June 10, 2011

Do You Read the Newspaper?

I was asked this question by the two interviewers at my Personal Interview round of Common Entrance Test: Do you read the newspaper?

Now by general knowledge, I had learnt that this question is almost a trap. Before this question was brought up, we had discussed at length about my profession as a Marketing Executive, about some concepts of Marketing which I answered correctly and about my general opinion on what can make India a global economy. And hence the above question was posed as if to find a chink in my shining confidence which I had managed to portray.

I can very well imagine any other confident boy would have said 'yes' and that as well might have been true in his case (cheers!) and right upon this affirmation, the interviewers would have sprung a weird cosmology related question to that possibly gujju commerce graduate. He would have confessed his ignorance about the issue and the interviewers would have parroted their well-rehearsed back-lash, 'Oh! Then what do you read in the newspapers? Just Bombay Times and Mumbai Mirror, eh? (sic)' And that would have forced the poor chap to be defenceless against such allegation of cultural tackiness.

But I had decided that I shall be truthful. Even though I was barely prepared for the Group Discussion and Personal Interview rounds, not having read about the current events or 'hot topics' around the world, I had made up my mind that I shall face them with honesty and little of what I knew.

The reply I gave came out as quite genuine, I said, 'Frankly speaking, no, I barely get time to read the newspaper... even watch television for that matter -'

'And that's because you are busy?' interjected the blunt one.

I smugly replied, 'No, that's because I'm occupied!'

He did not pursue the argument further. My mum rebuked me for my audacity when I narrated this incident to her, but I must state that Honesty can never be completely conveyed if it is restrained by Modesty.

Hereupon, the other interviewer asks, 'But you are into marketing, don't you think, as a marketeer, you should be abreast with the current news?'

To which I furnished a reply, complete with drawing quotation marks in the air and what not, 'Yes, indeed. But the thing is, work keeps me occupied almost throughout the day. I cannot afford the luxury of setting aside a special hour during my breakfast to go through the entire newspaper. Honestly, I don't want to "encumber myself" with the political news, scams and scandals. I have lost my interest in watching news channels since they introduced background music while showing video telecasts. Having said that, I do have a general overview about who's who and who's done what and what's going on, it's just that these days, I don't want to pursue and follow each and every news item and form an opinion about it. As far as my being into marketing is concerned, I'm pretty much well read about different products and brands. Since I need to spend a lot of time online, I do read about such stuff and that, I daresay, is enough fodder for me.'

After I finished I had a sense of foreboding that they thought I was being too smart for my general appearance. Because barring a few glances that I permit myself to such news while surfing the internet, I'm not really much of an Economic Times breed of a reader. Shameful it is, I agree, but I just hope it's a phase or a passing bad habit. I am more of a P. G. Wodehouse, Stephan Pastis, Ayn Rand, J. K. Rowling type of reader: all of whom are at the unacceptable extremities of non-approved reading material providers for Government's public entrance exam.

Well, anyway, as if to hit me in the eye with a wet sock for showing such nerve, the lesser friendly interviewer further questioned, 'OK, then tell me: who is the Finance Minister of India?'

Imagine my face like the chat emoticon :|

'Pranab Mukherjee.'

'See now how do you think you know this?' he demanded with new-found vigour.

'But this is general knowledge,' I exclaimed with already-present fervour. 'I don't need to read the newspaper to know this! I'm not dumb!'

That was that on the issue of reading the newspaper. We exchanged formal pleasantries and I walked out, feeling happy about myself, not because I defended an unhealthy habit of not reading the newspaper, but because I defended those species of (nerdy) readers who sustain on a daily prescription of humour, fiction and fantasy and can still walk around as equals among the species of those omniscient readers, with the presence of just simple wit and stark honesty.