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Newsletter May 2012

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    +-------------------------------------------------------------------+ JOURNALISM ONLINE http://www.angelfire.com/nd/nirmaldasan/journalismonline NEWSLETTER,
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      NEWSLETTER, May 2012
      EDITOR: N. Watson Solomon (aka Nirmaldasan)
      EMAIL: nirmaldasan@...
      Issue No: 147

      back issues: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/journalismonline/messages

      Dear readers,
      Welcome to another issue of the Journalism Online newsletter. Unlike the previous 'viewsy and newsy' issue, this one has only a few articles. It would be nice if more people come forward to air their views. Do promote the newsletter among your friends and colleagues.

      Warm regards.-- Nirmaldasan, Communication Consultant, Chennai

      IN THIS ISSUE ...
      * thought for the month
      * editorial: the gold-rush
      * media news
      * tribute: jacob srampickal is no more
      * comment: dinamalar surges forward on the new media front
      * experience: making a difference
      * experience: the new life
      * readability monitor: longer the sentence, greater the strain
      * creative pulse
      * site update

      In 'The Merchant Of Venice', the Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare, writes: "All that glisters is not gold."

      The Mahavishnu of Mount Road, better known as The Hindu, would distance itself from Akshaya Tritiya and yet love the gold-rush. In what seems to be a laboured clarification titled 'The Hindu and Akshaya Tritiya', editor Siddharth Varadarajan protests too much for a 'jacket' that passed off as an in-house advertisement. The 'jacket' appeared on 23 April 2012; besides, there was a four-page space marketing colour supplement titled Akshaya Tritiya.

      The clarification appeared the following day on the front page ironically sandwiched between two gold-rush advertisements. On the left Tanishq, a Tata product, said: "A celebration of purity and prosperity. Akshaya Tritiya offer." And on the right Prince Jewellery said: "This Akshaya Tritiya invest in gold and bring Goddess Lakshmi home."

      We learn from the editor that The Hindu does not consider Akshaya Tritiya as one of 'the most auspicious days in the Hindu religion'; and that it does not endorse the belief that buying gold on Akshaya Tritiya would make one prosperous. But The Hindu is in a state of denial; it needs no telling that the nameplate endorses every frontpage advertisement.

      'India's National Newspaper Since 1878', with its mythical logo, has an identity crisis. It is not proud -- it even denies that it took the name of one of the world's most ancient religions. Yet it publishes a supplement Friday Review, which among other things discusses carnatic music, whose soulful strains are steeped in bhakti.

      But to return to the clarification. It tells us that internal steps have been taken 'to ensure that advertising messages put out in the name of The Hindu are consistent with its editorial policy'. It also promises adherence to the 9th and controversial clause in the Code of Editorial Values adopted by the Board of Directors of Kasturi & Sons Ltd. on April 18, 2011 which states: "There is no wall but there is a firm line between the business operations of the Company and editorial operations and content."

      N. Ravi, then editor of The Hindu, found the distinction between 'wall' and 'firm line' meaningless. A wall is not so easy to scale, but a firm line can be easily crossed. The shadow line helps The Hindu disown Akshaya Tritiya and yet love the gold-rush.

      1. PTI's Wage Hike Struggle
      By N. Subramanian

      Recently the Press Trust of India, the leading English news agency, hit the headlines for the wrong reasons. The agency struck work for a day demanding implementation of the interim wages of the Majithia Wage Board constituted by the Government for the newspaper industry. The last wage revision took place in 1988. After persistent demand by the MPs and the representatives of the newspaper industry the present wage board was constituted by the UPA 1 government. Soon the interim wages were announced and a few newspapers implemented them resulting in a small hike in wages for the employees. But several small newspapers are yet to implement them. PTI is one among them.

      In the present case it is surprising that they are being forced by the newspapers who are in the board of directors of the news agency from implementing the wages. This is really a big brother attitude and deserves to be condemned. Once the newspapers depended on the agencies like PTI and UNI for their lead stories. But now with the big money rushing in from political parties and corporate big wigs the newspapers are flush with money. They are no longer dependent on the agencies. They treat them only as a buffer in case they do not have correspondents in some remote places. Other wise the utility value of the news agencies for the papers is being reduced day by day.

