Monday, December 22, 2008

What have we learnt....?

What have we learnt…?

Picture this : A minor politician was arriving at Vishakapatnam airport during peak hours last week. He had just been appointed general secretary of a district in Chiranjeevi’s party, Andhra Pradesh. Cars were stuck for nearly half a kilometer from the airport, since the man’s (hired?) fans and supporters had blocked the road entirely. I thought I heard loud explosions close to the car we were in, and naturally got nervous, given what Mumbai has been through less than a month ago. Somehow, the car managed to get to the departure lounge area after a great deal of honking and aggressive driving. By then, the crowd had surged forward and completely blocked the path of passengers going in or coming out of the airport. Slogans were being raised as more and more people rushed towards the gates. I tried to push my way past those mobs, and nearly lost my balance (and bag!). Noticing a few cops standing around watching this mayhem, I asked them why they were not making any attempt to disperse these people and allow passengers into the building. By the way, there were several foreigners waiting to catch their flight to Hyderabad and there on ,to the countries they’d come from. The cops shrugged indifferently and said, “ What to do?? These people are not listening….” By that time, the local politico had arrived and was seen lofted on his followers’ shoulders, waving to the crowd that was showering rose petals on him and raising some more slogans. A lot of us were roughly shoved aside in the mini-stampede that followed. Two more explosions were heard in the adjoining car park. One of the cops grinned, seeing the alarmed expression on my face. “ Crackers, madam, only crackers,” he assured me cheekily. I noticed his colleagues standing around listlessly. There were two or three carbine wielding commandos as well, including a strapping Sikh. I asked him in Hindi (since few locals speak or understand the ‘national’ language in Andhra Pradesh), why he had not swung into action, and how come people were lighting bombs and other dangerous fire crackers so close to the airport – a supposedly high security zone and protected area. He stared at the departing fans clambering into waiting trucks and said, “ Nobody listens to us.” I was stumped, shocked and visibly upset. I asked to meet the airport manager, who offered to get a senior police officer to ‘explain’ the situation to me. “ Please do …” I said, after calming down a little . I could see the foreigners frantically working their cell phones …. perhaps calling relatives to say it wasn’t another terror attack …. just some over- enthusiastic desi political goons celebrating another goon’s appointment. Ten minutes later, a cop arrived and spluttered, “Oh…. if the airport people had phoned earlier and warned us, I would have sent my men. But by the time they called, it was all over. Anyway….. those rascals have all gone now….” I was speechless!
Were the men who lit those firecrackers, identified and arrested? Of course not! Was the local neta held responsible for his inability to control his supporters from virtually storming the airport? You know the answer. I asked the cops if they knew what had happened to Mumbai. They nodded laconically and said, “ Yes, yes…. we saw everything on tv.” Were they not aware that the same thing could happen in Vizag - this was a high security zone…. that anybody could have hurled a grenade into the crowd…. taken the foreigners hostage? They looked at me like I was mad!! “ It does not happen like that, madam….” they smirked. Oh yes , it does. This is exactly how it happens, I all but screamed. Vishakapatnam is an important naval base, one of India’s busiest ports. There is a new international airport coming up soon. And this is the level of preparedness?? Well…. guess what? When I finally got into Mumbai’s airport at its busiest hour, there was no difference. I saw two commandos in full combat gear relaxing on a bench near the baggage console. One was digging his nose with complete concentration. The other was lost in his own thoughts. There was no pretence at any sort of alertness. The so-called security checks were as casual as before. Anybody can (and does) walk in and out of Mumbai airport even today. Photo id’s are not asked for, and the screening procedure remains lax and comical. So…. have we learnt nothing from 26\11??? What’s your reading of the situation? You’ve just got mine….

The Zoo Story in Mumbai is equally hilarious, with our wonderful Mayor, Ms. Raut happily endorsing a pricey foreign junket for corporators to study zoo conditions in various European countries!! Can you believe the absurdity it all? And (boo hoo) a few of those very same corporators cannot make it since they are unable to get their passports cleared because they have criminal records!! The real Mumbai zoo is not the one called Jijamata, but the far more entertaining one within the BMC itself.


hitch writer said...

How Dare you !! Please dont degrade the animals by comparing the BMC Staff with them...

The animals are far superior.

Pritesh Patel said...

I had to meet the customs officer at the international terminal a few days back. I alighted from the Meru cab in front of the departure gate 2B/2C (cant recollect). There were many barricades erected and there were two commandos/secuirty personnel in full combat gear, armed with an impressive looking rifle. I had to climb down to the customs office & was shocked to notice that i could enter the buliding without any screenin/manual checks; this entrance not even 50 mts away from were the security personnle were positioned. Had any anti-social element walked in with explosives, they could have very well planted it without anybody really noticing it.

Ads said...

What a thin line there is between paranoia and genuine apprehension.. Well, one's genuine concern is other's paranoia too! So should we cater the most paranoid? Or draw this sort of an average of the populace and work with it? Is any politician(or a well organised bunch of them a.k.a. party) really in touch with the populace to be able to access this??

sanjuayyar said...

