Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Classes on Vedic heritage

Purnavidya, a ‘complete systematic education programme’ on Vedic heritage and culture is being launched for the residents of Mylapore and nearby areas on Thursday, October 9 (Vijaya Dasami) at No.80 (Old No. 196A) Sriram Apartments, St. Mary’s Road, Abhiramapuram, between 4.45pm and 6.00pm.

Weekly classes will be conducted free for children aged 6 to 16. They will also be taught how to chant shlokhas and how to perform simple daily pujas. The medium of teaching
will be English.

Those interested can contact Sridhar at 98412 93322 or 98840 97597. Admission to the launch programme is open to all.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The 'coin man' we'll always remember

This column is a tribute to a friend of mine, one of Chennai’s most passionate lovers of heritage and one of the most active heritage enthusiasts the city has seen. S. B. Raja Seetharaman died a few weeks ago on the railway tracks in Mambalam. He was only 40. Apparently, he and his friend were about to cross the tracks when a train came whizzing by. Its speed caught Raja off balance and he fell on gravel. The impact of head on gravel must have been great or probably it was the tender part of his head that bore the brunt. Whatever it was, death was instant. A sad end to a life that promised so much.

Some years ago, Seetharaman called me to find out whether I could help edit a document he had written on heritage. It was my first interaction with him. Over the years, I would meet him at several functions and every time he endeared himself to me more with his simplicity, straightforwardness and soft-spoken manner. His visiting card reads ‘numismatist, notaphilist and philatelist’ – his hobby was collecting coins, currencies and stamps. The card has a picture of his home on Iyya Mudali Street in Chintadripet. It was a heritage building and he spent most of his savings restoring and preserving it, after a legal battle for ownership that consumed 20 years. Emblazoned at the bottom of the card is the legend: Let us be proud owners of our heritage. Indeed, there were few to match his passion, dedication and commitment to the cause of heritage.

Seetharaman began collecting coins as a schoolboy, after he once brought home a coin and quizzed his father (Dr A. Srinivasan retired as Addl Director of Public Health & Preventive Medicine) about it. However, he learnt the art of collecting coins, the thematic way, from M. T. Karunakaran, senior research scholar and coin collector who lived in Tambaram. It was through Karunakaran that Seetharaman met D. Hemachandra Rao and forged a close bond with the then president of the Madras Coin Society. Soon, collection of old coins became a family responsibility and whenever someone in the family came across an old coin, it would be deposited in a bowl kept in the drawing room. Gradually, Seethraman’s collection of coins and stamps included those of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Lady Diana.

It was in 1995-96 that Seethraman became a member of the Madras Coin Society. He was eager and enthusiastic and Rao encouraged him to focus on Indian coins and Indian Bank notes. Seetharaman then met V. Kalyanam (secretary to Mahatma Gandhi) and motivated him to exhibit his collection of Gandhi memorabilia. In 2005, Seetharaman took great interest in bringing out the Madras Coin Society Journal. INTACH member Prema Kasturi remembers how he approached her for editing its contents. “He was an excellent researcher and wrote good articles himself,” she says, recalling how Seetharaman had written a beautiful article, approached archaeologists and brought out a wonderful book for HRD Times. “He was genial, loveable and had an enthusiasm for life. He had excellent contact with coin collectors as well,” she adds.

Rao recollects how at the Mylapore Festival one year, Seetharaman handled the coin exhibition at the Lady Sivaswami School, Mylapore. During Madras Day celebrations (2004-06), Seetharaman and Rao organised coin, currency and stamp exhibitions at the Rajaji Hall and Clive Hall. In 2007, he almost single-handedly organised the coin exhibition at the Centenary Hall at the Government Museum. This year, he was elated when authorities at the Rajaji Hall gave their go-ahead for the exhibition during Madras Week.