      This is really a sad situation that is developing for the agencies. The electronic media too which once banked heavily on the news agencies for their bulletins seem no longer to depend on them. This virtual isolation has dampened their (new agency's) spirit and drive for news services. With UNI closing its shop for ever the news agencies are being crippled.The only way out of the situation is to treat the agencies as part and parcel of the newspapers.

      Whatever may be the reasons for the non implementation of the interim wages of the Majithia Wage Board a small hike would go a long way in giving the much needed relief for more than a thousand employees in 64 centres in the country.

      2. Media -- A Bilingual Monthly

      The Kerala Press Academy has brought out a bilingual monthly named Media. Printed and published by the academy's secretary V.G. Renuka and edited by N.P. Rajendran, the April issue has a variety of articles. Two of the English articles are by Sashi Kumar of the Asian College of Journalism and Sashi Nair of the Press Institute of India. For subscription details, check out: http://www.pressacademy.org

      3. The Hindu's school edition

      'Suu Kyi set for landmark win' was the lead story in the first issue of The Hindu's school edition, edited by S. Shivakumar. The Hindu of 2 April 2012 reproduced the facsimile on its frontpage and announced that the school edition was being launched in nine cities. "Parents and children interested in this unique version of India's most trusted national daily -- conceived and produced with young readers in mind -- should speak to their school about a subscription," the caption said.

      4. India's Worst Journalists - 2012
      -- Posted by Ravinar at www.mediacrooks.com --

      The previous edition of India's Worst Journalist in 2010 on this site [www.mediacrooks.com] still remains one of the most popular posts and also a very widely reproduced one. Over the last decade or so our journalists have come to be held in the same contempt that is usually reserved for politicians. Many of them have simply forgotten the art and science of the profession and this is a serious tragedy for aspiring journalists. How they came to such a pass is a long story. The most prominent ones are not even journalists anymore; they are `Editorialists' whose main job is to swing public opinion one way or another. Add to this the epidemic of `paidnews' and some of our news channels and newspapers would be nothing more than Bollywood or Commercials. After all, didn't the late Christopher Hitchens say: "I became a journalist because one didn't have to specialise". Read on at http://www.mediacrooks.com/2012/04/indias-worst-journalists-2012.html

      Jacob Srampickal Is No More
      By Dr. I. Arul Aram

      -- The writer is Associate Professor and Head of the Department of Media Sciences, Anna University, Chennai, India. Email: arulram@... --

      Professor Jacob Srampickal (62) died on April 14, 2012, during a visit to Austria. A Jesuit priest, Jacob Srampickal was Professor at the Department of Communication Studies at Gregorian University, Rome. Jacob had a stroke in September 2011 while he was in India but recovered.

      Dr. Srampickal had founded the National Institute for Social Communication, Research and Training (NISCORT) in Vaishali, a satellite town of Delhi. He was to take charge as Director of NISCORT again in June 2012. He got his doctorate in Development Communication from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom.

      Dr. Srampickal authored some 15 books including: Understanding Communication (1982), Voice to the Voiceless, Power of People's Theatre (1994), Babel to Babri Masjid and Beyond (2003), Cross Connections: Interdisciplinary Communication Studies (2005), Understanding Development Communication (2007), Issues in Media Ethics (2009), Communications in the Family (2010), and Prophetic Media – Power to the Alternatives (2011). Four more books on various themes in Communication were in the press at the time of his death.

      I had the rare opportunity of being the co-editor of the book Understanding Development Communication (2007). I had earlier delivered guest lectures in NISCORT in 2003 when the Professor was heading the institute before taking up a position in Rome. NISCORT brings together Media Studies for both clergy and laypeople. The Professor had a vision for NISCORT to develop academic programmes that are relevant and meaningful to students so that they can find their place in the mainstream media. I enjoyed working with him. I envied him as a Jesuit who could devote 24 hours a day to his pursuit in Communication! He used to be forthright, emotional and held strong views unlike a typical priest. I appreciated all these as I am of the same temperament!

      Professor Jacob Srampickal had a dream to establish a standard journal of Communication in India to fill the void. This is the scheme of things as scribbled by him in an email to me recently. I reproduce his email congratulating me on my elevation as Head of the Department of Media Sciences in Anna University, and seeking my help to bring out the journal.

