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Commentators too make mistakes
To err is human, to forgive divine – so goes an old adage. Commentators are human beings, they too make mistakes. Fine, but are those mistakes avoidable? What are the corrective steps that a commentator may take so that he or she does not make the same mistake again and again.

To err is human but to err repeatedly without making an effort to correct may fall in the category of unpardonable mistakes that may not be forgiven even by divinity. It would be a good idea to list the common mistakes that commentators make and also find ways and means to go up the path leading to a realm sans mistakes – El Dorado of a commentator.

Touch me not

There are some sensitive areas and sagacious commentators steer clear of them. In Bharat, religion is a touchy issue and should not be touched even with a barge pole. Well, if one is covering a Conclave of Religions, one has to comment on the goings on in a sincere manner. Of course, one has to study the concerned religion in depth so that one covers salient features of the Conclave in a sincere manner. Indeed, pitfalls have to be avoided meticulously. There may be some touchy areas and an intrusion therein may mean inviting trouble. Why not avoid the so-called quicksand in a manner that draws appreciation from listeners and viewers?

While discussing religions, it would be a good idea to list some major religions currently being followed by an appreciable number of people all over the world. We may take a view of their salient features and also the thorny issues that wise commentators may not like to touch with a barge pole. The budding commentators may pay attention to what is being written in this chapter.

Vedic Dharma

The most ancient dharma – that has a large number of adherents today is based on the Vedas. The followers of the Vedic Dharma believe that the Vedas are divine revelations given to human beings at the beginning of the Creation as guidelines to live a healthy and happy life. The Vedas are four in number: Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda and Atharva-Veda. In them are over 20,000 mantras chanted rhythmically and followed in both letter and spirit. The Mantras cover all aspects of human life from birth to death and chanted in performance of rituals observed in various phases of life. The major Sanskaras, of a total of sixteen, are the Namkaran or naming ceremony, Mundan or shorning of hair on head, Vivah or marriage ceremony, Sanyas or renouncing worldly life to wear ochre clothes and work for welfare of all human beings treating them as One Family – Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam.

The Vedic Dharm admits non-Hindus into their fold naming the ritual as Shuddhi. The school of thought that encourages its Acharyas to proselytize actively is known as the Arya Samaj. In the field of education, a new experimentation with an old system resulted in the establishment of many Gurukulas in various parts of India. Some Gurukulas have carved a niche in the educational realm whereas others struggle to survive.

Judaism

The Jewish people around the world follow the Old Testament of the Bible and adhere to rituals prevalent before the advent of Jesus Christ and Christianity. They are a wealthy community that survived many offensive actions against them taken by founders of other creeds and philosophy of life. In the medieval period it was Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam, and in the modern period it was Hitler, the strong-man and dictator of Germany who launched the Second World War. It goes to the credit of the Jewish people that they survived all kinds of onslaughts against them and succeeded in founding a state named Israel.

The Jewish people wield great influence over the administrative system of the United States of America.

Christianity

Christianity believes in the divinity of the Bible – both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ inspire followers of Christianity to a life of happiness. It was prosecuted and penalised in its initial days of existence by Roman Emperors but survived and prospered not only in Rome but all over the world. Indeed it was the teachings of Jesus Christ, believed to be son of God, that formed the foundation of Christianity. Of course, the Roman Empire played a major role in taking the teachings of the Bible to every nook and corner of the world. Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church lives in Rome. All and sundry are advised to go by the beliefs and way of life prevalent in the country one visits. The saying goes: When in Rome do as the Romans do.

Christianity is said to be a religion of peace but both the world wars were fought among states that believed in Christianity. The Church proselytizes actively all over the world and thus Christianity became a religion that is followed all over the world, though in different forms.

Islam

Allah (God) revealed Quran to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in Arabia in the seventh century AD and that became the foundation of a religion known as Islam. It is known as a religion of peace but history shows that maximum bloodshed was caused by believers of Islam. It is a historical fact that within a few years of Prophet Muhammad's demise in 632 AD, Islamic forces knocked at the gates of Vienna in Eastern Europe and Spain in the western part of the continent.

Thereafter, Islamic forces suffered reverses and were rolled back to Asia. The biggest victory of the Islamic forces was in Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire and a seat of Christian learning. There was a blessing in disguise – the Christian defeat made its scholars and artists flee to western Europe and that triggered the great Renaissance in the realm of learning. Constantinople was renamed as Istanbul and continues to attract Islamic scholars to the seat of Islamic learning, next only to Al Azahar in Egypt.

Careful commentators avoid touchy spheres of Islam lest they give rise to avoidable controversy. One should avoid making an adverse comment on the Prophet and the religious book, Qura'an.

Buddhism

Siddharth, the prince was born in Lumbini. He was distracted on seeing the unpleasant aspects of human life, trials and tribulations that a human being has to go through while leading his life and earning a living. Siddharth was distressed to see that in this world the powerful animals made weaker animals their object of prey and food. In the higher strata of life of the Humans, the story was not much different.

