Monday, August 07, 2006


I should’ve written about this a long time ago. Its not ‘newsy’ anymore, but because it still makes me angry to drive past the DGP’s office in Chennai, I’m going to put it down.

In a traffic island in the middle of the road stands the tall statue of thespian Sivaji Ganesan. With its unveiling on July 21st, Karunanidhi has ticked off another item from his long list of (slightly dubious) poll promises.

The location of the statue was contested in court because it violated the Tamil Nadu government’s own undertaking before the Supreme Court that they would not erect any structure (temporary or permanent) that would obstruct movement of traffic. The Madras High court directed the state government to seek the SC’s permission on the location of the statue, but declined to stay its unveiling.

And then in the most brazen display of the governments contempt for the common mans problems and violating their own undertaking, they conducted the unveiling ceremony right there in the middle of the road, blocking off traffic on the arterial Kamaraj Salai while office leaving traffic was forced through the parallel but much much narrower road that runs just along the beach.

I tried to speak to a few people who were crawling along in traffic and was disgusted to find that people just don’t feel angry. Silently like lambs being led to the slaughter they negotiated their way, crawling along where they would’ve been zipping down the beach road. Yet, stop and ask them a question and the responses ranged from… ‘no… it is ok’ to ‘the traffic is not that bad’ to people just walking away! Rudely!

The meek shall not inherit the earth if they get stuck in traffic.

And today two policemen stand guard in front of and behind the statue. Surely, in a city where a serious robbery can take place in the chief ministers own neighbourhood, and the police to public ratio gets more disproportionate all the time, police resources can be put to better use than guarding dead heroes.


Arif Syed said...

Ms. Zoyab:

The frustration you feel in trying to understand how “educated” people put up with such stark abuse and inefficiency is quite understandable. But the question is what is it that makes them do it. It’s the same that makes us Indians see obvious corruption happening right in front of our eyes and say “Chalta hai”. It’s the same thing that makes us actively do immoral things because the end result is supposed to be a good thing. There is saying in Tamil (approximate translation) “say a thousand lies and get somebody married”. It’s the same thing that makes us elect the same corrupt people again and again. Its the same reason that makes us throw garbage on the streets. How can we expect any garbage disposal system to work, leave alone the fact we dont have one.

Since I belong to the profession, I narrate this episode, Sivaji Ganesan requested an appointment with a very famous physician who had a long waiting list, and he could not get an earlier appointment. So his only choice was to go to the Govt. General Hospital where the physician worked to see him and he expected that he could jump the queue there. But was promptly asked by the physician to go back to the queue. It’s fascinating to see that the other people standing in the queue said nothing. That somebody is rich, powerful, influential is revered.

The people in that position also advertise this with their loud signs like on their cars, for e.g., Doctor, Lawyer, MP, with flashing red lights or so and so. It seems not to matter how he reached that position, perhaps by committing murder? The recent news item about doctors cutting of limbs to make them effective beggars demonstrates this clearly.

So is it because the goal is important, but the means to the goal is not so. For people who did not complain about the traffic obstruction, they probably feel, well we have to reach the goal why bother about what’s on the way. This Ms. Zoyab is the cancer of our society. This is why you see chaos on the Chennai roads. It begets lack of social consciousness. The 8% growth rate you see today in India is not sustainable in the longer term until we rid this cancer, even if we build infrastructure. I don’t however see any signs of anybody even acknowledging it though!

I suggest NDTV make a start. And you were right is asking this question.
Best Wishes

rajesh said...

The problem:
"It begets lack of social consciousness"

The solution:
social consicousness

The methodology:
Not specified

cynicalcount said...

Mr. Syed

You have put it very nicely. But, I dont think NDTV or anyother Channel would give any coverage to it. There are more pressing matters for the channels to cover like the shahrukh- amitabh cold war or the 30 mins promos daily of KANK which are issues concerning the nation.

Here you are talking about social consciousness and growth rate..come on who gives a damn about it , everyone is concerned about who gets exclusive clips of KANK.

I know how the channels operate and Im sure Alaphia knows it too that even if she takes such issues and wants to do a story, it wont happen.

rajesh said...!!

the number of hours allotted everyday to fashion news, pub partying, bollywood buzz, cricket team and its stars....natwar singh episode, general tamasha at the parliament...these are the HEADLINES across all channels...

this is the celebrity culture being propagated by vested beings...want a vir sanghvi's abt creating a program like 'poverty news' everyday...covering farmers death, child labor, tribal atrocities and more.

but for some specific programs ('walk the talk'), short documentary (like the one on manipur, and AP gudumba), it is almost as if the media is of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.

think abt it, it is only when a case of one jessica lal (may she be in peace) goes awry the great middle class rises (again the upper cream), lights candles, takes marches...all these years there are/were thousands of tribal/rural women being exploited and denied justice.....and who is even bothered abt them.

after all, they arent models or bollywood item girls or children of some ex-bureaucrat...

while frightened mumbaikars were getting on with their lives coz they had no other option, the great elite gang praises its "resilience". and naxalism is seen as numbers...w/o knowing why ppl support it in so many states....

there are two shining....the other, in the gutter...and the gap is getting bigger...the neta-babu-bollywood-mafia-media gang can have it forever....

an asian 1789? maybe...maybe...wait and see...

A Doosra Perspective said...

