Back in the day when broadband internet was not freely available in every household, cyber-cafe's were all the rage. When I was studying in India, there were at least 4 within 50 metres of each other (it's an Asian thing I guess, opening up a store right next to another store that sells exactly the same products as you). These establishments are generally considered shady, especially since they are the perfect location for unscrupulous activities such as drug deals, assassinations, blackmail and extortion, but mostly because hormone-crazed couples gravitate to them like fat people to bran crackers.
So why did I brave the dark and dangerous world of cramped love-making alone? Simple - to catch up on the news.
Yes. I read the news.
No doubt you would think that reading the newspaper would suffice, but you would be wrong. Sure, the papers have it all well-documented, but I'm not really interested in Indian politics or what Pakistan has been up to lately, and I couldn't care less about the latest travesty of a movie Bollywood, Tollywood and Lollywood just churned out. My main interests lie in the latest NBA scores & updates, tv shows (English please), movies (likewise), music (you guessed it) and Formula 1; all of which were almost never mentioned in the newspapers.
One thing that 24 hour cable news and the internet have taught us is that the world is a very happening place. Switch to any channel and you'll hear of natural disasters, plague, murder, scandal, kidnapping, corruption, arrests, politics - the works! Even the business and sports sections are not without drama and excitement, thanks to the likes of Bernie Madoff, Caster Semenya and Max Mosley's bizarre sex life.
Which is why I am somewhat intrigued by some of our local news networks. My father plain loves the news. He wakes up to it, surfs the local news websites during work, listens to the lunch time news, listens to the hourly updates when he's driving, listens to the 830pm radio news, watches the news on TV at 9pm, and probably has dreams in the form of new bulletins ("This just in, a new law has been passed making it illegal to not own at least one two-door roadster if you're over the age of 50. Also, you can now sell your children legally...."). He buys almost all the English newspapers on Sundays, and is probably the most informed man in the district; a fact I pity him for, since according to certain news reports, there isn't much on the news these days.
My main concern it the 830pm news bulletin on Gold FM. Since this falls squarely on the sacred hour of dinner, the entire family is expected to devour our food with the least amount of auditory disturbance, be it in the form of normal conversation or even loud chewing, as my father listens intently to the happenings of this great nation - again. However, after listening to this news bulletin countless number of times, I've come to the conclusion that nothing really 'happens' here. Take for instance last night's bulletin.
[Cue drumroll and dramatic news-type music]
"President Mahindra Rajapakse said today that he would hand over a united nation to the people, but that only real men could properly serve the motherland. He said this while speaking at a random event somewhere in the island"
This would be the part where I looked at mom and mouthed "Real men?!", Mom shakes her head in disbelief and Bro bursts into a (silent) fit of laughter under the table.
"The opposition leader today said that the government is trying to trick the people, and that they would not stand idly by while the government abuses the integrity of the nation. He said this while attending a rally at another random location"
"In further news, another politician that wants to get his two cents in said that foreign powers seek to destroy our great nation by spreading lies and scandal, and that we will sue the European Union for their corrupt talk. He said this while opening a primary school in Colombo"
"Also, the minister of agriculture and trade said that we have the greatest army in the world, and that foreign superpowers will bow to our greatness, even as India, China and Russia send their top army officials to learn from our valiant troops how to win the war against terror. He said this while standing in a field of daisies, as the wind blew through his hair."
"And finally, some children in several areas died due to the Rubella vaccination, another person was found dead in his home, a woman was abducted and raped in a village, but this all pales in comparison to what I've already read, so let's move along".
Then they move onto the foreign news, mispronounce ever other world leader's name, stumble onto the business news which has obviously been written by some super-nerd with a Ph.D in economics who wants to flex his academic muscle, and I'm left wondering how I could get those 15minutes of my life back.
If the news in the country is restricted to what random politicians and ministers have to 'say' on matters of the country, why bother listening? Surely we all know by now that nothing gets done by talking, and this country definitely needs people who can do more than rant and rave about the 'integrity' and 'sovereignty' of our great nation. Yet if our news bulletins frequently give these people a platform to pontificate from their pedestals, then we are only encouraging them to continue doing so. Nothing beats the torture I used to go through when the war was still on, as every night's news update had something about "freeing our people from the clutches of terrorism" or "rescuing the motherland from the grip of tyranny" and other such prose. Who comes up with this stuff?! If I were a newsreader on that show I'd at least have some one cue "audience laughter" every now and then so that the listeners wouldn't be completely blown away by the bizarreness of the content.
God bless the journalists of this country who tirelessly seek out the truth, but please, someone find the guy who writes for this radio station, stuff a sock in his throat, light him on fire and tell us the news that really matters.
EDIT: After writing this post, I've realised that while everything in this post is true, it is definitely not the rule. Sometimes, they actually DO broadcast the news. Yet, over a long period of time, I feel it is safe to say my accusations are justified.