When we turned on our TV last Sunday morning, breathless newscasters greeted us with yet another thrilling scoop on every channel. Days after thrilling minute-by-minute coverage of the Mumbai blasts and then the tsunami in Indonesia, the weekend news pulsated with never-seen-before images. Blurred pictures of a tiny, skinny, crumpled figure, and then a pair of eyes glinted in the eerie blue light of the closed circuit TV relaying images from the almost bottomless pit. Tiny Prince, who saw his sixth birthday trapped inside a deep and narrow well shaft, looked barely human in those distorted images. A sad metaphor for his terrible predicament.The media then drew our attention to prayer meetings all over the country. Crowds gathered everywhere, sometimes with the trappings of a carnival.
As we watched Prince emerge from the pit in the arms of brave army men, I couldn’t help but wonder. Were we, the TV viewing public, like spectators at a circus watching the action from the ringside? It seemed as though competition caused the numerous TV channels to seek out and create yet more spectacular news. After all, the audience could take only so much non-stop excitement over yesterday’s bomb blasts and tsunamis, and ratings would plummet unless fresh headlines dazzled. Were the news channels showing adequate sensitivity when they intruded into the personal trauma and ultimate victory of a brave little child? Were we voyeurs who, sated with the plethora of entertainment shows, craved the thrills of prying into the personal tragedies of others offered by ‘reality TV’?
My son says such media exposure has positive results. Financial and other help is pouring in for Prince. In fact, rescue efforts might have been abandoned after initial setbacks, if the whole world and their cousins were not watching and praying. Media attention will hopefully prevent the recurrence of official negligence, which led to this awful incident.
So Prince had his moments of tragedy and glory. May he enjoy many long and fruitful years of life. Let us praise the Divine, the Army and the media, and then grab bowls of popcorn and surf channels. Don’t want to miss the next breaking news of a plane crash or serial bombings.