      Subject: I: I: NISCORT programme
      Sunday, March 4, 2012 11:48 PM
      From: "Srampickal" <srampickal@...>
      To: "'arul aram'" <arulram@...>

      Dear Dr. Arul,
      Congrats on the new elevation.
      Please find the suggestion on NQCR project. Can you edit occasional issues? Can you suggest themes and writers etc?


      God always gives the very best to those who leave the choice to Him

      Dr. Jacob Srampickal sj
      Professor, Communications Studies
      ROMA 00187

      Message contains attachments 1 File (18KB) NQCR.docx

      Every three months on different themes. 64 pages.
      1. 3 articles on the theme
      2. review of some important books on this theme
      3. current research on this theme in India in university circles,
      4.current book reviews (8 pages),
      5. some national media news (4 pages)
      Possible themes:
      I.1. Media Ethics (editor – jacob srampickal) 3 writers:
      I.2. PR in the Church (editor jacob srampickal sj), 3 writers
      I.3. Development Communication (editor) 3 writers:
      I.4. State of Media Education (editor: ) 3 writers
      II.1. Media for Development (editor) 3 writers
      II.2 Indian films (editor) 3 writers

      Dinamalar Surges Forward On The New Media Front
      By Sashi Nair

      -- For more of this writer, check out: http://sashinair.blogspot.in --

      A 60-year-old newspaper has adapted and moved with the times, and moved quickly. Its web site attracts more than two million unique visitors and more than 190 million page views a month; its iPhone, iPod and iPad applications have recorded a substantial number of downloads and page views, with various apps being made available on the Android platform as well. All run and managed by a small team that is highly focused on delivering value to users as well as clients, and it has paid off well.

      It was at the WAN-IFRA Conference in Chennai in September last year that S. Balasubramanian, head-marketing, New Media, Dinamalar, presented a case study of how readers could be attracted to consume news on the mobile platform, and how opportunities could be created for generating new revenue. Dinamalar, printed in ten cities across Tamil Nadu, is a 60-year-old newspaper that sells about 0.9 million copies a day. Balasubramanian refers to dinamalar.com as India's No. 1 publication portal, with 2.05 million unique visitors and more than 20.43 million visitors a month, more than 192 million page views a month, with about 47 per cent of users in the 25-35-year age group.

      It's been quite a remarkable success story, which Balasubramanian in his presentation pointed out was because of innovative content for mobile platforms, dedicated teams for photo and video galleries, dedicated content, technical and marketing teams for the iPhone, iPad and Newshunt mobile site, and special content for the global Tamil community (more than 30 stories relate to NRI Tamilians daily). During the presentation, Balasubramanian described the mobile phone as more than a just walkie-talkie. "It is more than sending or receiving messages, more than accessing mail, it's about staying connected constantly with the world with the most convenient device that users cannot stay without," he says.

      The success on the digital media platform for Dinamalar is buttressed by some of the statistics Balasubramanian dished out. For example, Dinamalar iPhone apps have registered nearly 46000 downloads, more than 0.63 million visits a month, and five million page views. After the launch of the iPad app, Dinamalar registered 1251 downloads on the very first day. Dinamalar was the first Tamil newspaper to launch the iPhone and iPod touch apps in June 2011, and the first to launch the iPad app in September that year. Overall, on the digital platform, more than 2.6 lakh downloads and 27 million page views a month have been registered. The recently launched Android platform, which runs on a free operating system, has picked up very quickly. In two months, the apps has registered about 30000 downloads, comparatively much faster than the numbers notched up by the iPhone apps. A Windows-based app, and the Android tab have also been launched, is what I hear.

      "We have notched up some good numbers as far as mobile apps are concerned. If you look at the iPhone app, we already have more than 50000 downloads (during the past seven months after launch). You must remember we are a Tamil language web site, which in a way is a limitation. Anybody using the apps must know to read Tamil. A sizeable number of the NRI Tamil population may not know to read, although they can talk fluently. So, despite all that, we have substantial numbers," Balasubramanian explains. The Dinamalar Web site attracts regular traffic from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Currently, the digital apps are offered free, but the paid route is likely to be adopted soon. On average, the user comes to the Dinamalar Web site once in three days, which is a significant number." However, getting clients to run campaigns on a CPM basis is one of the big challenges for Bala and his team. "We have huge traffic and clients can leverage on this." Dinamalar has made substantial investment for its New Media division, which includes a 60-strong editorial team and a video division that does special stories.

