I’m sorry, but I simply don’t have any time for them
Question: Why are journalists regarded as the original environmentalists? Answer: Because at the end of the year, they recycle everything.
Okay, as jokes go, it’s probably a little lame, but you know what I mean, don’t you?
Yes, I’m referring to that annual ritual conducted by all media organisations, both in print and on television, otherwise referred to as the Year-End Special. This basically consists of dredging up every newsworthy thing that happened through the year and writing it up with pretty pictures and witty captions – and I should know, having ‘conceptualised’ several such series during my years as feature editor of a newspaper.
Yes, as surely as winter follows autumn, December heralds a crop of ‘year-end’ features, all of them marked by a certain tiresome similarity (except, I hasten to add, those compiled by my colleagues at Brunch and HT City, who do a marvellous job of an essentially thankless task!).
By now I am so weary of these year-end special issues that from the time December hits the mid-month mark, I simply stop reading magazines and the feature sections of newspapers. And every time the dreaded words ‘Year-end’ come attached to a TV programme I change channels.
So, why do I regard such specials with such dread? After all, they are nothing but a harmless catalogue of the year that has gone by – or sometimes an attempt to see what the coming year will bring. So, why do I hate such features so much? And what is it about them that irks me the most?
Well, even if you ignore the fact that most of these features recycle similar stories and themes from previous years, there is much to loathe about them. And here, just off the top of my head, are four things I can’t abide in these year-end abominations.
1) Gift-giving manuals: It all starts with the run-up to Christmas. What should you give your mother-in-law for Christmas? Do you need to buy a present for your secretary? How do you choose the perfect gift for your boss? What is the best way of telling your sister-in-law that you don’t want yet another electric toaster? How does an aromatic candle rate on the gift-giving scale? Do you need to send a bottle of champagne with a cake for New Year? Is it ever acceptable to recycle gifts (well, if you can do that with year-end features...)?
2) Diet advice: The most popular topic during this month in the health section is, “How to keep your weight off during the festive season.” Articles on this subject crop up with a distressing predictability in most newspapers and magazines. And the advice given by everyone from celebrity dieticians to famous nutritionists (for some reason that I can never quite fathom, the two are not one and the same thing) ranges from the downright dotty to the plain commonsensical. But shorn of all the nonsense about basal metabolic rates, glycemic index, blood groups diets and what have you, it all boils down to two things. One: eat less. Two: exercise more. Now, are we really so stupid – no matter how bad the hangover – that we can’t figure this out for ourselves?
3) Travel tips: Okay, I get it. Everyone wants to get away for Christmas and New Year. And most people – except for those drones at the bottom of the food chain, who have to slog away while everyone else parties out the old year and rings in the new – are looking for advice on where they should go. My grouse is that the destinations featured in these year-end specials are the same ones that we read about through the year. Now, how is that any help if you are planning a trip?
And don’t even start me on the ‘tips’ on what to take with you. The usual clichés – white shirt, jeans, a roll-up dress that doesn’t get crumpled, comfortable boots, lots of accessories to dress up your outfits, a couple of colourful sarongs – are trotted out year after year (and yes, I plead guilty to churning this stuff out as well). As for ‘packing tips’, I swear I will scream if I read one more story about stuffing tissue paper up the sleeves of my jackets to prevent creasing. Honestly, how much free time do these people have? And haven’t they ever heard of steam-ironing?
4) New trends: This is a particularly dangerous game to play. Trying to forecast what will happen in the year to come – whether it is politics, movies, food or fashion – is a tricky business. And it becomes downright fraught when it is left to the junior-most people on the staff (the only ones who don’t rate a holiday over the festive season). In fact, if you want a good laugh you only have to see some of the ‘predictions’ made by the media about who was going to be ‘big’ in the year to come. Of course, as they say, hindsight is always 20/20 but even so, some of these predictions look downright ludicrous after the event. And I should know. I once predicted that Ruby Bhatia (remember her? She used to be a veejay on MTV. Or was it Channel V?) was going to be the Next Big Thing on Indian television. Only in my case, these turned out to be Famous Last Words.
And, on the cheerful note, here’s wishing all of you a very Happy New Year!