Sunday, September 02, 2012

Of Sundays, op-ed pieces and morning walks...




Sundays are when you also try and find time to read the newspapers. Often I wonder why newspapers can’t do enough to make some of the op-ed pieces interesting. Sample, for example, this motley collection (on the page titled Thought) from today’s Sunday Express Magazine. The Institution of CAG Deserves More Respect says Upendra Nath Sharma, a former professor of sociology, in a longish piece whose lead doesn’t wake up the reader one bit (don’t we all know that the CAG Report has put the government in the dock?). Manmohan’s Three Monkeys: Fumble, Mumble, Grumble writes another professor, Pushpesh Pant. So, what’s new? Don’t we all know that too? Do we need to read a 600-word piece to know more? T.S.R. Subramanian writing about Moily’s Excellent Ministry and the Blacking Out of Indian Growth has really nothing special to offer readers – we all know about “bankruptcy in governance over six decades”, don’t we? And then, there’s the 'evergreen' G. Parthasarathy talking about Why Af-Pak Border is of Vital Interest to India. Oh come on! Who doesn’t know this as well and, not surprisingly, there’s not one line in that whole piece that says something new. Don’t columnists have a retirement age? How do some of them manage to remain on the op-ed pages for years? Surely, we don't have a dearth of good, thought-provoking writers. May be that is worth a story…

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We had a good attendance at the Press Institute of India during the three days of talks. Thanks mainly to students of the Asian College of Journalism who not only made it in fairly large numbers but also sat through the talks and came up with interesting questions. There is always so much scope to learn for the serious minded. But many of these talks are similar; I have attended so many over the years. I think we need younger blood to come forward and speak out on matters that concern them. And having talks/presentations in Tamil (after all this is Tamil Nadu) in as many places as possible is important if the message about caring for or taking pride in a city is to be disseminated. Talks in five-star hotels and clubs or similar places, mostly by the same people saying the same things, is really not going to make much of a difference. Because it is the same people who attend each of these meetings year after year. Which means many, many more people must be roped in to act as catalysts/coordinators.

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Have finally decided to restart my early morning walks. It’s been the odd evening walk in recent days but after yesterday’s experience the “early to bed and early to rise” lullaby keeps playing in my ears. To motivate me, there’s a new pair of Reebok shoes and I’m now intent on putting it through the paces.

Yesterday, the traffic was just too much… so much that I had to jump over imaginary pavements and squeeze my body through small gaps and between humans and animals. Reason: a political party meeting round the corner and police having placed barricades to divert vehicles, while trying to shoo away many who cared a damn. People who receive the least respect, I learned the hard way yesterday, were those who walked on our great roads. Drivers of vehicles, all and sundry, would plough through you if given a chance. It’s like each person hates the other – the cyclist the pavement walker, the motorcyclist the car driver, the autorickshaw driver the MTC bus driver…  and you can play this any which way you like… but the common denominator is hatred. Road rage… and it may be only a matter of time before knives and clubs and guns are used freely to decide right of way. God help!

And to think that a few of us were ‘celebrating’ the founding of the city called Madras or Chennai… acting as catalysts or coordinators during Madras Week… sometimes I wonder what really is left to like about the city… My mother keeps talking about how wonderful the place once was, etc etc… My mother can’t believe that a city can take so much traffic… I tell her if there was discipline, things would have been different. Look at Bombay… still years ahead in some of these things… But when will we ever learn! Anyway, small mercies… the devils don’t wake up too early in the morning, so the fainthearted like me may perhaps just find some time to take a quick walk and back.






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