The security at Mumbai Airport is a joke.
Not very long ago, a cop walked up to me and asked for my name and identification when I walked out of the airport.
I just said 'Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar' and got into a waiting cab and left.
My cab driver was amused, but the cop wasn't. He went about doing his 'so called duty'.

Sathyanarayana said...

That's hilarious. I am surpised by this so called 'national' language, having learn it by myself during my Kendriya Vidyalay studies in Bangalore. Every state has it's own regional language and people have every freedom to learn or not learn so called 'national' language Hindhi, ironically also national language of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanisthan,....etc.My guess people of every region either Karntk, Keral, Maharst, Bengal accepted Hindhi for the cause of Gandhian movement and his cause. Now every regional culture is at brink of extinction with frequent bombardment of Hindhi news and movie channels and communications. People have just realised that they are this [] close to been completely loosing their identity and have taken various resorts. My guess -culture is important, so too is tolerance for other cultures and people too in that place. Let's go back to being a cartoonist rather than starting a sena and have tolerance.


*Aham* said...

Shobhaa De, why cant you mind your own business. Has there been a blast or any sakshaat darshan of any terrorist.
Airports are safe. And you write books and blogs. Why do you page 3 celebs bother us when we dig our noses... NAAK MEIN DUM you all are.

Jab Blast hoga tab dekha jaayega... Abhi tak, toh nahi hua na... Kaiko naatak karteho fir... Anyways baad mein, when other security personnel would salvage the situation, you guys will forget teh lapses and remember teh heroes.. So there will be an automatic image makeover. Ekdam Rapchik!

(- thinking like A security personnel)

Milind said...

Actually, the power that the security personnel have is minimal.

On the other hand, the ministers and politicians do what they like and the hapless security guards have to cooperate.

We can learn lessons only if we are educated enough. If you see the level of education of the politicians, you will get the answer.

Anonymous said...

Good job... you are a true citizen. I feel ashamed of myself and so should all of the people above me who continue to cringe and cry about things out of their control so that they wouldnt have to do a thing. The reason we bash politicians is because it is very convenient for us to do from our sofas. Why dont we bash the cleanliness around our own homes? Coz we know that is really hard to do.

Guys wake up. This is what I am saying all these while and nobody is prepared to accept or admit it. Its us citizens who are at great faults to you know... I agree the public is innocent, all we want is peace, prosperity and all that bla bla bla... but when it comes to letting go of our prejudices and lackadaisicallity, we dont want to budge an inch. This should be the real citizens movement, we should examine our priorities before pointing fingers at everyone else.

- Anonymous

Angel's Flight said...


May I point out...that Hindi is NOT - THE ONLY national Language. In fact there are a total of 13 national languages that are written into the Indian constitution.

Don't get me wrong, in fact from the time of before Independence my family has been involved in Hindi Prachar and even today is.

I have always heard ignorant North Indians demean South Indians saying 'you dont even speak the national language'......but its totally untrue. Infact most south Indians DO speak a National fact they speak more than one. The exclusion of Hindi does not mean that one is unpatriotic or disconnected from the nation itself.

Infact going by the South Indian standards of Languages, maybe north India needs to pick up a few more NATIONAL languages.

Coming back to my point, I would expect someone like you, who has traveled nationally, and considers herself an educated and informed member of society, to know that 'HINDI' is not a mandatory language to be known. And if the guards do not speak Hindi it certainly does not warrant you putting it on your BLOG (and supposedly in the newspaper column) as a way of mocking them.

ek-ladki-anjaani-si said...

Dekha De? Yaha be fir wohi ladayi. Hindi yes, Hindi NO! When we don't fight about religion, tis' region, then language, then sub-sects of each religion!

To be noted: I see why you wrote the blog, not to instigate the hindi issue again, but to point out the lapse in the attitudes already.

And, for the record, this is exactly why I fear to come visit India! Especially NOW! Especially when you write this about Mumbai airport! How am I supposed to meet you and *Aham now?

mesoliloquy said...

We never learn. We never will.

mangesh said...

Dear Shobha,
This happens everywhere, you have politicians. Last week, there was thunderous welcome with crackers and lots of sweets in Parel depsite the recent horrible killings of 200 persons by terrorists. Why? One petty local Sena man is elected on some BMC post of APMC work.
Mangesh nabar

Arjun said...

well... you started a bigger debate on HINDI being the national language than the lax and indifferent attitude of the security personnel..
My 4 annas worth - our immune systems have become really really strong and IMMUNE... 26/11 is already history to most... at least those in power!
Where do we go from here... i dunnno!! But if given a chance.... it

Sam said...

You take a mortal man and put him in control, watch him become a god.. Watch people's heads a 'roll.. Just like the Pied Piper who led the rats through the streets, we dance like marionettes swaying to the symphony of destruction...

