Everybody loves a good calamity

Sometimes I remain amazed at how quickly we adjust and adopt. There’s a movie shooting going on at the office premises/complex – some Sanjay Dutt, Kangna Ranaut starrer called “Knockout”. Predictably enough, the entire area has a new set of traffic rules, ad-hocism and, the gawkers. And, this is going to continue for a month.

There were some muted howls of protest and, some indignation. And, now I see, beginning with myself, that there has been adjustment. We have figured out an optimal way of living with things.

I have a feeling that it would be the same with the “Naxal” issue. While the going is good, the media is making hay by spending reams of newshour footage on reports, speculation, conjecture, hypothesis, introspection, navel-gazing, interviews, panel discussions and live reports in voices dripping emotion. Give it a few days, this too shall pass. No one will take the responsiblity of going to the actual situation or, coming up with practical paths to resolution. Perhaps someone will write a book about it. It would be a commercial success too. The chattering class would revel in finding a new author. We will go back to our daily routine, our tweets, our facebooks, our new and emerging social networks and, in the midst of it all, we will wait to get fascinated with some new variety of social crisis.

All we need is a good calamity to forget the previous one. Because we are calamity whores.

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And we have another of them

This artice in OPEN does an average job of listing out the reasons of decline. Or, as a few folks are apt to pun – the transformation from West Bengal to Waste Bengal is reasonably complete. I’d say that the article does not necessarily capture all of it.

For example, here’s an important aspect. The ruling ‘Front’ has been in power for 30 years. Which means that right now there is a new generation of voters who are exposed to a larger cross-section of opinions about what is happening around the various states and, in the world especially in terms of economic initiatives. To them, the issues of ‘dark days of the 70s’ or, ‘step-motherly attitude of the Centre’ or even, ‘land reform’ don’t hold relevance. These have been important issues, but they have lost their relevance to the voting population of age 21-29 who see that increasingly enough the state is losing out on the ability to bring in newer sources of employment.

Add to that the remarkably visible ill-effect of absolute power corrupting absolutely. Forget the cities and move out into the districts. The writ of an administration does not run and, is in turn compromised politically by various functionaries and satraps. Who make it a point to make hay. This does not go unnoticed however much muscle power is used. And, herein starts the rub of ‘feeling deprived’ and, the feeling that injustice is being done. The idea of justice – that tenuous nature which provides the semblance of fairness and equality, when repeatedly tossed aside causes heartburn first and, seething anger next. Land reform works like a charm in conjunction with agricultural practices that boost the agrarian economy. The moment the fertility of the land takes a dip, it becomes somewhat impossible to sustain a booming economy around it. It has been somewhat the cause in West Bengal. Rampant land reform has, in places, made farming a losing proposition. And, the traditional ‘freebie’ sops to the farmers have not worked out as well.

The trouble in this paradise is not what replaces the current incumbent. The trouble is what replaces the replacement. With no sensible policies or, steps being talked about from the entire spectrum of the political framework, the state seems to be heading for some kind of an implosion

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News media and, so on

Yesterday I read a tweet from Sagarika Ghose that got me thinking a bit. For those who don’t want to click the link, here’s the exact tweet : am always shocked at the vicious hatred of me, and other anchors, I find on the net. whats the reason for this hatred from total strangers? (italics are mine to separate the text from the surrounding ones).

I am inclined to think that she misses the point. A whole part of that “vicious hatred” arises from the fusion of demanding that the media uphold itself to a higher standard and, report “news” besides doing investigations. Sadly, what passes as “Breaking News” on most TV channels cannot be considered news at all. Least of all, breaking news worthy. This brings us to the second point – in earlier days of the print media, there would be a larger number of well thought out investigative reports which resulted in exposes. Take a look now – the media is happily content reacting to any national emergency while putting out ill-stitched theories and conjectures.