Seetharaman studied at the Children’s Garden HS School, Mylapore, up to Class 5, moving to Dr Guruswamy Mudaliar TTV HS School in Kondithope for Classes 6-12. He graduated in economics from Vivekananda College in 1988 and went on to obtain diplomas in marketing, PR and computer application from the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. His elder sister Lakshmi Srinivasan tells me that Seetharman as a boy was extremely shy and hardly spoke to strangers. He never picked fights with anyone and the only quarrels were with his two sisters. For a decade and more, Seetharaman worked with Take Wing Communications before turning financial consultant. In recent years, he would visit the homes of prospective clients to answer any queries they had about LIC policies, housing loans, general insurance, shares and mutual funds, and Post Office small savings schemes. And he either walked or travelled by bus. Not for him a scooter or two-wheeler.

“The exhibitions need meticulous planning. We used to assist him and he introduced us to a whole new world. We learnt that society is a web of relationships,” Lakshmi says, adding, “His energy was simply amazing. He showed us that if you pursue what you like doing, even if it is a hobby, you can make a mark.”

‘Let’s make things better’ was Seetharaman’s motto. What he treasured most was his meeting with the former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Kalam, a few months before he became the President, dropped by one late night to see the coin exhibition Seetharaman had organised at Kalyanam’s premises. “So, you are the coin man!” Kalam exclaimed on seeing the youngster. It was a greeting Seetharamn kept recounting with glee to his friends.

Perhaps Seetharaman’s work will inspire others. Let his soul rest in peace.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vignettes from an international conference

There were some excellent speeches and exchanges at the IFRA India 2008 Conference. Following are some interesting highlights:

The Times of India publishes a newspaper for students – about 500,000 copies are sold. Ravi Dhariwal, CEO-Publishing, The Times of India Group, said that students like to read the paper. The newspaper (in general) has to be customised to suit the present generation, he feels. “The alternatives available to the post-1990 generation are much more (than of his generation). Editors realise that they need to draw the younger crowd. The ageing population is a cushion. The newspaper will still remain relevant. We do not, however, need to change the circulation-growth strategy,” he said.

Shahrukh Hasan, group managing director, the Jang Group of Newspapers, Pakistan, attending an IFRA conference for the first time, told me that the media scene in Pakistan is very robust and competitive. The market, both Web and print, is growing. Internet is growing exponentially in urban areas, he added. Indeed, India and Pakistan are among the few countries where circulation of newspapers is growing (23 per cent for India and seven per cent for Pakistan). According to Hasan, 70 per cent of the population in Pakistan is under 21 years of age. “We need young readership. The traditional newspapers cater to the more mature readers,” he stressed.

Mohit Jain, director-Business & Commercial, The Times of India Group, felt that the biggest challenge for the news publishing industry in India is the worrisome newsprint situation. “Newsprint cost has risen to 50 per cent of our cost structure and has a huge impact on our bottom line. We like to know how others are handling the situation, whether they are increasing advertising or circulation rates or changing web-width or re-designing the paper. IFRA conferences are all about specifics – about issues most relevant to the newspaper publishing media. So, attending them will help us understand whether we have to expand or migrate from print to digital.”

While explaining Stampen AB’s (Sweden) approach to the news publishing business, Tomas Brunegard, chief executive officer, said that globalisation with new technology is affecting all newspaper publishers and that the newspaper industry must change, building on its strengths. “The future media is not about publisher or individual power, it is about the power of cooperation. Modern people want to take part, and we have to adapt,” he pointed out.

Cyril Pereira, vice president-Manufacturing, ABP Pvt. Ltd. Kolkata, urged CEOs and publishers to find commercial opportunities and make win-win deals. “Newspapers are losing opportunities because of lack of cooperation. Newspapers should ally with Google and Yahoo,” he said and added that linking up with large advertisers have made newspapers powerhouses. “Newspapers are trying to retain profit margins and forgetting investigative journalism. The newspaper’s mission is long gone. Also, newspapers must know the reason for its existence, create a brand image, engage community to solve problems, and be useful and interactive. Newspapers mean something to the community if they are useful. But newspapers are moribund in their thinking. We should be able to tell the advertiser whom they are reaching. Today, I don’t have the ear of the advertiser. We are sitting on a gold mine but we don’t spend a dollar understanding our customer.”