A song by a band Megadeth. Feels it was written for us and our Godforsaken politicians..

KSH said...

Very apt title, Shobhaa, "what have we learnt?"

Close to the middle of this year, when the TOI launched the "Teach India Project", the young academic in me took issue with their subtitle which read, "Let's learn to teach". I had emailed them suggesting they should consider changing that to "let's teach to learn". The message being lets put emphasis on learning and consider teaching as yet another form of life-long learning.

Alas! Neither did TOI get back nor did the Project representative. And "learning" remained a question.

Shahrukh in a recent interview and in a different context had said, "hum (Indians) alag hi mitti ke bane hain", and I say yes, this has sadly also been the mantra of our garlanded politicians, nose-digging security personnel, larger-than-life film-actors, VHP one word RASCALS.

What have the large majority of us NOT yet learnt - ACCOUNTABILITY.

harpreet said...

Shobha ji in this country everyhthing is RAM bharose!! u tlak of Vizag anyone can plant a bomb any where in this country and i am ready to place a bet on this.
Tomorow complete one month of Mumbai attacks I am very sure u know the people who had organized the march and gahering last month please request them for a second leg od revolution otherwise u can see this dying down again!!
As for these impotent men(politicians) they had promised no commotion in parliment and look what has been happening for last 2/3 days.

Anonymous said...

kuch bhi mat bol saali

*Aham* said...

and can you believe it! I read in today's HT, Bal Thackray calls people participating in candle light vigils "NAALAYAK". So whats LAYAK... breaking a few windows,beating up a few lawyers... blackeing the face of a few people.. Is this what we define as legitimate and sane.

Further he adds that he wants hindus to produce terrorists.

How could someone getaway by making such a statement, this is much more damaging than what an antulay uttered.

But no mai-ka-laal would dare speak against the thakrays... everyone is scared of goondaism in the name of politics,

(O! so there would be a few stones pelted on my home too for speaking up... or for that matter the Opposition could pelt some too, so that i would feel that it is the sena)

I want to remind mr. thackray that we live in a democracy and lets not misuse it to play paty politics and project oneself as a firebrand speaker.

I want to ask every one who passes a doctrine on peoples efforts... so easily...

Why belittle the efforts of anyone? is this a competition of sorts...?

every organisation for teh cause is an instrument of change, every effort passive, active or angry is better than nothing at all. It sends in good vibes and positive energies...

india is not deprived of naysayers! why add to it? lets STOP being judgemental about peoples efforts. You dont believe in Candle marches. Dont join.

want to request the people who lighht candles to join you in your way of protest? speak to them, tell them about your big idea. I bet, its a much better way to communicate your views than rubbishing their ways...

Tell them, this is my way, would like to join me... rather than tellling them that they are useless.


jishn said...

Hi Shobha ,
i have been in Vishakhapatnam till last year,the city is full of this Chiranjeevi fan frenzy fellows,and mostly uneducated ,schooldroputs and undergraduates,who all lend themselves to be mischevious and Chalta Hai behaviour is more defined,thoug the city resides the top Navy commados and Naval military and Industrialists ,there are other kind of people especially leaders and politicians,just feel the place is their Jagir or house garden that they can do anything.Most of the rainyseason you would have the airport sunk for 2 months and more ,though crores are stuffed for upgrading the airport sinks and fishermen could catch fish .Even the police are slaves for the leaders and politicians and they cant even use their Latthis to control rascals and hooligans.though Vishakha patnam is not a fullfledged city ,its a twincity one is industrial port city the other is a city of irresponsible people.

Maddy said...

“ What to do?? These people are not listening….” “ Nobody listens to us.” Lesson 1 We have and will have cops who says this again

“ Crackers, madam, only crackers,”!!! Lesson No 2 We have to be happy that they checked by the sound of it , it is only crackers and not bomb ( until it explode)

if the airport people had phoned earlier and warned us, I would have sent my men. But by the time they called, it was all over. Anyway….. those rascals have all gone now….” Lesson 3: It will be ALL OVER again and again

“ It does not happen like that, madam….” they smirked. Lesson 4: Previous blasts in Hyderabad is JUST another incident

Slogans were being raised as more and more people rushed towards the gates. Lesson 5 : More and more such stupid leaders will come to politics. And your voice will be silenced with those slogans

get2bala said...

I think there should be consensus on banning fire-crackers with big sound especially in the wake of the terror strikes. Anyway, the firecrackers have hurt many kids, created noise levels which are unbearable , created discomfort for our senior citizens.

I think we as citizens should take the lead and do away the things which do not make any sense ..the least we can do to fight terror, corruption

Ramesh Patel said...

Further to my comments already made I would like to add that when Naqvi made his comments on 'Lali & Lipstickwalis', I thought he was a fool, but your write up has made me think whether I was very wrong about him.

alien said...

Shobhaa, I thought you were well-read, but anyways, here's some education: India does not have a 'national' language. Don't you know that? Hindi is *only* an official language, like 22 other languages.


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