Thursday, January 06, 2005

Back from the dead

The tsunami came, saw, did what it could, and is history now. Which makes it a good time to write down a few thoughts. Sorry, but the overdose of melodramatic kitsch in the air put me off a bit, and I thought I'd wait till it blew over. Have been meaning to blog on some things to do with the tsunami for some time now, but there were a lot of abstract thoughts in my mind, none of which were blogworthy.
NOTE: Come to think of it, I haven't blogged at all for some time now. Blame it on loads and loads of work at home (Ajitha and I are in the middle of a particularly cumbersome bit of freelancing) and a lot of wrapping up to do in office before leaving (haven't blogged on the fact that I am leaving here to join Headlines Today either, as I find).
Now, while this (the tsunami, or whatever it was that took away such a super number of people) is one of those instances when no amount of 'it always happens to other people' shrugging seems to make sense, I feel we have just lost the plot a bit in our anxiousness to be with the news and mention the word 'tsunami' in every conversation, than really get a correct idea of what exactly happened and why the world is a lakh-and-a-half people lighter.
For example, we were over at a friend's place on New Year's Eve (with a couple of other friends) and there was the usual bottles of vodka and chicken for us to spend till the wee hours of the morning with. The parties we had been invited to had been cancelled because 'there are so many people dying and the numbers are going up every day; how can we celebrate'. Everybody (victims of the cancelled parties) seemed to be having a 'couple of friends' over at home and planning to drink (and eat chicken) till the wee hours of the morning.
And throughout the night (at the friend's place we had been to), between refills of vodka, we chose to watch TV — BBC — and go 'oh, it's 1,20,000 now!'...or whatever.
Now, and I admit to being afflicted by this morbid fascination of counting the toll as well, I found the whole deal rather stupid. [I won't say pretentious, because for once, we were not being typically Indian and pretending to be affected by something when we weren't. Which, of course, makes it a first of sorts, but that's another story].
Now, seeing that we were not pretentious, why the hell were we behaving the way we were? It can't just be the vodka, because not everyone is inebriated all day, every day, for two weeks. Why were we counting numbers when all of us were actually rather pleased to be witness to what has now assumed proportions of being the worst natural disaster in living history? Sure we were. We missed the Wars, Independence, Woodstock, Partition and C K Nayudu. The Gulf Wars were the biggest things we were part of, apart from the Bombay and Gujarat riots (and Big Dams, but I might be ridiculed — and called pretentious — for parring it with the riots and the Wars). And all of them were such artificial events at the end of the day.
The tsunami (or was it the earthquake?) is about as big as it gets and it was closer home for us than the Israel-Palestine conflict is, or even the Kashmir problem has been. And man, are we proud to have watched it on TV! We know about Nagapattinam now, and we know there was a mess in a place called Banda Aceh in Indonesia (yeah, you had heard of Aceh and some crisis there, but how much more?). We know we were that close to a beeeeg mess-up, because that nuclear power plant in Kalpakkam might have done, well, whatever it could have done.
And, yes, we are proud that we have been on BBC and CNN and Sky everyday, and that we were being discussed in such hallowed places like the Guardian editorials and stuff like that.
And we have this friend who has since that evening been going on about how that BBC has focussed more on tourists — British or otherwise — than on the actual devastation and the actually devastated. Firstly, that's incorrect. Secondly, why not? How much have our news channels concentrated on Indonesia or Thailand or even Sri Lanka, when compared to the airtime spent on Andaman & Nicobar, Tamil Nadu or Goa? Zilch! Thirdly, evidently, this is coming from the split feeling that we are supposed to be on BBC but we are not. Hell!
Anyway, now that everyone from Amisha Patel to Maria Sharapova (and everyone in between) have donated tear-bright bucks, it's best to look at the pictures on TV. Feel bad about everything that's gone wrong and shouldn't have. And then, cheers: it's that village your grand-uncle's sister-in-law once went on an NGO assignment to! Celebrate life, because she could have chosen two weeks back to make the trip.