The IFRA India 2008 Conference commenced with the official launch of the IFRA India Newsletter by Thomas Jacob, deputy CEO, IFRA. Dean Du Toit, senior production manager, Gulf News, Dubai, set the ball rolling with his take on the business concept of printing the daily newspaper in heatset and on high-quality paper.

Presenting a case study of The Printers (Mysore) Ltd., Bangalore, S. Krishnan, senior manager-production, covered a wide range in heatset drying, including high ink cost, frequent blanket cleaning and UV incompatibility with conventional coldset ink. He referred to a VAPON (Value Added Printing of Newspapers) study and stated that heatset is only 14 per cent more expensive than coldset on the same paper. The same study also revealed that readers are concerned about the quality of front and back covers in newspapers, and about the use of four-colour as well.

Printing, using lower grammage newsprint, issues associated with it, and how to manage production formed Yusuke Naito’s presentation, which turned out to be one of the most interesting for the delegates. The senior chief engineer, Printing Engineering Department, Nikkei, Japan, explained that Nikkei’s development of the 40g newspaper was dependent on maintenance of print quality and that he and his team had worked closely with ink manufacturers to reduce strike through.

The concluding session on Day 1 of the IFRA India 2008 Conference saw C. K. Gan, managing director, SEA Graphic Communications Group, Kodak, Malaysia, outlining the possibilities of digital printing for newspapers and the technology that can be adopted. His presentation covered consumer behaviour, technology and application. “Print is the core component of today’s media mix and will remain so in the future. Technology has given consumers more power to select content that interests them – they are looking for less information, but information that is more relevant. Today’s challenge is to communicate with the more sophisticated and in-control consumer,” he says, going on to list the advantages of high-speed inkjet technology.

Focussing on how to handle different paper grades in commercial printing of newspapers, Erik Ohls, director-Technical Marketing, UPM Kymmene, Finland, the world’s leading producer of magazine paper, says that paper is the single most important element that defines quality. “When we talk about hybrid printing, we need to identify opportunities for additional revenue,” he adds. According to Ohls, it is most challenging for the printer to combine coldset and a true HSWO web. “It would be good if the printer has an HSWO background. Coldset webs are easier to handle. Also, press start-up sequences need to be developed – heatset webs require a different sequence from coldset.”

Ian Lewis, director, Arcon Digital Ltd., New Zealand, commenced the final session at the Conference with his take on CtP plate technology. Thermal chemistry-free technology is used extensively in North American markets, he said, and added that while violet-free technology is aimed at smaller newspapers, it is now suitable for larger sites. “The development focus is now on violet technology which has matured,” he pointed out. According to him, chemistry-free technology is viable, cost-effective and environmentally sound. Process-less technology has plate handling restrictions and is not viable yet. However, its commercial experience reveals it has a short storage life.

Sandeep Gupta, executive president, Dainik Jagran, the largest circulated and read newspaper in India, drew the attention of the audience to technical issues of short-length run and smaller presses, growing demand by readers for colour pages, and press configuration. “We follow the lean manufacturing method, which means that the focus is on reduction of waste throughout all departments,” he said. Stating that 80 per cent of problems are usually people-related, Gupta was of the view that a systematic approach, measurable practices, recognition of work and training will help solve problems.

The IFRA India 2008 Conference concluded with Sanat Hazra’s (director-Technical, The Times of India Group) presentation on ‘green publishing’. He suggested various initiatives on the newsprint front – use of thinner but stronger and opaque paper, use of alternate fibres, reduction of newsprint waste. He also spoke about new developments in consumables – soya-based ink for offset printing; water base for flexographic and gravure printing; high strength ink; chemistry-free CtP plates; waterless printing; and soft proofing.

