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More important to say what you mean than mean what you say

columns Updated: Jan 03, 2016 00:36 IST
Karan Thapar
new year

It never hurts to admit a mistake and, usually, it resolves the problem. (PTI)

Happy New Year! But, actually, if that’s to be the case we need to ensure we don’t repeat the egregious mistakes of the year that’s ended. How we do that and our chances of success are concerns only after we’ve identified the lapses. Here are some of the errors we must correct.

Let’s start with politics. It’s time to bury the past and look to the future. The BJP was vindictive and obstructive in opposition and the desire to treat it similarly may be understandable but Congress has to realise this insistence on revenge is harming its image and stalling the country. In 2016 we must put Parliament before partisan interest, debate ahead of disruption and push legislation and reform rather than polemic and discord.

At the same time politicians across the spectrum must curb their tongues or, if they can’t, learn the subtle art of sarcasm, irony, paradox and wit. The obloquy we’ve grown accustomed to must cease.

Now, a word of advice for the prime minister. Modi will rise in everyone’s estimation if he can buttress his political strength with a resolute stand on issues that trouble the country. So far he’s opted for silence. That cannot continue — not in his own interest and certainly not for the good of our democracy.

And a few tips for young Gandhi. Think carefully about what you want to say and, if possible, consult a friend before you actually speak. Calling the National Herald case a political vendetta, after the Delhi High Court rejected attempts to quash it, was not just unfortunate but close to unforgiveable. And, yes, please decide, once and for all, whether you want to be clean-shaven or sport a beard. That’s the least we expect from a man who wants to rule us!

To my own colleagues on television I shall be more pointed. The object of a discussion is, above all, to discuss. So the focus should be on informing, interpreting, illustrating and, even, educating. But if you provoke or permit your guests to quarrel and shout — and then add to the bedlam with your own contribution — you might create a spectacle but it’s hardly a public service and it’s certainly not journalism.

Ratings are, no doubt, important but they must not determine what you do, how or for how long. The mission should be to question, explain and inform. Therefore, television should shed light, not generate heat. Remember, news and current affairs is for those who care and want to know. It’s not entertainment for a mass audience. This means it’s the quality of the audience that matters. Not its size.

Finally, four little things we must follow in our own self-interest. In a traffic jam, don’t jump from lane to lane or cross over to the other side. That only infuriates everyone and makes matters worse. Patience is a virtue that will yield results.

Second, it doesn’t help to shout even when the other person is wrong. I’m often guilty of this, so I should know! You’re more likely to convince if you do so calmly and pleasantly.

Third, in difficult circumstances it’s more important to say what you mean than mean what you say. Far too often we fudge, blur, evade and avoid. That’s why we mislead and offend.

Fourth, it never hurts to admit a mistake and, usually, it resolves the problem. In that spirit, let me start 2016 with a sincere apology to those I upset last year.

The views expressed are personal