Newsbytheway's Blog

December 10, 2009

Agassi out in ‘open’

I went to see a legend; a tennis star whom I idolize. I came back meeting a not-so-perfect man who confessed that he is a liar.  And yet I adore him, even more now.

Copyright Rabea Khan 2009

It was a Q&A session organized by Sunday Times.  Andre Agassi was in conversation with David Walsh (chief sports writer, Sunday Times.) about his autobiography ‘Open’.

I expected it to be interesting since the book has already created so much controversy. But it surpassed all my expectations and how.

Agassi spoke without any inhibitions. He was a storyteller on the stage captivating his audience with his honesty and sense of humour.  He got up from his chair time-to-time and impersonated other tennis players to illustrate his stories. Agassi spellbound the audience with his anecdotes and everyone loved him for been so candid.

But more importantly, the session reinstated the fact that it’s not a perfect world. Not even for Agassi who has got money, fame and everything else. Look closely, and you’ll find nothing extraordinary about his life story.

It’s about a man whose father chose his life for him. A man who hates his job…who gets jealous when he sees his girlfriend getting intimate with someone else, even if she is an actor doing her job.

What makes the story astonishing is the impossibility of it. We never expect a celebrity to be burdened by these mundane issues.  Agassi broke those myths of a perfect life of a celebrity. Grass is not always green on the other side, well in this case, a tennis court.

Sampras Vs Agassi Senior

Agassi shared one very interesting incident that didn’t make it to the book, which involves his father Mike Agassi and his archrival Pete Sampras.

Mike never used to come for any of his son’s matches. He thought that would make him nervous and affect his performance. One time he broke the tradition and went to see the match between Agassi and Sampras. At that stage, Agassi had an upper hand and Sampras was under pressure.

It was Sampras’ serve and suddenly a phone rings breaking his concentration. He tried to re-focus and serve again. Phone is still ringing. He then loses it and shouts at the stands behind him.  “ Will you answer your phone?”. Turns out it was Agassi senior who was trying to dig out the phone from his bag. A boxing champion, it would have been out of his character if he didn’t retort. He yells back,

“ It is my phone, I will answer it as and when I please, kiss my a**”.

The book is full of such amusing incidents that will brings you closer to the person, Agassi.  And if this session was a trailer, I bet the book will a blockbuster.


December 8, 2009

Is Twitter for twits?

“Standing at the altar with @TracyPage where a second ago she became my wife! Gotta go, time to kiss my bride,”

Dana Hanna from Maryland updated his Twitter account from the altar steps as he was getting married. Amusing it is, but it underlines the inanity of Twitter. Majority of the 140-character-miniblogs or tweets that are posted online are frivolous.

As reported by The Independent, the top ten twitter trends as on today @9.30 am GMT includes topics like #youbeblownwhen (No.1 topic; have people discussing what would make them upset),  #omgfac,  #NowPlaying,   #Christmas etc. The only newsy topic discussed was #Copenhagen. One literally has to sift through the barrage of unnecessary information for anything news worthy.

Twitter mostly is been used as a marketing cum PR tool. If you go by the research done by Sysomos, more than a quarter of tweets everyday, are posted by machines. They are the self-generating tweets operated by sources like hotels offering deals, weather, games etc. In fact the most updated tweets accounts who tweet more than 2000 times/day are @dogbook (updates on what pets are doing) and @combatsi (update from the game Second Life).

Celebrities on Twitter

Besides PR, Twitter also caters to the voyeuristic needs of the people. You will find crème de la crème of the media in the tweetosmosphere. Here are few interesting people whom one can follow:

TV personalities: Stephen Fry, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Carr

Journalists: Anderson Cooper, Rick Sanchez, Christina Amanpour

Sports Personalities: Andy Murray, Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps

Politicians: Boris Johnson, Al GoreArnold Schwarzenegger

Twitter, no doubt,  is an important source of news. A perfect example of how technology can transcend boundaries. During the Iran elections recently when all forms of media was banned, it was twitter that came to rescue and became the voice of thousands of Iranians.

But these incidents are few and far apart.  Twitter needs much deeper penetration. It needs to go beyond its confinement of cozy developed world and face the reality of the developing and the under-developed countries. Only then, it can think of playing a meaningful role.

