing from my life.
But, funnily, I am not miserable; just a bit lost. There are always reasons to be joyous and the few odd things that bother me are likely to be around even when the pandemic slows down and life scrambles back to normalcy. What will the new normal be like? I have no clue but I suspect it will be pretty much like the old one, give or take a few things that may have changed forever. But forever is never for ever. Give it some time and we may yet return to a familiar world, a little battered, a little bruised perhaps but slowly healing. And lets set aside 2021 for that.
Will we still be looking for truth? I doubt it.
Will we miss its absence? Its tough to say. Its been a while since it went away and we still havent noticed the difference.