Dear young Kashmiris,
Take a few minutes to consider my unsolicited advice. I don’t mean to sound patronizing. I say this from my little experience. I want you to think about it. You can stop reading it if it doesn’t make some sense.
At the outset, you don’t need any news channel or anchor or a news program to say and share what you want to say. Just say it the best way you can, on the best platform you can find. Your stories, even your success stories, for that matter, and your sufferings and aspirations, don’t need a popular Indian journalist or anchor to be recognized, legitimized, amplified and heard. They’re not your icons. You’re not their subjects. You don’t owe them any answers, or explanations. You can question them, however, when they speak on your behalf, or make others to speak on your behalf.
In today’s information age, the world, and its media is closer to you than before. It’s literally at your fingertips. You can reach out to your people – and to the world outside – on your own. Even social media platforms, despite the state-enforced restrictions and unprecedented internet blockades, provide you your own media outlets which, if used well, can amplify your experiences, arguments, and stories beyond all restrictions. You’ve got options. You can directly reach out to millions of people, bypassing all those gatekeepers, anchors, editors, and financers of these few news channels in India.
You don’t need to participate in these news channel programs or talk to such journalists and anchors whose credibility, when it comes to honestly telling your stories, is questionable. Look into their previous work. They want you to speak to them. You don’t need them. Your stories and experiences can survive, and be told, on their own, independent of their medium, and irrespective of how they interpret them. What they think about you and your stories and opinions and experiences doesn’t matter. You’re not some ‘alienated’, disgruntled youth who should be accommodated and accepted in their idea of the ‘mainstream’, as they would like to tell their audiences. No one can undermine and question your stories, your truth and your lived experiences, except you. And you – only you – can best tell your own stories.
You can also say ‘no, thank you’ to them. You should, in fact, learn to say NO to them. That’s alright. That’s your prerogative.
Good intentions or a desire to speak the truth on these platforms doesn’t guarantee your story and opinions will not end up getting used for a different purpose. Your participation can also be manipulated to serve a different end or a particular agenda, Wazwan-traem and Jajeer and some selfies notwithstanding.
They want your ‘exclusive’ attention. They can also put together a different version of what you’d originally told them. And it can be at odds with your lived experiences and those of your own people. They have done that in the past. You should know that. If you don’t, you can find out from those who know it.
There’s a world beyond these platforms. And it’s waiting for you, for your stories, to be read and heard and seen. You can pick and choose the best medium for your stories. Take your own time. You can always find a better platform. You can always say it better. Look beyond the confines of the Indian mediascape. And trust me, you’ll find many such platforms and spaces where your stories, your opinions, and arguments will find a respectable space. You’ll be read and heard more widely without compromising on your stories.
See through their clever invites and framing laid out as a trap. Their approach is at times disguised in sympathy, seeking access, and ultimately taking advantage of your hospitality, your innocence.
What should you do then? Make informed decisions. Put in a little more effort. Think through your decisions and arguments. Make them more forceful, clearer, without adding or subtracting anything from your truth. Your idea of truth, which is realized and shaped by decades of lived experiences, is your best weapon against any falsehood, spin, and propaganda machinery. And your truth will prevail in the end. It always does.
Collaborate with one another, innovate, and keep learning, and improving. Sharpen your storytelling and truth-telling skills. Read widely. Don’t compromise on your principles. It’ll surprise you how much you can achieve if you really believe in yourself, and what you’re good at. Persist!
Don’t be afraid of going through the grind, and taking the difficult path. That’s your best teacher! That churning, the struggle, will make you shine brighter in the end.
Don’t be lured or tricked, or tempted by few minutes of fame. Don’t fall for deceptive shortcuts. Respect merit, value wisdom and listen to more experienced people than you. Surround yourself with friends who remind you of what you’re capable of, not of what you can’t achieve. Learn from your mistakes; don’t repeat them. Don’t be complacent. Don’t be impressed by mediocrity sold as excellence. Value your time and worth. Work hard…and harder. Also, let your work do the talking.
Think of what’s possible, and where you can contribute meaningfully, what you can do, not what is beyond your control. Take the road less traveled. It’s lonely, at times, but rewarding in the end. Asking difficult questions is always better than finding easy answers. Think of the journey ahead as your destination. Keep walking!