By: Chitra Ahanthem
This Friday (December 13), yours truly was supposed to be making an appearance at Hyderabad for the fifth edition of the Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2012-13 that ‘honors media and advertising professionals’. Instituted in 2007 as part of the media advocacy efforts under the Laadli girl-child campaign, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-Laadli Media Awards were launched by Population First, an NGO. In 2010 the awards were branded as the Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity (LMAGS) and according to its publicity material, ‘the award felicitates, acknowledges, recognises and encourages media, journalists and advertising professionals to keep working on gender issues and to draw the attention of the public to their positive efforts in the media with regard to gender sensitive reportage’. Now, the said awards are given according to four separate regions: Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western with Manipur and other states in the NE being included in the Eastern region.
After sending in my submissions under the print category for a few select IFP editorials, I got an e-mail sometime on November 22, informing that I was one of the awardees.
Whatever amount of happiness I felt at being selected for the award was punctured by the careless intimation that said: “your entry titled ‘The Annual Spectacle of Irom Sharmila’ has been selected as one of the winning entry for “The Laadli Media and Advertising Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2012-13” in the Television Category. Its people like you from the media who have helped bring about a very perceptible change in the life of women by bringing about mindset changes.” The e mail citation said my selection was under the Television category when my work with IFP is purely in the print format! That e mail was only the curtain raiser for a few other disappointing developments starting from the response from the folks who are behind the awards. When I wrote back a ‘Thank you’ e mail, I also pointed out that my entry was under the print category and that was met with a off hand explanation after an apology that went on the lines of ‘your entry has been classified as print only but since the mail was being sent to a number of people there was a slight mistake in typing you could call it errors of cut and paste era’. The worst part of it all was that for the travel to the awards venue only the train fare costs would be taken care of by the agency because it ‘did not have enough funds’, an explanation that was for me both smacking of a total ignorance of the distance and time factor involved in the travel and ironically showed that the said awards do not necessarily include honouring the awardee(s).
Another journalist who had been conferred the award in an earlier edition told me that she did not attend the award ceremony because of the train and flight cost issues which meant that the agency had the choice of either looking for funding support from their network of agencies or shifting the venue to somewhere closer. Going to Hyderabad even by the flight option would have meant changing flights and lay over time in between while the train option from Imphal was out of the question with the state yet to be connected to the country’s railway network. And so, attending the award ceremony went out of my hands leaving a distasteful experience behind and wondering how in the world the award is meant to encourage media practitioners. But this issue of connectivity on one hand and the lack of room for concessions to this lack comes in the way of being a part of the larger picture.
Yes, like many others belonging to a certain generation I too commuted by bus till Guwahati from Imphal and then hopped into a train traveling 2 nights and 3 days just to each Delhi. On one memorable and uncertain journey, I traveled with my then 2 and a half year old son alone in a hired four wheeler all the way from Guwahati airport till Imphal after all flights were announced as grounded for four days due to technical issues with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) equipments. The flight was at noon and by the time the airlines confirmed that no flights would be taking off, it was already 2pm. As luck would have it, our vehicle got flagged down by the Nagaland state police at Dimapur town area, who on being told that we were coming from Guwahati airport, informed me that 4 gentlemen were looking for a vehicle till Imphal. The group of four was to be on the same flight as me but had only managed to hire a vehicle till Dimapur. We reached Imphal at 2 in the morning.
I have absolutely nothing against road or train travel. Rather, they are interesting experiences but when agencies send forth invitations with set riders on how to travel without factoring the time and distance in question, it gets a tad difficult to take in silently. But life is about making the most of the worst situation and smiling and sailing through it. So, when one friend said that the people behind the awards should save their money (that they would have used on my train fare if I did take the train) and courier the award to me, it actually made me smile!