destination india

Thursday, July 28, 2005

flights of fantasy

Once upon a time it was mandatory to show a capsule of news titled ‘Indian News Review’ before the start of the actual movie as it was mandatory for the National anthem to be played at the end of the movie. All exit points of the cinema hall were kept closed till the end of the song. I have not entered a cinema hall for a very long time and am not aware of changes, if any, to these norms. Actually, I have digressed. I wanted to talk on the news capsule. We used to see ministers sitting comfortably in helicopters as they surveyed flood affected areas, once in a while the visuals would capture tiny dots on the ground huddled together on a comparatively dry portion and running after dropped food packets. There were no running commentaries, we saw what the minister saw and drew our own conclusions, we clucked, sighed, felt badly about how the vagaries of nature bring untold miseries to the commoner. Then we forgot the whole affair, as the minister also did – to him it was a part of his duty, to us it was compulsion. Finally, we concentrated on our dream heroes and heroines swooning in each others arms and going round trees and shrubs and birds bringing their beaks close enough and even touching them to emulate the forbidden kiss.

The situation has undergone immense changes – today, we have young and attractive experts who explain every aspect of what we see on our individual screens. The days of one screen and hundreds of viewers is history. The live coverage of the floods in Mumbai is a good enough example – viewers were taken all around the metropolis and surrounding areas giving close ups of stranded people, of people wading through knee deep waters, of a commuter sleeping leaning on a lamp post, of children running to collect food packets dropped from the air. In comparison to the dots of the fifties and sixties, we can see them more clearly today, thanks to technology.

Next comes the flying visits by ministers and dignitaries. They have to physically see the scenes to be convinced that a calamity has indeed occurred and that assistance has to be rendered. The local ministers have the first dekko along with their bureaucratic advisors and, in the flight of fantasy itself, they chalk out a tentative financial package ensuring that no one is denied his dues. Then a central minister descends from New Delhi, he also has a look-see, listens to what the local administration wants and then, depending on whether the party in power in both the centre and the state are of the same fraternity, gets the financial sanction.

What happens when the funds are actually received and whether any of it reaches those who are affected are questions that are never answered. But, the charade continues.

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