The important part is that based on the legacy Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Barkha Dutt, Prannoy Roy, Arnab Goswami and a lot of others bring to the table, one does expect their channels to have a higher standard of reporting, analysis. Instead, what one gets are inevitably shrill or, high pitched monologues from the anchors themselves, a somewhat jaded and familiar set of panel participants and, the same old cliched explanations and expressions. In case of Sagarika, what is more annoying is her tendency to restate and rephrase a single sentence in at least two diferent ways (example: what ails the BJP is what we would be talking about after the break. When we return from this short break we would like to look deeper and see what is wrong with the BJP and what is the future of this party). That works fairly well in a school. Not when you have a bunch of folks watching TV who have access to various sources of news.

And, this is important. For a long long time, The World This Week (TWTW) was the window to information from around the world. Easy access to internets and ability to tap into multiple analysis of the same events have made it reasonably simple for viewers of these channels to be pre-informed, or, have a concurrent experience (watch TV, surf news sources, mesh two together). The channels aren’t appreciating that. So, what comes across is a much polished version of what IndiaTV dishes out – inane programs filling up time.

Then, there is the selective myopia. We simply choose to ignore large parts of the nation, or, larger local news if there is something that is instant news-worthy going on. For example, how many channels had a complete coverage and analysis of what went on during the elections in Arunachal Pradesh ? How many channels are being able to provide an insight into the recent events at West Bengal ? There is simply too much focus on what is deemed to be news vis-a-vis what is actually news. Till the channels realize this, it would be difficult to get across to the viewers.

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Life through the driver’s seat window

The more I drive in Pune, the stronger is my belief that people do not value their life. We do not drive around too much. In fact, the kilometers on the car are laughable compared to what it is for others at office. We drive along the same route. And yet, each day is a new experience and brings new understanding to the utter disregard folks have.

One way to rationalize this could be that since not everybody on the road drives a car, figuring out what it takes to keep the car riding smoothly and behaving appropriately is an acquired skill. But this generally falls apart when one sees the two wheeler traffic weave in and out with merry abandon without helmets, indicators and, a general sense of traffic direction. It isn’t too way off the charts to be overtaken by a stream of these folks from both the right and the left sides concurrently. And, if that is not amazing, it is even more normal to have them bunch together in front and, swerving into turns and corners without flashing the indicator or, indicating by hand etc. A significant number of vehicles on the road do not have a working tail-light. Fairly funny when you are traveling in twilight and, have to constantly second guess the rider in front.

Then there are the cyclists. On the route we take there are plenty of stretches where although there are street lights, they are never lit up. Which means that it is either the headlights or, sunlight. Cyclists and pedestrians with dark colored clothes materializing out of a kerb right in front of fast moving traffic, or, beginning to cross the road just when the signal turns green is fairly common. What is uncommon is that that the cyclists do not bother to check if their cycles have reflectors on. Most of the time one can make them out by estimating the shadow falling due to the lights of a car coming down the other side. Scary.

If these weren’t enough, there’s the elephant. On the Koregaon Park – Mundwa road this giant has been the cause of near-accident scenarios for a couple of office folks too. Ambling in darkness hogging the middle of the road with benign disdain, it can only surface in front of you suddenly unless you are driving with high beams on. Since you don’t drive with high beams, you should always be on the lookout for the elephant in the evening, the goats with their splayed legs in the morning and, the mothers of the schoolkids. The latter are a class apart. They walk down the road with the kids on the traffic side. The kid will merrily be prancing onto and away from the road while the car driver might just be hoping that he prances away when the car is passing by the pair.

Life has become cheap. Too easy.

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Big picture advertisements

It struck me that there was a time when brands/companies decided to go big picture with their advertisements instead of the multiple product/brand category ones. For example, recall “Ispaat bhi hum banatein hain” or, “Buland Bharat ki buland tasveer” – in recent times there has rarely been an advertisement that comes even close towards bringing high level national sentiments (not jingoism) into itself without actually pimping the product.