Highlighting the aspect of waste management, Hazra said: “Every economic activity produces waste. Proper collection and handling of hazardous waste is crucial. Unless you have proper documentation of a project definition, it will not happen.” He stressed that a time frame must be fixed to get results. The Times of India, he said, is saving energy by reducing the use of diesel generators, for instance, and also saving water and newsprint.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Something magical about newspapers

There were several interesting talks and presentations at the IFRA India 2008 Conference. For example, Steve Yelvington, senior strategist, Morris Digitalworks, U.S.A., spoke about the Bluffton Today experiment of using a new publishing model combining print and the Internet and how it had resulted in Bluffton, “the oldest village in the United States”, coming together as a community. Bluffton Today launched a new, free, home-delivered newspaper with a Web site built entirely around blogging and photo-sharing. “You cannot blame the Internet for the slide in newspapers. Most newspapers missed the opportunity the Internet provided. A Web site should not be just an online newspaper. We used print and Web for their respective strengths. The whole structure of the Internet is conversational. It is a network, which has led to the rise of participative media,” he says.

Speaking about its model of attracting new audiences and how it is preparing for change, Tomasz Jozefacki, head of Internet Division, Agora, Poland, says that half of Agora’s revenues continue to come from newspapers in a very competitive market. Agora’s strategy, he points out, is content creation and distribution, expansion in the fastest growing segments,and taking advantage of the digital opportunity. “The Internet has been the primary tool (for Agora) in reaching new audiences. We are learning how to use it and to leverage it as a distribution platform. The growth is from community and social network platforms,” Jozefacki says.

There was an outstanding panel discussion chaired by Tariq Ansari, managing director, Mid Day Multimedia Ltd. at the concluding session on Day 1 of the two-day CEO-Publishers Conclave. The panelists included K. U. Rao, CEO, Diligent Media Corporation; Ravi Dhariwal, CEO-Publishing, The Times of India Group; and Rajiv Verma, CEO, HT Media Ltd. To a comment from Bhaskar Das, executive president, The Times of India Group, that the post-1990 generation is not interested in newspapers and that more newspapers will ruin the environment at a time when people are environment-conscious, Dhariwal responds by saying that there is still something magical about newspapers, it comes in a package that is attractive. “Although the readership will decline, it will not die down,” he stresses.

Referring to a special edition The Times of India is producing for students – about 500,000 copies – Ravi Dhariwal, CEO-Publishing, The Times of India Group, says that students like to read the paper. The newspaper has to be customised to suit the present generation, he feels. “The alternatives available to the post-1990 generation is much more (than of his generation). Editors realise that they need to draw the younger crowd. The ageing population is a cushion. The newspaper will still remain relevant. We do not, however, need to change the circulation-growth strategy,” he says.

Reader engagement vital

Earlier this week, I was at the IFRA India 2008 Sixteenth Annual Conference at the Marriott Resort Hotel in Goa that formally opened with the CEO-Publishers Conclave, a first for an IFRA India conference. Visitors to the conference were greeted by rain and a steady wind; it is the fag end of the south west monsoon in these parts.

At the foyer leading to Ballroom Saloon 3 where the CEO-Publishers Conclave was held, was a rack exhibiting India’s leading daily newspapers. The numbers of newspapers in India is just growing, very different from the developed world where the sheer survival of the newspaper is in question.

Although digital platforms are gaining importance, there will be no migration from paper to digital, no ‘either-or’, says Reiner Mittelbach in his opening address, adding that although Internet is eating into traditional models, newspapers will survive and that the present is more about “multimedia, multichannel and multiplatform.” That surely would have provided heart to some.

The picture in the newspaper publishing business is not as rosy as it was a few years ago with competition between newspapers hotting up in different markets, says Thomas Jacob, deputy CEO, IFRA. Only newspapers with the right leadership and the best quality management will emerge winners, he is convinced.

