‘Assam is a state of the blue hills and the red river.’ This sentence has forever haunted the articles about Assam, written in English. In fact, many school essays about the culture and heritage of the state begin with this line. I have always found it extremely clichéd and annoying, not just because it is overrated but also because it implies that we don’t have anything new to say.
Until…I saw and heard the refrain of ‘Bikoxito Oxom’ on TV and felt that good old ‘blue hills and red river’ was much better. The word ‘bikoxito’, as per dictionary, means ‘to expand or bloom’. But by calling Assam ‘bikoxito’ and showing pictures of a deteriorating legal system, crying women or a dilapidated government office instead, the adjective takes an undertone and implies another meaning of a similar sounding Assamese word ‘bikorxito’, which stands for ‘repulsive’.
Usually the phrase is accompanied by the word ‘Gogoi-r’ which alleges the chief minister for the sorry state of the state. So, when any Breaking News flashes across the screen (note that all news is somehow breaking news), the reporter is regularly noticed using ‘Gogoi-r bikoxito Oxom’ (Gogoi’s blooming Assam!) or simply ‘Bikoxito Oxom’, as it applies. How repeating the same thing over and over again influence me any better than telling me once, completely beats me. Irritating voice-overs, I won’t even get there!
A child drowns in the drain, a woman gets raped and killed, a policeman gets beaten by a veterinary doctor, parents assault an absconding high school teacher, roadside idlers who love to appear on primetime news bash a tied-up needle thief – or let’s say, news on Assamese channels in general – repeatedly use the term ‘Bikoxito Oxom’ to describe the goings-on. The idea is to portray as much ill news as possible to feed the hopelessness of the current ruling government into the common Assamese memory, in order to influence their votes next year. But what the media is missing or is deliberately overlooking, is the fact that a refrain catches a tune. When you repeat ‘Bikoxito Oxom’ day and night for every darn report that comes on TV and attach negative images to it, you cannot expect people living outside to have a good impression about us.
It is media that feeds information about anything to the people – on the internet, TV, radio or newspaper. When it chooses to portray the malady more than the muscle, it is not just casting sarcasm on the home front, it is invariably creating a stock image for others to view and hold in perspective. In fact, when you google for Assam, the related searches show you one other option apart from districts, tea, tribune, lottery, university, rifles and career – ‘assam violence’.
True, that Assam is disturbed for many years now. But in the face of such a perennial ailment, isn’t it the media’s responsibility to counter it by talking about the growing positives of the state? Will it forever believe that only bad news can be breaking news? Will it always succumb to the illusion of power that it seemingly gets when it calls someone lame? Will it always call partying youths drunk and loathsome (‘maataal’ is the favourite Assamese adjective here) and then privately crib that Guwahati has no night life? Does it ever think that it is in fact secretly challenging youths to party harder, even furtively?
News channels know that they have the only vibrant platform for anyone to express. That those in authority can make and mar people and reputation. That for someone to refute news of one channel, he has to approach another news channel. That it can form whatever opinion it likes. That the mic can now use the sword without even holding it. That people might hate it but they cannot ignore it and are in fact many times beguiled by it. The only intervention can be that of a court. But who files a case against repulsive news after all? Who goes all legal for some cheap news tricks to catch people’s attention?
Broadcast media (and in this case I solely mean private TV news channels) should and of course they would, give the truest picture of any story, however bad it is. But while they often tell everyone off for being unethical, they have a top-down approach themselves – spoon-feeding the masses and making sure they swallow it, to be precise. Can they for once, stop the sarcasm and report news as news? Can they reflect on all the hue and cry that is thrown on TV screens the whole day? Can they imagine how battered our minds are, as viewers? Can they never give a good job a pat on the back? Can they stop playing the ‘holier than thou’ card and practice what they preach?
If they can put a stopper on just about any and everything, something substantial might get shown. But if they go on repeating from the same, warped lingo chart (of the meeting room whiteboard) and continue imitating the melodramatic national news channels and their ‘hours’, Assamese TV news will never go beyond ‘bikorxito’.