Have the companies figured out that the brand isn’t really what is important in India ?

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Surname surprises !

This is materially trivial. And, fun at the same time.

Runa uses her maiden surname and, I use mine. Or, we do not have that hyphenated aspect that I sometimes stumble across and, get boggled. For example, when you see a “first_name surname-surname” the puzzled me tries to figure out if it was “his_name-her_name” or, “her_name-his_name”. Then I have received invitations which state “Mr and Mrs. Mukhopadhyay” which makes me wonder how I could possibly get my mom to come to the party. The ideal scenario is “Mrs and Mr. Mukhopadhyay” which keeps things safe but for us a “Mr. Mukhopadhyay and Ms. Bhattacharjee” is what is ideal.

Anyways, we have had a few hilarious moments. Especially because of the “tradition” of inserting the father’s/husband’s name in-between the first name and surname. This leads to immense fun. Sometimes her name becomes “Runa her_father’s_name my_surname ” or, “Runa my_first_name her_maiden_surname”. The other two combinations are infrequent as well. The downside of this simple thing made complex is that anytime we are jointly applying for stuff we get queries “what is the relation between the two of you” (as the chap at Sai Service asked when we went to get a car) or, as our car loan was on the verge of being cancelled because she had a different surname than the other applicant ie. me (we furnished a copy of the marriage certificate to get their heads straight).

The electoral rolls have been a disaster for us as well. We have had our names wrongly input, surnames mangled and of course, Runa’s name has a middle name which is neither her father’s nor mine 🙂

Here’s to more fun !

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Back from Kolkata and everywhere

This September we went on a two week trip to Kolkata-Gauhati and thereon to Shillong. Some pictures (because the camera decided to play up) are here.

In short it was aimed to be “get away from Pune and, get to see glimpses of Runa’s childhood” trip. And, it was worth every hour. As is becoming the norm, the time at Kolkata was either spent eating or, meeting up with the gang. Since we were at Kolkata till just before the Pujas, all I did catch glimpses of were work-in-progress pandals especially some which did not anticipate the heavy showers. The showers also spoilt our traipsing through College Street (on Eid no less) and, encountering bookstores trying to salvage books from water-logging. We took the Azad Hind from Pune to travel to Kolkata and, two immediate incidents deserve mention – an elderly gentleman came in (with probably his son) and, confirmed the seat number in Bengali. Given that Azad Hind is full of Bengali speaking characters during Puja season, I did not pay much heed to that. Turns out that they had thought that it was the Bilaspur Express which had left the station by that time. One hopes that he made his journey safely. The next one was an anecdote from the folks who occupied the lower berth. Their son said that he wasn’t keen on dinner because early in the afternoon he joined two of his office mates to consume four full tandoori chicken – that set the tone for the journey. Having the upper berths in a 2-tier does give some privacy and, it wasn’t long before I took the chance of trying to sleep the journey through. Howrah was, as it is always, a thorough mess. Including the fact that the pre-paid taxi booth had less number of the black-yellows. Most of them were standing outside the queue as is their norm.

We moved on to Gauhati and, interestingly enough, the cabin crew of Indigo for this route are inexplicably rude. No “please” or “Sir” as is evident on other routes. A plain simple rudeness that effectively shoves folks into seats and browbeats them into silence. I wonder if this is an organizational instruction because the return leg had the same annoying behavior. Gauhati was an orgy of well-cooked food and, session after session of stories. One of the days we went to the river side to catch a bit of the sunset (there’s a picture in the set). Thereon to Shillong and, Runa caught a spot of cold and cough that has been bothering her since. She took me around her school, hospital and, other sights. And, I was bowled over to note that one can actually walk around Shillong inspite of the dangerous traffic. Shillong was another round of good food.

And, then it was back to Gauhati, thereon to Kolkata and, finally to Pune via Ahmedabad (on the Indigo flight). Runa calculated that we touched 9 states during this trip. Nice

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