Hi Alaphia
good post and hope TV channels telecats his kind of news rather than running after the Item girls,so called demi gods(Actors and actress)

News channels spend a lot of time in discussing when a petition is filled against a film and they don't spend a single minute when there things that are affecting the common man.

everybody loves self advertising.if politician wants advertising they use a long queue to show us what they are. If the sportsmen and cine actor/ actress wants to increase there popularity they go to the media and talk some rubbish things to get cheap popularity. IF channels need higher TRP then thay put a news story without any substance or evidence or investigation. If that doesn't work then thay use filthy videos in programs in name of fashion and using pretty faces to read news. These pretty faces doesn't know how to tell sad story. mostly they end laughing a lot when they read news on farmers suicide or any deaths.

hope news channels do good job in setting things right

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Dr. Arif - you are quite right. Im always amazed by two things - people who demand their rights before performing their duties - and the meekness of the common man. But we must also understand that if you actually start to question you need to be prepared for the consequences. As Arundhati Roy puts it, India being called a democracy has been one of its most successful PR campaigns.

Rajesh and Narayanan - I think people love bashing the messenger - the media. Yes we are flawed, yes we make mistakes, yes we dont do enough... but i think we're damned if we do, we're damned if we dont.

Cynical - yeah you're right. Its been tried before and it doesnt work that well. And there again perhaps the fault lies not entirely with the media, but with people... viewers. The same viewers who dont feel angry enough to slam the government arent going to watch some story about some traffic jam. So its all very well for Rajesh to blame the media but look inward also buddy.

rajesh said...

al, the masses can always be blamed for everything...they elect the wrong leaders, they watch the wrong programs, etc...but the masses will be masses.

the new age media isnt the mere innocent messenger anymore.

it builds/changes/alters/manipulates public opinion. in some cases....esp the english is the flexing of muscles....a show-off....a state within the state...much like the judicary....unelected and yet, powerful. at least the jury goes by "interpretations" of has no such constraints...they can telecast flithy punjabi videos unhindered...they can call for "sms" votes and label the verdict as that of whole india....they can support the irresponsible statements from likes of khusboos...i went arnd and talked to many ppl...common ppl...(and not artists, film makers and the rest of the elite)..the layppl were all appalled at what she said...i was pained to see truth being suppressed....the brown sahibs in black suits werent messengers then but opinion makers and instant judges.

some say journalism is reporting only truth...some say it is abt only reporting truth. however, it no more abt only reporting or only truth.

satyameva jayate.

Arif Syed said...

Dear Ms. Zoyab:

Yes I am aware of Arundhati Roy's views on democracy and India. I do agree with you India is not a democracy. Its probably closer to being an autocracy (not in actual definition). The sad part of it is the myth that it is the former. Most of our "educated" class will have difficulty believing this! I bet.

Best Wishes.

Doctor Bruno said...

Well..... Even though the public had to face hard ships, you have failed to notice two points

1. This is NOT a ROUTINE phenomenon, but once in a year function
2. This has been announced in the papers and other media and every one should have known that there will be a traffic block that day.

Hence it is not that bad, after all

rajesh said...

if you've these "once a year" functions for, say, 365 great men, it wouldn't be once a year phenomenon after all!

what a stupid decision to install a statue in the middle of the road, when some space on the beach side would've suited it.

and btw, whatz wrong with these dravidian parties and their kinkiness for statues on the beach road? dont these chaps have nothing else to do?

the beach is dirty, the roads are dirtier, traffic horrible....govt isnt approving raising the min auto fare and thus autowallahs of chennai are behaving like bunch of daytime robbers. where is the monitoring of desalination plant? what is the govt doing on all these fronts....

of all things on earth, it is statues govt want to focus.

only the crows know the true worth of these stones.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Dr. Bruno - wow... you really expect very little from your government. You are a dream come true for the dravidian parties. God help people like me.

Rajesh - exactly. Theres bird crap on most of those statues!

cynicalcount said...

HaHa Rajesh, 365 great men and 365 days routine stoppages would be simply great. I dont think unless people are sensitised , these statues and other trivial issues will always get more importance.

See the dravidian parties are full of people with high level IQ and they know the real worth of installing statues. One must understand how much benefits a state would derive from statues and bird crap. At the end of the day, very few people care about traffic jams. And the media wants to highlight only about page 3, who is getting married or seeing whom etc., hence the whole cycle of inaction is complete. Its time to ask for statue installation in all the nooks and corners of the country.

Btw, Alaphia i heard that sanjay pinto got a phenomenal annual increase this time around. This guy stabbed his friend (veer) on the back and he is being given an increase.

Nazgul said...

hmm.. 2 things.. good news is that Youth Unplugged is coming on air before aug 18th.. second is that talk about cynicism... when will these politicians learn... TN will truely reach its height only when all these damn dravidian parties crash without a trace..

GeekBeyondRedemption said...

While I agree with many of the sentiments expressed here, I still don't see how this helps anything in any manner. Unless there is widespread education there's not going to be any change in this country. And that change will take a generation at least... So we're in this deep shit for quite some more time.

srikrishna/cynicalcount: I'm sorry but I doubt the dravidian parties have a monopoly on bad governance. On the contrary, our brethren up north have shown equally fantastic skills of non-governance. The BJP has shown that it's just as bad, if not actually worse than the Congress. The Left is the left where ever it is...

I'd argue that the dravidian parties merely make for nice targets for a national media that has little clue on South Indian politics.

I wonder what the classification of the (R)JD(S)/Congress/BJP would be on these lines. Could I make a sweeping generalisation that the damn Aryan parties have led to the absolute chaos in most of North India?

Venting our frustrations on a blog provides cathartic release. But what can we actually do about any of this?