Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The fall of the Berlin wall: reminiscence

Nineteen years ago on my return from England; ma Garland Challam the past president of JSU on seeing me for the first time after my sojourn in Britain asked, what in your opinion are the major difference between our life and society here with that of the people in England? He ended his talk abruptly and then he pointed towards the stray dog which was walking in front of us at Iawmusiang market in Jowai and remarked; are we any better than that (stray dog) if we compare the socio economic development of the two societies? I remember I told him that the difference is the elevation on which we stand, I continue by saying that while in England I was standing on a higher platform which enabled me to see the world much better and much clearer, here we are on the ground and we can hardly see anything. While giving him this answer I remember clearly the fact that live-scene of the fall of Berlin wall and the collapsed of Nicolai Chauchescu of Romania rolls like BBC live TV news on the back of my mind.
My answer was influenced by the media coverage of the two incidents that I saw live on TV then; I still remember people using chisels and hammer to literarily break the wall in the fall of 1989. Back home till then people still have to depend on the good old AIR and Doordarshan for our daily dose of news at an hourly interval. Before the arrival of Cable TV Network live coverage was not even known in the entire country, thanks to Pranoy Roy we were able to get our weekly dose of international news from his weekly programme -The World this week. In Shillong, if my memory serves me right; it was the people of posh locality of Lachumiere who had the opportunity to first watch cable TV in the comfort of their homes. In the 1989 England not only BBC has live coverage of all the events that happened in the world, Rupert Murdoch Sky TV has started to invade the British Sky and only few yuppies can afford to own car phones (not to mention mobile phones). Coming back to the subject matter; though history was made across the English Channel in the continent of Europe, I feel as if everything happened at our seminary’s backyard in Rusholme, Manchester.
But it was last summer that I had the opportunity to come close to the Berlin wall (yes of all places) in Washington DC. When I was asked what I would like to do on my first day in the DC, of the many offers that was placed on my table; apart from getting myself photograph from every available wings of the White House, I chose to visit the Newseum. Newseum is a News Museum where one can watch news papers and TV clips related to many history-making incidents in the whole world which was published and broadcasted during the incidents by different news channel and broadcasting corporation. Newseum also display news related memorabilia from the two World Wars and it also has a section which shows the visitors how news was broadcasted from newsroom. In front of the Newseum one can even read the current daily newspapers from all over the US of A and from many parts of the world. It was near the section were Pulitzer Prize winning photograph were displayed that I chance to see few pieces of the infamous Berlin wall all in its original shape, size and even colour. It was mentioned in the brochure that the Newseum has the largest collection of the remnant of the wall in the entire world. The collection also comprises a tower with a floodlight from where East German border police stand guard against any East German citizens who try to cross the border.
The fall of the Berlin wall was truly a people movement and the fall led to the imminent collapsed of all the communists’ regime in the entire east European countries. Like the proverbial deck of cards the fall of the Berlin wall led to the fall of dictatorial rulers in Eastern Europe one after the other.
Looking back, understandably in twenty odd years so much has changed, even in this far corner of the world. We are now not only talking about live coverage of events around the world or broadband internet connection, young generation are into facebook, twitter and what have you. One can’t imagine the rapid change when I come to think of it that twenty years ago; I remember I had to go to my neighbours house to watch TV and even if one use a very tall bamboo, the only programme that we have to satisfy ourselves with are those broadcasted by our good neighbour Bangladesh TV. One also has to move the antennae every now and then to get a satisfactory signal. Now DTH TV of every hue and colours beams their signals to hundred of household even in the farthest corner of the country. Media has indeed help change not only the way we communicate; it help redraw the boundaries of many countries but it even have a huge impact in our lifestyles. One day media in its many new avatars will be like a shadow to a human which follows him or her everywhere one goes and the digital shadow will be something that one cannot avoid or run away from, media will then stop being a platform but a shadow and that is scary.

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