December 5, 2009

I’ve a right to vote in UK… But WHY??!!

A phone call has never been so significant in my life.  It gave me a right. It was from the British Electoral Registration Office.

Copyright: Mongo; Source: Flickr

A woman asked for my details to update the electoral list.  Surprised I told her, I don’t think I am allowed to vote. I am not British. She ignored my ignorance and replied impatiently,

“ Yes you are allowed to vote, you are from a Commonwealth    country. Can you please spell your name now.”

I obliged reluctantly, still not sure why am I allowed to vote. Is it because Britishers ruled India and now they are returning the gratitude by letting us vote? But I seriously doubt that the guilt feeling has anything to do with it.

Not only does it sounds strange, it’s dangerous as well.  I have been in this country for only few months. Before I landed in London, I didn’t even know who David Cameron was. I still don’t know much about Nick Clegg. (It’s a different story that he is non-existent for many Britishers as well.)

I am not aware of the history of the political parties here.  On what basis am I expected to decide whom to vote for?  It’s not a beauty contest where I can just pick someone on the basis of his or her cuteness. If that’s the criteria, David Cameron will win my vote, hands down.

And it isn’t a local council election where I can judge the candidate on the basis of his development plans for the county.  It’s a national election for God sake’s! My vote will decide who will the next PM of United Kingdom. The man will play a crucial role in international politics for the coming years.

Bias on nationality basis

And why exactly I have been given the right to decide? Just because I am a UK resident for a year belonging to a Commonwealth country I would have enjoyed the same right if I were from one of the European union countries.  But not USA. That means if one happens to be American, and has been working here for even 4 years, he/she can’t vote, unless he is a UK citizen.

Why such partiality? What are the basis for allowing some countries and not the others?  I am yet to find a reason. To have good relationships with these countries can be an argument but not a very good one. Will you give the ownership of your house to a guest who has just come for a night stay? No sane person would.

No other country gives this right to outsiders, unless they have the citizenship. Residency can’t be good enough.  Not good enough for me at least.  That’s why I am yet to cast my vote on whether I should be voting in the elections next year.

November 30, 2009

Perfection with no regrets

Filed under: MAJI — Rabea Khan @ 3:59 pm
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Perfectionist to the tee, Prichayada Promchertchoo likes everything planned and predictable. Yet it is the unpredictability of news and journalism that attracted her to the profession.

She started her career right after graduation when she was appointed as a news presenter with Thai Asean News Network. Facing the camera at the age of 22, she gained experience at an early age. Since she was an arts graduate, she thought her foundation in journalism was not solid enough. Hence, she gave up her job and come to London for further studies.

Journalism for her, is a way to earn money, travel and to serve society at the same time.

“What other profession can give you that satisfaction? ”

And it’s also her other passion, travel, that brought her to London. “ I want to see the world”.I could see the enthusiasm in her eyes.

Prichayada “Monica” Promchertchoo

She wants the world to be her oasis. A perfect oasis; where everything is planned just likes her well-compartmentalised drawers. I couldn’t help but think of Monica from FRIENDS. She is just like her! Her notebook looks like a printed book. If she makes a mistake while taking notes in the class, she either rewrites it on a fresh page or draws something to hide it.

But in life Prichayada has made no mistakes so far.  She has no regrets. “ Everything has turned the way I wanted”.  And it’s this confidence that leaves a lasting impression on you.

November 24, 2009

DNA of a reality TV star

Filed under: Entertainment — Rabea Khan @ 10:25 pm
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The British national obsession, Katie Price again managed to be in news and has dumped her boyfriend on national television.  Actually she was never out of news making her undoubtedly the most talked personality in British media.

Source: Wikipedia

To be honest, I have never heard of Katie Price before I came to London. Since she was in news everyday, curiosity made me google her and after reading few articles, I knew I don’t need to read any further.

I already know her because I know Rakhi Sawant., the Indian Katie Price. They are uncannily alike like Siamese twins. Here are few similarities:

Love them, hate them but you can’t ignore them. That’s true for all the reality tv stars across nations.

November 17, 2009

Why am i scared of NHS…

Filed under: London — Rabea Khan @ 5:03 pm
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For the record, I have nothing against public health services. In fact all states should have a similar system in place. What bothers me is its non-personal functionality that can prove to be perilous as times.

