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Saturday, December 04, 2021

The big light bulb and a philosophy of life

The sun,the moon,the earth and me,with news TV....

Written by Saubhik Chakrabarti |
July 25, 2009 3:48:57 am

Up unusually early on Wednesday morning. A bit frazzled,as a result. But like those people in Taregna,Bihar I was determined to observe something mysterious that engenders a rich variety of responses in us — in my case,this was news television reporting on the solar eclipse.

It ‘s true,what your elders,teachers,high-minded friends say. There are rewards for very early risers. My best reward came roughly two hours into very-early-morning news TV-watching,courtesy NDTV’s eclipse panelist. “The sun is the biggest light bulb we have and there’s no global warming associated with it.”

Think about this sentence. Say it aloud once or twice. Cherish it. Mind-boggling metaphor — the sun is a big light bulb — and fathomless science — there’s no global warming associated with the sun. Anchors on all channels kept saying the eclipse is a marvelous opportunity for children to get interested in science. But,as NDTV showed,it was an equally marvelous opportunity for adult viewers to quickly recall what they know about science. That morning’s news TV-watching was to provide further education for me.

Mortality. Will you be around in 2132? I know I won’t be. But I don’t want to presume an outcome for anyone else. NDTV taught me to be circumspect. Its eclipse anchor said when the next really big eclipse comes around,in 2132,he and his panelist will be there to take us through the event.

Shame,really,that I won’t be there because it would have been fascinating to know CNN-IBN’s description of the 2132 big eclipse. In 2009,CNN-IBN called the total eclipse a historic event. Do I hear you mutter that historic events are those that presuppose some sort of human agency? Do I also hear you argue that notwithstanding the impression one got from the intensity of some of the TV reporters covering the eclipse,there’s no evidence of human involvement in determining the positions of the sun,moon and earth?

Don’t quibble. On that day,news TV teams were doing pre-dawn live reporting from multiple locations. There was breaking news by 6.30 am,as in,‘Breaking News: Total Solar Eclipse’. This means,for news TV,the eclipse was historic.

More,it was free. CNN-IBN’s eclipse anchor reminded us this was not like going to the cinema,buying a ticket; nature has allowed us to see this. I watch movies all the time,albeit mostly on DVD,but always paying for it,and found this profound. CNN-IBN had moved from eclipse as a historic event phase to eclipse as a philosophy of life phase. No wonder then CNN-IBN’s team from Kurukshetra spoke of the cycle of life and death all religions promise.

Science from NDTV,religion from CNN-IBN — I had almost forgotten Times Now,which declared this was a defining moment for the youth,it may change the course of their life. Times Now thought the darkness was eerie,a significantly different editorial line from that of NDTV,which thought the clouds were eerie,and had no particular comment to make on the darkness.

In the light of all this everything else that happened on news TV this week seems insignificant. But something I saw on CNN-IBN made me want to step out,look at the sky and ask why,why is this happening: on-screen caption as CNN-IBN was discussing Hillary Clinton’s visit,‘Welcome Miss American Pie’.

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

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