Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Every once in a while, I come across news of witch-craft murders in rural parts of West Bengal. Such incidents are alarmingly common in villages of Orissa too. Like yesterday, I was particularly disturbed after reading about a man who beheaded his aunt with one swift lash of his tangia (an axe-like tool) in Mayurbhanj district.

That was not the gory part that upset me though:

The man actually walked about 8 km to a police station, with the severed head in one hand, the axe in another, and surrendered himself.

I asked someone to read the copy and his reply humbled me.

"This is very common there. The tribals, they are so simple people, they do such crimes on an impulse, and then don't know what to do with the head. So, they walk all the way with it and submit it to authorities."

Simple is the word my father also often used for the tribals of Panchamahals in Gujarat. He had spent the best, brief years of his childhood in a place called Dahod. Dahod was teeming with wilderness and tribals then and joy of his association with the innocent folks — with all their poverty and superstitions — has not faded till this day.

"They are very simple people who do not know greed," he says.

When I used to read about such witch-craft murders earlier, I was revolted with the sheer violence of the description. My immediate reaction was one of disgust and reproach. Last evening's brief conversation has changed the way I see things.

The act is not as violent as the ignorance, the haplessness of people staying in such remote, neglected regions is...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Anonymous Smiles updates

These are the postcards that have been recently sent to Mumbai, Mangalore, Pune, Delhi and other places...

This one, is a little special to me:

For details, visit Anonymous Smiles

Related posts: Click this link

Friday, August 07, 2009

Kinley Ad: 'Vishwas kar'

We were told something about emotions manipulated in advertisements in college. These days, I am seeing more and more such ads that are targetted on unsuspecting, sentimental, rather foolish people who have a lot of money to spare.

Take the new Kinley advertisement for example. It starts off with a rucksack-totting young man in some village where little boys are having a gala time at a tubewell, bathing with absolute relish. This youth looks thirsty but unsure. Then an old man gently calls him to his shop and hands over a Kinley bottle. Problem solved, the best of human bond established. The young man holds that bottle close to his heart for the rest of the journey. Trust, motherly love perhaps and all the good things in life packaged in one bottle of water. Give me a break!

Let me tell you how trusting one bottle of Kinley won't put the problems of a huge chunk of people at rest.

In Kolkata, on my way to office, I come across at least five roadside water pipes lined with jerry cans, women waiting in queue. Forget roadside, even in my building, which is huge, the water supply is far from good. It is full of iron and the dal used to take a long time to cook even with the Aquaguard and iron-nil. I, and many others, have got a RO machine to solve the problem. Many people get a supply of those huge Bisleri jars every day or two. Some send their maids to a water pipe near the main gate to get 'sweet water'.

But, this is the easy way out, the kinds you and me can afford to take and take. What about the rest whose monthly income equals less than my restaurant bill? To supply good drinking water is the government's responsibility and it has since long washed its hands off the issue. May we assume that a huge nexus of multinational giants, RO companies and bureaucrats is working hands in glove to further the manipulative economy of clean, sweet water? Ah, that reminds me of the famous question MP Hema Malini asked in the Parliament. Read Hema Malini in soup over water purifier ad

After Aila struck, an acute crisis of potable water was highlighted by major dailies.

(Access article on e-paper Water Crisis Deepens in Sunderbans on page 4, TOI Kolkata, issue dated June 25, 2009 to view story and accompanying photos)

The fact is, and it was duly covered, that the Sunderbans had a pathetic network of drinking water facilities much before Aila struck. Women and children had to walk miles, they still have to, to get a pot full of murky water pumped out from a tubewell.

Read on e-paper Sunderbans: Island of Despair on page 3, TOI Kolkata issue dated March 17, 2009.

Move on to Murshidabad. The district faces an alarming crisis of arsenic content in water. Most of the villages rely on hand pumps to get their supply of drinking water. We saw quite some photos of boys having fun, bathing and drinking water from the hand pump in Murshidabad villages, quite similar to the scene depicted in the idealistic ad. But not all can trust (or afford) a bottle of mineral water to solve their problems.

Read e-paper article Poisoned Water: Dying on False Promises on page 2 of TOI Kolkata issue dated March 22, 2009

An expert voice to sum up this article. Sunita Narain: Bottled water costs us the earth

The article mentions how the mayor of San Fransisco banned the use of bottled water in government buildings and how the mayor of Salt Lake City asked public employees to stop supplying bottled water at official events. Narain goes on to say, 'But in India, bottled water is growing as an item of necessity: private industry is meeting the drinking water demand left increasingly unfulfilled by public utilities. In most cases, people are paying prices that they cannot afford to because they have no alternative source of clean drinking water.'

The Kinley ad, and many other such manipulative commercials first fool me into tears and then wake me up to reality. As I write this post, I wonder what my rant will achieve? But then that is what we can do best. Write our anger off, spread our indignation to more and more people and hope it boils down to something concrete. Journalism cannot propel issues beyond a certain point. But within those boundaries, perhaps it is our duty to get frustrated and spread the word, even if it may seem as mundane as ads that anger you.