As far as I know, this is the normal course of action if you are registered with a GP. When i am sick, I am supposed to call my GP. If the GP thinks that he can assess my sickness by talking to me (which is how it works in most cases), he’ll give me prescription over the phone.

Some may say, what’s wrong with that? You save money and time on traveling.  Agreed. But what scares me when they prescribe medicines like Tamiflu over the phone! .

A friend of mine was sick recently, fever but no cold. She called up her GP. His assistant answered phone.  She described her condition the reply was, “..don’t worry, just pop a Tamiflu and you’ll be fine in no time.”  She protested by saying that I don’t have swine flu. To this, the assistant replied, “So what, you have one of the five symptoms of swine flu, you might as well take the tablet.”

Now anyone who has read the information about swine flu would know that if you are not suffering from swine flu and you take Tamiflu, how dangerous it might turn out to be. Tomorrow, God forbid, when you actually contract the disease, there are chances that your body may have built resistance to the medicine and hence it won’t work!!

Minor cold and flu validate on-phone prescription, but in a pandemic environment, a GP should at least see the patient first and assess the illness before making any such prescription.

November 11, 2009

Radio journalism in India

Filed under: Media — Rabea Khan @ 10:54 pm
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India is the biggest democracy in the world, with a population of over one billion. And yet it has deprived the majority of its people the basic right to information.

Private radio channels in India are banned from broadcasting news. The ban stems out from the archaic broadcasting law, The Telegraph Act of 1885, which gives full control to the government to grant or revoke license to private broadcasters.

The rationale lies in evolvement of broadcast in India. Till 1990s, the government had a monopoly over television and radio broadcasts. With the advent of cable television, private news channels came into the picture and eventually grew into a big industry overtaking Doordarshan, the public service broadcaster.

Radio had to wait till 2001, to get private ownership after a landmark ruling by Supreme Court in the Union of India Vs Cricket Association of Bengal case in1995. The Supreme Court was of the view that airwaves are public property and hence citizens are the owners by virtue of right conferred upon them by Article 19 of the constitution (right to freedom) with the exceptions noted in Article 19(2) relating to public safety.

The first radio channel, Radio City, was launched in Bangalore but with a license to broadcast entertainment shows only. Since then, 100 more radio channels have entered the Indian airwaves but as mere instruments of amusement.

The law has drastic implications that ripple down to the very core of democracy in India. If one goes by National Family Health Survey figures, only 44.2% of the households in India own a television. The condition is worse in the poor states of Bihar and Jharkhand where the percentage goes below 28%. So for the majority, the only option and source for getting news is by listening to radio. And what they get to hear is the mouthpiece of the ruling government, All India Radio (AIR).

All India Radio

If you want to know where the PM is headed for his next foreign visit or which head of state is visiting India, AIR is the channel for you.  But do not expect to hear anything remotely critical of the government in power. There is no written guideline to that effect, but an unspoken law does exist. Never in the history of broadcasting in independent India, AIR has said anything damning about the government.

For people who have access to cable television, it’s a different story. Private television news channels have in a way satiated the demand for news in towns and big cities. They can always get the other side of the story by watching a private news channel. But someone who has just got a radio is still only seeing one side of the coin.

The situation becomes more serious during election campaigns as radio plays a vital role in formulating opinions that can translate into votes. The possibility of AIR broadcasting anything that criticises the government is ridiculous.

Hence to protect the democratic rights of the citizens, it becomes highly essential that they are well aware of the choices to make an informed decision. This is only possible if there are private radio news channels in the market.

Government argues that the Indian audience is yet to mature to be able to handle unobstructed news. In reality, it is wary of the fact that radio waves will be bombarded with the news channels, making it hard for them to censor anything.

No Doubt, India been a sensitive society needs certain laws and rules as to what can be broadcast. Radio commanding a far greater reach, if allowed to run amok like TV, will become Goliath. Hence change is imperative but with certain degree of restrain.

November 1, 2009

A night in London: excellent cinema, greasy food…

Filed under: London — Rabea Khan @ 12:59 am
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I ,with a bunch of friends from my MA Journalism course, decided to make an evening out of our early weekend  and went to see Un prophète.  It was judged as the best film  during the BFI London film  festival that culminated last Thursday.