      By Aditya Panja

      -- For more of this writer: http://adityapanja.wordpress.com

      Delhi at night could be a beautiful sight. The lit up roads, the smooth flowing traffic, the darkness of the sky and brightness of the electrically charged land. This is truly fascinating. It was one such night when I was travelling back home around ten in the night. I must be honest; the slow speed of the vehicle didn't make me happy at all. But still the fascinating view of the city made up for it. I had planned to get home, eat something and may be sleep for the next day was going to be a long one. But soon my plans were changed.

      Not far from home there was disturbance in the road. As I approached the spot I found a person lying on the road surrounded by people. This is a place where the mind is stuck between two points. One to resume your life and have that rest that I deserved, or stop and make a difference. Somehow my mind chose the latter. I stopped my vehicle, gathered help and pulled the guy to the side of the road. Then I looked around. I realised what had happened. The person on the road and his friend who was in much worse condition were drunk and had a head on collision with a cab. Others around me started calling for police, but let's face it, it's India. A young lady offered to pick them and take them to the hospital. I was happy to help. But then we saw a government car near there and pushed him to take them to the hospital. Reluctant the driver agreed. I followed the cab till the hospital and helped the attendee put the guy on the stretcher. By now the other guy had gained consciousness.

      Now when we rolled him into the casualty section I thought people would rush to help. Well, how wrong was I. No one was there to help. Doctors walked around and no attention was paid. I then found a young doctor and asked him to look into it. Thankfully he did. After explaining him what had happened he did a medical check up.
      Fortunately no serious injuries had occurred, but due to the influence of alcohol the person was not stable. I, in the presence of the doctor took out the wallet of the patient and got his id. Then used his phone to call his family and asked them to come immediately. For the first time my attention was diverted from the patient I had brought in. I saw around me people in pain, and suffering. And the condition of the hospital itself was something to be ashamed of. A police personnel came and took some details of the patient. After that there was no action. His friend who I found on the road was not hurt, but due to the alcohol was making no sense.

      After a long wait of an hour the patient's parents arrived. Then the doctor cleaned his wounds and declared the condition to be stable. But due to rules they had to do some tests. In my mind I was relieved and thought I will get back on my way. But as my faith would have it, I had to stay back. The reason, In a hospital like that which has a good reputation, there was not a single person to help the old parents. I helped them push the stretcher to the neuro surgeon's cabin. There they said no tests are required. But now we had to take him to another test centre. This was behind the building and again no assistance was provided.

      We had to push the stretcher again. This time it was a long route, and the patient was not a light one. But that was not a concern for me. But on the way something else caught my attention. In our path I found people sleeping all around the hospital. Some waiting to be treated, others waiting for a loved one to get well. It was not a happy sight.
      You see a day back our President spoke proudly about the achievements of our country. But boy did she miss these things. People starving, half naked, and with sickness lying on the floor. It made no sense to me. I saw more on the way. But I could not stop and sympathise with them. When we reached the next test centre more horror awaited me. First view inside the room and I could see people wounded in terrifying manner. I'm not a person who gets sick by blood. Honestly I enjoy violence. But the sight of people with band aids covering missing limbs did shock me. And yet again there was nothing I could do personally.

      It seemed the parents could handle it from here, so I was ready to leave. I gave the father my number and asked him to call me if I could be of any assistance. I had walked out, but in a few seconds I heard my name. I turned back and it was the father walking towards me. He offered me money, but I declined. He then held my hand to thank me, and then hugged me. I could feel his voice breaking. I could hear him sob. But I could also sense some relief. As I walked back the long way till my vehicle I was lost in a chain of thoughts. Who was in more pain? The patient who had external wounds? Or the parents who had to see their only son in that condition. I felt sorry for them but again I had done my part. Walking back I thought of my father, and I was proud that I would never be in that state.

      Who is to be blamed here? The parents for not being strict with their son? His friends who influenced him? Or he himself for choosing this life style. Well there is no real answer here. Remember he was lucky, many are not. There are at least 10 deaths in this country due to drunk driving every day. It is a big black mark on a country which takes pride in its culture. Well as far as I'm concerned having fun is not bad, but doing so without a limit is. I looked back at the hospital before I left, for the first time in that day I felt like I had actually made a difference.