The highlight at the inaugural was the speech by Prof Dipak Jain, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. Delivering the keynote address at the CEO-Publishers Conclave, Prof Jain lists the four main global challenges in the coming decade for the newspaper publishing industry as changing customer demographics, search for talent, ‘hyper’ competition, and ‘nano-second’ culture.

“The world is becoming bipolar. For example, while in India, we have 550 million people who are 24 years or younger, the fastest growing segment, in the developed world the majority is 60 years and older. We need to ask what kind of people we need for the industry. Retention is a serious problem that will not disappear. A formal training in journalism and media management is necessary,” he says. Referring to ‘hyper’ competition and to the success of Google, he says that the customer who provides media revenue is important. Value creation is as important as value capture, he adds.

Explaining how the ‘nano-second culture’ has made newspapers irrelevant in terms of breaking news, Prof Jain says: “In the future, the newspaper should become a communication medium. Readers should contribute and be made co-creators of the reading experience. The more we engage readers, the more successful we will be.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Scenes from Gariahat, Calutta!

It is always a pleasure to visit good old Calcutta… I guess people who have been born and brought up in Calcutta and now stay elsewhere share my sentiment.

I was in Kolkata last week… and, in the midst of catching up with family, managed to find time to take a walk in Gariahat, Calcutta's premier shopping hub. I window-shopped and generally soaked in the scene.

These pictures, taken in Gariahat, will tell their own stories – of men, women and children, shopkeepers, customers, students, walkers… each one contributing to its special ethos.

Citizen-j, hyperlocal news, blogs

The world’s most dramatic events in recent times were broken to the world by citizen journalists. When an amateur videographer filmed the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers and millions around the world watched, it was probably a first. The initial, startling images of the tsunami in Indonesia (December 2004) and the London bombings (July 2005) came from amateur photographers. At the Virginia Tech shootout in April 2007, citizen journalists supplied invaluable material to news organisations like the CNN – pictures and video footage of the shootings taken on mobile phones.

Citizen Journalism or ‘user generated content’ till recently was one of the hottest buzzwords in the news business. Questions were raised about whether Citizen Journalism was a threat or an opportunity to professional journalists. Many felt that it would make journalism better because if the professional journalist did something wrong, he or she could be hauled up immediately. However, the issue of credibility associated with user-generated content remains.

Even today, several questions are asked: Is Citizen Journalism influencing the way journalists work? Does it encourage new thinking in the newsroom? Are journalists losing their monopoly as opinion leaders? Will readers take a more active role in the future? Is the rise of Citizen Journalism affecting the editorial process? When people are willing to go to any extent to gain publicity, how do editors check the authenticity of content and pictures? What can a newspaper do when a citizen journalist impersonates a professional journalist? Who is responsible when a citizen journalist injures himself or dies while taking pictures of accidents or terror? Indeed, the traditional view of news is changing rapidly.

Readers here might not be aware that in the developed world people are more focused on local news and the accent nowadays in newspaper and media publishing there is on what is called ‘hyperlocal’ news, an area that constitutes the core of Citizen Journalism. Residents are often keen to report on community events that mainstream newspapers tend to ignore. The Internet, far more pervasive and accessible than the telegraph in the good old days, has enabled citizens without any journalistic background to contribute to newspapers and media.

The Weblog or blog is one of the newest forms of participatory journalism to gain popularity. They have in some ways become agenda setters for traditional media. According to an MSN report, 87 percent of bloggers in India (14 percent of net users) spend up to five hours a week reading or updating their blogs. Blogs help small groups communicate, are easy to set up, operate and maintain. The technology is relatively inexpensive, sometimes even free. This allows just about anyone to become a publisher, creator and distributor of content. Blogs attract readers through word-of Unlike traditional journalists, who have to pass their work through various filters, bloggers don’t have to worry too much about being accurate or fair. They are just interested in getting their opinions across and are not likely to adopt an objective approach.

