23 June 2010

Bhopal: a lesson in remembering

Things don’t right themselves with the passage of time, unless they are righted. And the way they are righted, is, first, you say sorry. Next, you put things in place and clean up. Thirdly, you learn and remember not to forget.

Bhopal is still all wrong, any which way you look at it. No one has said sorry, no one has mopped up the mess that is the Union Carbide factory, no one has put things in place for the victims. Lastly, nothing has been learned and we have forgotten to remember.

Just because it was all 25 years ago, doesn’t put a distance between us and the poison gas that can be a part of our lives, too, at any time, any place. Think about it, look around you, and you will realize that things have hardly changed when it comes to governmental apathy, corporate cruelty, and general thick-skinnedness of everyone concerned.

The TV channels have taken it upon themselves to set one thing right: the media’s treatment of the whole tragedy. But, far from reassuring me about a sound press, it makes me think if trial- and sometimes government-by-media is our only way out, God help those who are at the receiving end of the media’s cold shoulder.

Yet, the Bhopal ghost couldn’t have reappeared at a better time, when the US is busy being self-righteous and gladly pointing fingers at BP. What did the US government do to penalize Union Carbide? How many billions did it ask Warren Anderson’s company to pay up?

But the US’ hypocrisy is no reason to let off the Indian government easily. The contamination of JP Nagar in Bhopal started right from the day Carbide began operations in 1971 and was a documented fact by 1981. In fact, it is this mess that will take up the thousands of crores to clean up.

And, as we all know, such a violation of our earth and water is commonplace throughout our country.

The real wars that need to be fought are well within the border, they need to be fought for the earth, the air, and the water. But where do we begin..? We all carry a little of Bhopal in our lungs.

02 June 2010

A point is proved

The Trinamool Congress’ victory in the West Bengal civic polls is not an overnight event. It was cooking all along, when the apoliticians were busy sighing that even if they wanted to vote for someone apart from the CPM, there was no alternative; when the ruling media houses of the land went a step further than the CPM itself in Mamata-bashing or Mamata-ignoring.

Today, the people’s movement symbolized by the Trinamool victory has simply become so huge that it cannot be ignored any more. The ‘rabble-rouser’ has become the mass leader. The jeering media houses have become cheer(ing)leaders and are jostling each other for a Mamata-byte.

Do things really remain the same the more they change?

Personally, Mamata’s journey is very inspiring. One person, a woman at that, took on the entire might of a huge near-monolithic structure called the CPM, despite even physical attacks, in an almost hopeless scene – if this is not the stuff of legends, what is?

Her fight gives you the strength to believe in the impossible. In an age where you find few political heroes, Mamata stands tall. Any further electoral victories will not be ‘surprising’, as the TV channels put it. She has proved her point.

My name is Red

A more comprehensive review (and one that I liked) is here.

Am making a very, very brief note, of course:
The tussle between tradition and individuality or the attack of Western influence is at the heart of the book. So, is a murder mystery, that is weaved through till the very end.

But tradition, too, originated once perhaps as a streak of individuality and then got institutionalized. The fear that the chief royal miniaturist shows in the book towards the Western trend of portraiture, is the age-old fear against anything new that has the potential to shake up your world.

It got me thinking about the place of art in Islam. I’d love to do further reading on this. Any suggestions?