Two good pictures by Reuters referring back to Prez Clinton´s trip to India in late March. One, a picture of Bill by the Taj, speaking on clean energy and environment. The tiger, meanwhile, is a male caught in the process of eyeing Bill from the bush in Bokola Ghat at the Ranthambhore National Park in Rajasthan. Wonder what was in his mind.
Nepal’s national news agency RSS (Rastriya Samachar Samiti, and not what you think) is obviously one for making wild claims. On 27 April, it reported that a resident of Bhimmapur village in Kailali district along with her son, who were bitten by a rabid dog, ate its liver in the belief that this was the cure. Then RSS goes on to state, with much conviction, “This is the first instance of someone eating a rabid dog´s liver to stave off rabies.” Such certitude! To think that since time embarked on its journey, no one anywhere, ever, has taken recourse to dog liver to counter rabies! That must have taken some research.
27 April, again, and again an RSS despatch from Mohattari (another Tarai district of Nepal). “A pipal tree at Manara VDC which was knocked down by a gale in the month of Baisakh last year, has all of a sudden returned to its previous erect position. Religious devotees are thronging the tree to worship and pay their respects in the belief that it is the god Lord Bishu [?] who has manifested himself in this kaliyug or fourth age of the world. The tree is 30 metres in width and about 400 years old, a local elder said.” Well, at least there is attribution. As a South Asian rationalist, however, Chhetria Patrakar would say that someone in Manara with a wicked mind has been active with a tractor and some ropes overnight.
A Correspondance to The Bangladesh Observer makes a good point, asking why the paper tends to favour the female sex during photo-coverage of book fairs, arts shows, gallery openings, and so on. “Quite paradoxically and for reasons unknown to us, we usually find that on such occasions your press photographer is interested to take snaps only of girl and female visitors and not of any male visitor. On these occasions, your press photographers appear to be influenced by gender instincts and impulses.” I would tell Mr. N.H. Sufi of Dhaka that, in all such matters, the culprits are to be found not so much in the photographer´s finger as in the editorial desk influenced by the marketing office
In an editorial of (15-21 April), Kuensel´s editor makes the plea for open and frank discussion and public debate as Bhutanese society evolves and modernises. It seems written as a response to those in authority who react all too quickly to criticism. Traditionally, says the editorial, citizens have felt no hesitation in expressing their problems, doubts and views, and even farmers have had the opportunity to submit their views personally to the Bhutanese monarch. In what is a subtle but laudable appeal for more openness, the text goes on: “The government´s emphasis on transparency today calls for more systems and fora for open discussion. How else would the government monitor its other priorities —efficiency and accountability? How else do we ensure appropriate standards in, say, the awarding of millions of Ngultrums in job contracts and purchases? One of the responsibilities of the media, anywhere, is to (enhance public awareness). But such discussions are possible, in the media or other fora, only if we perceive them in the broader perspective and not in a personalised context.”
The deccan Herald of 14 March carries this moving picture of a woman grieving at the grave of a victim of caste violence at Kambalapalli village in Kolar district.
I Like it that the 14th Dalai Lama is increasingly active in South Asian issues of society. (This is perhaps only natural, because culturally Tibet is much more a part of South Asia rather than of mainland China.) What I like even more is that the Dalai Lama is getting involved in the propagation of liberal values in India at a time when the ruling establishment in New Delhi in particular is going swiftly rightward. It is also right and proper that the Dharamsala handlers have started paying heed to the neighbourhood rather than focusing only on garnering support in Western capitals for the ´Tibetan cause´. One example of this liberal and regional involvement of the Dalai Lama is the recent promotion of a daring series of documentary films that analysed what India had gained in 50 years of independence. In the middle of April, the Dalai Lama launched a website of the firebrand Indian policewoman Kiran Bedi (www.kiranbedi.com). Apart from profiling Ms Bedi and her 30-year career, the website is interactive and she can be sent mail regarding “a grievance or a legal doubt”. Launching the site, Tenzin Gyatso said that this was an innovative way of using technology for the benefit of the people. Knowing perhaps Ms Bedi´s disposition for a wee-bit of self-promotion, the wise lama did caution her against getting carried away with success. “In the service of people, one needs to always be humble. This will retain enthusiasm and inspire you to work harder.” Touche´.
Hard to believe, but there it is. Something posted in the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) website: a new worldwide survey suggests that Indians follow the Americans as the ´happiest people on earth´. The Russians and Chinese came out as the world´s glummest people, found the market research agency Roper Starch Worldwide, which surveyed 22 countries in five continents. While 46 percent Americans said they were satisfied with their lives, Indians came second at 37 percent, with the Chinese and Russians trailing at 9 and 3 percent. The respondents were quizzed about “relationship with family, self-confidence, the country´s overall economy, and the role of religion in their lives”. Two things I want to say: a) if that´s where India is (which ´India´ I am forced to wonder, and what methodology did Roper Starch use to cover the whole place?), then Pakistan, Bangladesh and the rest of us cannot be far behind. Happy, happy! And, b) where does the survey put Bhutan, particularly in relation to the Druk Gyalpo´s Gross National Happiness index?
I Like Hafizur Rahman, columnist of Karachi´s Dawn, who in his column Of Mice and Men of 22 March writes on the phenomenon of the “staff car” which is the South Asian equivalent of having a ´corner window´ in a multinational headquarters in New York City. It is obscene, this need for a conveyance to proves one´s worth, and it goes way beyond the legitimate requirement of an officer to get around. It is also a problem that afflicts government offices in every capital and metropolis of South Asia. Writes Mr. Rahman: “I have often wondered what would happen if there were no staff cars for government officers. Would administrative efficiency, already at low ebb, become lower? No, I don´t think so. Then why have staff cars at all… My case against staff cars is based purely on the absence of ethical justification. Staff cars are allocated to only those civil and military officers who usually have two private cars of their own, but are never given to those who sometimes can´t even afford to buy and maintain the smallest Suzuki…”
I cannot make head or tail out of this “Crimson Tide” advertising in Dawn of 23 March. It seems to be put up by “MMTI Marketing Pakistan”, showing Pakistan army regulars at full trot, and seems to be some sort of a super-nationalist come-on, albeit nicely packaged. But to what purpose? I better check out the website that is given www.mmtglobal.com/wp. And you do, too.
ON 16 April, readers of The Times of India got a jolt when they found the front page just an expanse of white space, other than the masthead and strapline along the top. This was a gimmick by a dot-com startup. Immediately, there was reaction against this extra-innovative step to keep up with the times by The Times. The newspaper has for some years been accused of pandering to market forces at the expense of editorial content, and the critics would have been expected to jump on this additional display of marketing savvy by the paper that Samir Jain runs. Vinod Mehta, of the weekly Outlook, said with some sanctimony, “I will never do such a thing, no matter what.” But Dileep Padgaonkar, executive managing editor, retorted, “The diktats of technology driven competitive environment force one to go for innovative marketing strategies… sooner or later others (will) follow suit.” Here, I tend to go with Mr. Padgaonkar.