      By V. Krishna Ananth

      -- For more of this writer: http://krishnananth.blogspot.in

      Had not written anything for a few months now. Not because I was not provoked. I was. But then, I had ceased to be a freelancer. Having agreed to take up a job with a media organisation, operating in all the four areas of mass media -– TV, Radio, Print and Internet -– I had to vent my feelings only in one of those belonging to the group. I think I did that on a few occasions on the TV channel.

      I am no longer there and hence decided to return to blogosphere. And all the more because I am also far away from what is otherwise known as the mainland. I have now moved to the hills in Sikkim and have also taken up a job that I love most. I am a teacher again. The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Sikkim University is where I teach and the first few days has been fun as much as learning. From Chennai, where it is hot, hotter and hottest, Santha and me are now in a place where it is cold, colder and coldest. It has been cold as it is in the past five days we have been here and we expect the colder and coldest weeks some months from now.

      We did look forward to this shift. I was beginning to feel the discomfort of life in a city. Driving was a pain most often. In any case, it was a feeling of loneliness in the middle of so many people. Barring just a couple of them in Chennai, my friends were in far-away places in any case. Santha too felt the same way and the idea of moving out to Sikkim and teach in a university sounded great. So we have moved. And this is why I decided to write again.

      The hills fascinated me first when we went to McLeodganj in May 2009. That was our destination after Delhi (where we took Chinku around to see the Teen Murti Bhawan, The Red Fort and Tees January Marg) and Amritsar (to be there at the Golden Temple and the Jallianwalah Bagh) which we enjoyed. Yes we also ended up spending some time at the Wagah Border and understood that Jingoism and Teflon Patriotism similar expressions. If that was jarring, McLeodganj was heaven. I saw the snow clad peaks from the lawns of the lodge where we spend the last four days of our holiday and that was when I had fallen in love with the mountains. Well, I had visited Gangtok and Darjeeling earlier in 1990; but I was not grown up enough to make sense of the mountains then!

      We went to the hills again in May 2010. That was an experience about which I have written about here. And I was planning a trip to Uttarakhand this May and had even mobilised some others; the plan was to walk up from Uttarkashi to Gaumukh, in five or six days. That is not happening this year. We are now in another part of the mighty Himalayas. Like the Ocean, which has fascinated me, the mountains too make me feel humble. The mighty seas and the tall mountains make me feel small and humble. I am sure living in the hills will ensure this feeling in me for all the times to come.

      We should soon go to NathuLa. We will also explore the various other tracks in Sikkim and then go to Bhutan and also to Darjeeling. We will be going to Rumtek soon; just waiting for our Bolero to reach here. And hope to write more about the places, the people and their lives as we see it and also our own life here in this beautiful place. I may write less and less of politics from now ...

      I must confess ... I borrowed the title to this entry from Orhan Pamuk. Yes. I think he is remarkable.

      By Nirmaldasan

      -- This article appeared in the October-December 2011 issue of Vidura, a quarterly journal of the Press Institute of India: http://pressinstitute.in --

      All plain English experts echo Robert Gunning's advice: "Keep sentences short." The longer the sentence, the greater the strain on the reader. Harold Evans, author of Newsman's English, writes: "The real seduction of the simple sentence is that taken by itself, it is short and it is confined to one idea. The real trouble with so many compound-complex sentences is that they have to carry too many ideas."

      Martin Cutts, in the Oxford Guide To Plain English, has this to say: "More people fear snakes than full stops, so they recoil when a long sentence comes hissing across the page." He recommends an average sentence length of 15-20 words.

      Jyoti Sanyal, author of Indlish (the book for every English-speaking Indian) writes: "Based on several studies, press associations in the USA have laid down a readability table. Their survey shows readers find sentences of 8 words or less very easy to read; 11 words, easy; 14 words fairly easy; 17 words standard; 21 words fairly difficult; 25 words difficult and 29 words or more, very difficult." We will return to this readability table a little later.