Interestingly, many journalists are bloggers too. However, blogging has given ordinary people a powerful and inexpensive publishing tool to reach out to the world with their stories and thoughts. People write for their own satisfaction. Even so, bloggers and citizen journalists need a motivator sometimes, like an editor, who can train and inspire them to churn out material week after week. Today’s audience is keen to take on the roles of publisher, broadcaster, editor, content creator and advertiser.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

How they surfaced from the jaws of death

This was a drama in real life… remember Reader’s Digest? V.S. Ramana, a friend, who heads the PR and corporate communication function at L&T-ECC, has sent me an email describing how he and the PR team from Chennai (or was it India) recently escaped with their lives during a visit to Mauritius. I am reproducing here what he has written and except for editing for size, I have let it remain as it is. This came as a shocker when I read it. Here goes:

Nearly 50 PR professionals from India, from various leading public and private sector organisations of India, top media as well as from the advertising sector, arrived by Air Mauritius MK 745 on the 24th August. The event was to mark the celebrations of '50 Years of Public Relations Society of India (PRSI)' - the apex PR body that decided to extend its Golden Jubilee celebrations in the 'Out of the World' Island called Mauritius.

The event had a true auspicious beginning with a kick off by Hon'ble President of Mauritius, and event participation by Minister for Industry, Director Board of Investments, High Commissioner of Mauritius in India, Director, Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority,the acting Director, Govt Info Service, the CEO Air Mauritius - to name few of the stars; and many noted international PR experts. The three-day sessions of the 2nd International PR Festival ended with active participation of the delegates and speakers. It was time then time for members to enjoy the island's unique experience for the rest of the days before their scheduled departure on at day break on 31 August.

Fatema F Kaderbhay of Heldive Ltd [not Hell Dive!] came to offer an exciting 'underwater walk' – “it is so safe even for 7-year-old kids and those who do not even know swimming!” she said. It was also an unbeatable offer, said to be very special for us. A confident lot of 16 agreed to participate. At the defined moment, only 11 people set out for the venture - that could have turned into a 'disastrous adventure'.

A cab took the team, and Raj, the driver, spoke Hindi and actively engaged all the people on the finer aspects of the island. We soon reached Pereybere at the Grand Bay. The lagoon was quiet, serene and emerald blue.... truly inviting!! As we got to capture few shots on our video and still cameras, a ferry came ashore to take us to a 'platform' in the sea where we were supposed to get into the suits and begin the adventure.

Eleven of us boarded the ferry, and with the fat boat-man, Ricardo Jean Mitchel, we were a complete dozen! We did not know the prescribed maximum, but later gathered that it ought to have been just 8 – including the skipper. The surprise was that Fatema did not come along but said that she'd be available for anything if need be.

The boatman had initial trouble, with the motor not starting off in the first go. "Not a good omen?" sounded off one of the members.... and as if to ward off that 'negative effect', I shouted a prayer for all to say - "Jai Bajrang Bali!”. And we certainly needed the blessings of the Lord in the next 15 minutes... "We are now about 3 to 4 metres deep," said the boatman, not very communicative or even excited, just like many other men we had come across the boats in La Plantation where we all stayed.

Soon as we went about two-third the distance, the danger ahead was visible to all of us. “There is water coming in,” alerted Meena. Water started entering from the rear end of the boat, just above the place of the motor. The motor perhaps did not have the adequate power to push us all and it seemed to gasp with the 'over weight?' Meena held that she had pointed out to Ricardo of water coming in some ten minutes before, to which he is said to have retorted, “No problem!” Right now it was indeed A BIG PROBLEM! The boat man shut the engine off - asked us to stay calm and not panic, and whistled and waved to draw attention of near-by boats.

"Guys, do not panic, please stay calm," I yelled and Bharat too was trying to make others stay as calm as possible. Any panic and undue movements would surely topple the boat, even before the water filled up. We did hold ourselves together but not for too long. Water gushed in from the rear of the boat, faster than we had anticipated. The boat turtled to its left and threw us all into the lagoon. We all hit the water. Jayashree, Srinivas, Dr Anil and his wife Anita were swimmers of some sort and the rest who did not know swimming were truly in great dismay and distress.