When the Prince delved deep into these philosophical aspects, King Shuddhodan, his father, and Mahamaya, his mother, thought that Siddharth's entry into the Grih Ashram was the panacea of these non-mundane ills. Siddharth was married to a pretty princess, Yashodhara, who became a loving wife to the Prince whose mind was wandering all over. They had a son too named Rahul. Nevertheless, the worldly bonds did not succeed in changing the ascetic mind of Prince Siddharth. One fine morning he gave up the mundane riches of life and abandoned his wife and son to travel to the jungle looking for spiritual peace.

It was only at Gaya, now Bodh Gaya, where he was enlightened with Divine Revelations after being revived by eating rice cooked in milk offered by a lowly woman, Sujata. Thereafter, he meditated, regained health and travelled to Sarnath near Varanasi to deliver his first sermon. The base of his philosophy of life may be summed up as Madhya Marg –the middle path. He illustrated it by the musical instrument, Veena. If its strings are too tight, they might snap; if too loose there will be no musical sound at all. Therefore, human life should not be lived in extremes but by adopting the Madhya Marg or the middle path.

In a world stricken with strife, the common man looked for peace. The teachings of Lord Buddha, spread all over by his disciples led by Anand and millions of men and women became Buddhists to attain spiritual peace. China, Japan, Far-East and Indo-China embraced Buddhism and in countries like Thailand it became the Raj Dharma or a State Religion. Buddhism was adopted by people of Afghanistan, Middle Asia, Mongolia where it survived even after Hinduism, the later form of the Vedic Dharma, replaced it as the dominant religion.

A commentator commenting on Buddhism should imbibe the peace of mind to do justice to the great religion born in India but became popular in vast parts of Asia and later in other continents too.

Rehearsals

Some old hands at doing running commentary may think that it is below their dignity to attend rehearsals of the event they are asked to comment upon. In my opinion, attending dress rehearsal of a major event like the Republic Day Parade, gives a commentator an insight into segments of the event that need highlighting with words. Of course, the larger picture is formed by the camera but nuances need description by the commentator.

There is a pitfall too. A good commentator should see and describe the event. At times organisers drop an item or two at short notice without notifying all concerned. If our commentator goes by the official notes prepared before the drop, he or she is likely to mention the dropped item. It would be disastrous. Such an unforgivable incident did take place once or twice when the commentator failed to see events on ground and went verbatim by the pre-prepared script.

A wise commentator should not only attend the full dress rehearsal but also keep his eyes and ears open while doing the running commentary. Grasp the event, grasp the situation on ground and let not imagination fly high to the extent of commenting on a non-event. A commentator is in the driving seat and his sensory organs are loyal to him. Therefore, ride over with reins in your hand and let not the horse take you to stables.

Commentator's aides

A commentator should have a few objects as his handy aides. A glass of like warm water is a must always and every time. A human throat undergoes strain while one is doing a running commentary. At times the throat suddenly dries up. Not carrying warm water in a thermos flask of your own may be a major mistake. If one starts coughing because of lack of moisture in throat, a sip or two of warm water is a great reliever. Please for Heaven's sake, never leave that friendly flask behind. Treat it well as a good companion. At some events like the Republic Day Parade, when the security is rather tight, a thermos flask may not be permitted to be taken inside the security zone. One should obtain a written permission of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of security. The slip will cross over barriers and facilitate your show.

Carrying voluminous briefs inside the commentator's box is certainly not the "done" thing, may be unacceptable. Too much paper around may be confusing and prevent the right piece of paper reaching you at the right time. In nervousness one may be inclined to carry all notes but it may lead you to your Waterloo. This major mistake may become a major hurdle in your forward march to the winning post of an A grade commentator.

Please avoid the mistake of pronouncing foreigners' names incorrectly. Names of places in foreign countries may also pose a problem, it may not be insurmountable. A good preparation may help you master the pronunciation part and residents of the country concerned will appreciate your preparation. One may say that some foreign news channels do not pronounce the Hindi names correctly but you do not have to follow them. Please be a leader in the field of commentary and let others follow your example of precision in just about everything. Please be a leader; not a follower.

There may be a temptation to make an off the cuff remark on a sensitive subject. A good commentator should resist that temptation and not hurt the sensitivity of any section of your viewer or listener.

The parting piece of advice of an old hand at doing the running commentary is: Be meticulous in preparation of both the subject matter and own persona. Dress up normally and wear not something outlandish to generate an uninvited giggle. Be punctual. The time to be in the commentator's box is at least one hour before start of the event. Never run to the post before your commentary commences lest you start panting. It would reflect adversely in your voice. It is the voice that helps you reach the goal post. Please be cool, calm and composed. You will win laurels – Vijayee Bhava.

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