      Rudolph Flesch, creator of the Flesch Reading Ease formula, studied the readability of various magazines: Scientific (very difficult), Academic (difficult), Quality (fairly difficult), Digests (standard), Slick-fiction (fairly easy), Pulp-fiction (easy) and Comics (very easy). He counted the number of syllables per 100 words and measured the average sentence length in words. He put these two variables into a complex formula in an article titled `A New Readability Yardstick', published in the 3 June 1948 issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

      Now words may be monosyllables (short), disyllables (medium) or polysyllables (long). So an average sentence comprising 17 long words may still be a strain on the reader. In early 2005, when I was a senior sub-editor with The Hindu, I realized that the best way to overcome this problem was to measure the sentence in syllables.

      While it is easy to count words, counting syllables may not be all that easy. But with a little practice, anyone can count syllables swiftly. Remember that it is the syllable that determines the rhythm of prose. The syllable is the basic unit of utterance. Each syllable has only one vowel sound. `Television' has four syllables; `Internet' has three; `Radio' has two; and `Print' has only one!

      Flesch writes: "If in doubt about syllabication rules, use a good dictionary. Count the number of syllables in symbols and figures according to the way they are normally read aloud, e.g. two for $ (`dollars') and four for 1918 (`nineteen-eighteen')."

      The readability table, which we have already seen, may be better expressed in terms of syllables. Sentences of 10 syllables or less are very easy to read; 14 syllables, easy; 19 syllables, fairly easy; 25 syllables, standard; 33 syllables, fairly difficult; 42 syllables, difficult; and 56 syllables or more, very difficult.

      But this table, derived from a simplification of Flesch's observation of a pattern of `Reading Ease' scores, does not identify the level of the readers for whom a text may be easy or difficult.

      So here follows a formula that measures the readability of a text on a scale of 1 to 17+ years of schooling. The Strain Index, which I evolved as an alternative to Gunning's Fog Index, is a syllable-counting formula. Unlike many a readability formula which intimidates the user with a complex equation, the Strain Index is very easy to use. The plain English expert William DuBay called it `remarkably simple'.

      In its popular form, Strain Index = S3 /10 (S3 is the number of syllables in three sentences). Let us take an example:

      `I just don't agree with this hoo-ha about short sentences and simple words,' said PM. `If I can write long sentences well, why shouldn't I?' Nor does PM agree with the advice on the use of everyday words.

      That passage comes from an article titled `Shrink Or Sink' in Sanyal's Indlish. The sample has 53 syllables. So, Strain Index = 53 / 10 = 5.3 years of schooling; a Standard V student can understand what Sanyal has written.

      But to get a better estimate of the readability of a text, one must test more three-sentence samples or choose a long sample. In its non-popular form, Strain Index = S30 / 100 (S30 is the number of syllables in 30 sentences). This is the same as taking 10 three-sentence samples and calculating the average.

      It is possible, though not necessary, to apply the formula to a full text consisting of `n' sentences. In this case, the general form of the Strain Index = 0.3 x (Sn / n), in which Sn is the number of syllables in `n' sentences. But always remember that any readability formula should only be applied on well-written texts.

      1. Ma
      By Bijoyini Mukherjee

      The green shall turn golden-haired one day
      My puppy will die away
      Memorable voices shall echo memoirs
      All I would treasure is –- portraits
      Then shall give up the ghost?
      That fond pat my body never be aware of
      Fairyland might grind to grime
      Every solitary that material eyes could regard repulsive
      Would fail to remember?
      Each infant reverie may die a natural death
      Hope itself would dispose of me
      And ... possibly –- Holy Mary! Sweet Jesus!!
      Charming adoring mom would Not be!
      But will I prowl into her womb again?
      Will nature spare me a life devoid of her!
      Or tutor me falling from the stairs ... not being held ...

      2. Time Travel
      By S.A. Prabhakar

      -- for more of this poet, check out: http://sapclean.blogspot.com --

      This song of yesteryear
      Shot in black and white
      Sung by your favourite actress
      Slow, sad and haunting
      Full of feeling
      The voice, character and mood
      Seamlessly weaving
      Leaping from childhood
      On prime time
      Takes you back
      To days you can never go back to
      In that distant town
      Where people are not
      Strangers to one another
      Know who you are
      Do not care what you are.

      1. April Editorial: Court Reporting
      2. Mrinal Chatterjee's 'Writing For Different Media':

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