As I held my breath to prevent seawater entering my mouth and nose, I kicked my hands and limbs to stay afloat above water. The capsized boat was right above me and I held on to it. The boat’s belly was very slippery and my hand was giving away but finally I managed to hold on to the rim of the boat, he right hand holding from the outer side, and the left hand from the inner. I started stretching my legs and kept flapping to stay afloat and took stock of the situation.

Jayashree emerged from the boat's front-end, having been right under the boat and weaved her way soon out. Bharat and Dr Anil emerged on my left. I saw Srinivas who pulled Bhargavi up even as she was being towed away by the waves. Subha and Rajagopalan too were visible but were on the other side of the boat. Meena took help from Srinivas and stayed afloat. The boatman too emerged and showed signs of utter dismay. Apart from his aiding Srinivas to help Bhargavi climb up and lie on to the top of the boat he did nothing to rescue or lend a helping hand.

We all missed Suganthy! "Suganthy...where is she?" I yelled and we all started drawing the attention of the missing member - we had to act fast! 'Something is holding my leg underneath" Dr Anil said. Karl, an Australian came to our rescue - he was God sent. Off to fishing with his nine-year son, he threw a life jacket. Bhargavi and Rajagopal were quickly taken into the Coast Guard boat that came very close to our sunken ferry and threatened to tilt it further, making us lose grip. Suganthy was still not visible!

Karl rescued Subha. "Take on the man in his dark glasses - he does not know swimming!" yelled Jayashree, referring to me. Karl swam towards me, and guided me till the ladder. As I got on, I insisted: "Please find Suganthi!" In seconds, Karl went under the boat and fetched Suganthy, who was floating flat on her belly. The others too held her and soon got her aboard Karl’s boat. "She is breathing" assured Karl. Suganthy was laid flat on the surface while her head hung below the body-level. She frothed from her mouth and nose. A good sign, I sort reassured myself first [I could have been right or wrong]. “Call for the emergency and ambulance”.... yelled someone.

Karl's boat soon headed to the shore... which by then had many anxious onlookers. A bedspread was soon laid... as Karl helped by others put Suganthy on to the floor. She was still breathing loud from her mouth. Karl gave her some quick first aid - one of the first aid emergency acts that he had learnt from a course completed just 10 days before.

She was rolled on to her left, with her left leg stretched and the right folded up. Suganthy threw up vomiting some of the undigested food. She was constantly assured by us that she was fine and that the rest of us too were. We held her hand firmly, giving her all the sensation, the heat, and sought to get her senses alive and ticking. “Open your eyes Suganthy”, and she would respond, “open wide”, she'd do that... “now roll your eyes”... and she quickly reacted to it.

In minutes she was under good care of the emergency ambulance and the medical team that came in. Dr Foundun and the team rushed her to the SSRN Hospital - North - in Pamplemouss. There was water in her lungs and the required medical interventions were given even while on the move. “She will have to be in the ICU tonight and she should be fine,”...assured the doctor. With timely help and best of medical intervention, Suganthy was out of the hospital the third day. But she was advised to undertake travel only after three days for ample precaution. Jayashree stayed back and with approval from my office, I stayed back as well for support.

While Karl and his family were invited to a thanksgiving meet by all the PR men, there is one ‘take home’ message at the end of the event. Life alone is the only valuable thing we all hold when it comes to a challenging situation. Be it in any place on this planet earth! Would be so true even in Mauritius, the 'Out of this World’ country! There is no value really to the belongings or money we lose - video and digital cameras or any such thing that we often state as 'valuables'.

The following day, the Minister Tourism met with us and Karl’s family and assured action would be taken on people who messed with lives and flouted safety norms. It was a good gesture on his part.