Since it was the  my first french movie, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But in the end was pleasantly enthralled by the entire experience. . The film is shot in such an emphatic manner that you can almost feel the emotion of the protagonist.

Post movie, we decided to go to china town on our  food quest . Considering our limited budget we let the money pick our restaurant.  Winner was a buffet @ £6.85.  Coming from India, oily food doesn’t bother me that much. But I have never seen that much of grease in any Chinese menu. (Mind you, this is huge coming from an Indian whose stable diet was the greasy Chinjabi=Chinese + Punjabi cuisine back home).

Everything had excess oil in it., even the innocent vegetables were not spared. The chefs ‘ special list had everything deep fried. And I reckon as a dare, they had this notice displayed at every table.

I guess someone needs to tell them that people are wasting their food not because they want to but they are forced to… no one can eat that much oil even if it comes cheap..  To me it really doesn’t matter.. there is no way I am going back to that oilfield ever again.

October 29, 2009

London Oh London…

Filed under: London — Rabea Khan @ 10:05 pm

Gloomy weather, high cost of living and a popular pub culture, this is how I expected London to be and to be honest I wasn’t disappointed.

Copyright Rabea Khan 2009

But London is much more than that. The sheer number of foreigners living in this city gives it a totally eclectic culture, which is quite unique.  And I am not talking about tourists here. People who have inhabited London come from different corners of the world adding a shade of their own culture to the colourful London canvas.

Take a trip to a local TESCO and you would get the idea. They have different sections for various nationalities where you can find the groceries typical to that region.

You have an Italian section, afro-Caribbean, East Asian and of course Indian.  If you are planning a trip to London, one thing you should not bother to pack, are the spices. You’ll find them all here under one roof. Actually it was easier for me to shop here compared to India where I had to make trips to two or three different markets whenever I planned to cook something exotic. But if you intend to eat out in an Indian restaurant, be prepared as it can be quite expensive. But then everything is expensive here.

You may choose not to eat out but travelling is inevitable. The popular way to commute is here by the local trains, called the tubes. Since I come from Delhi, I can’t help but compare it to Delhi Metro, which is much more cheaper and faster. One-day trip costs me the same I used to shell out in one month in Delhi.

Not just that, the speed at which the tube travels can be quite annoying as well.  It such a stark contrast to an otherwise fast paced life of London.  You seem to have gone back in time when you sit in a tube, listening to the noise of railway tracks.

And it is this co-existence of history and modernity that makes London so special.

October 24, 2009

Dr Strangelove of British Politics

Filed under: Politics — Rabea Khan @ 2:29 pm
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Jack Straw couldn’t have put it more aptly when he called Nick Griffin, Dr Strangelove of British Politics during Question Time on BBC. It was undoubtedly one of the most interesting panel discussions I have ever seen.

For the record, I simply abhor the man called Nick Griffin, for his archaic ideas and hate politics. But while watching Question Time, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. You could see he was jumpy, facing a hostile panel and an even more hostile audience.

One woman called him ‘wolf in a garb of sheep’. Another man began his question by saying “My question is for Dick, beg your pardon, Nick Griffiin…”.  They both got a huge round of applause from other members of audience. It was evident, he was alone in there and he had no option but try answering all the allegations as coolly as possible.

He denied any association with the Nazis or Ku Klux Klan. When pointed that there is video footage of him rubbing shoulders with Stephen Black, he said he was merely sharing a platform with a ‘non-violent’ division of KKK. What a joke!

He should take a cue from the show and accept that Britishers are not with BNP. One cannot win on grounds of racism, anti-semitic views and pure hate for those who are an integral part of the social fabric. He should pack his bags and go to Mumbai, and for sure he will find his soul mate in Raj Thackeray of MNS.

Both Raj and Nick share similar views about immigration, sex education and Islam. It could have been Raj Thackeray sitting there and he would have answered the same allegations (only difference is that he would have spoken in Marathi, as it is against his ideas to use Hindi/English or any other foreign language). They are so alike that it’s not even funny. It’s a shame that they both are against homosexuality; or else they would have a perfect couple.

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