Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Number game

We know how to play with numbers and we are extremely good at it. Our children are pushed into this number game at the age of 4, when most children around the world are still learning to put plastic shapes together. We breathe and walk the numbers and seem to hit a dead end the moment numbers disappear. That is all we seem to know, numbers and nothing else.

The top front page of the newspaper was full of stories of people flocking the movie theaters in huge numbers to watch a movie, defying the protest called by a right wing organization. It talked at length about the security provided by the local government for the theaters playing the movie in the way of adding security personnel from other cities and even cancelling vacation plans of the security personnel. Some politicians have praised the people for defying the protest and have even called it a victory of the good over the evil. The movie fraternity on its part was all thanks, now that the movie has created record in the overseas market. There were also pictures of the movie theaters guarded by the security people and happy faces of the movie goers.

The lower part of the newspaper carried 2 news bits. The first was about a bomb blast where more than 8 people, mostly civilians have died. The literature has the details from the eye witnesses and people who were present in the vicinity when the gory incident took place. It also carries statements of the government officials promising to investigate the unfortunate incident and bring the culprits to book at the earliest. The opposition parties have called it an intelligence failure and have criticized the government and the security machinery. The second news was related to another unfortunate incident where more than 20 policemen have been brutally killed by the naxals. The literature is pretty much same as the blast one. It starts with the first hand description from the eye witnesses and people who were in the vicinity. The government officials have condemned the incident and have promised to investigate and bring the culprits to book at the earliest. The opposition parties on their part have faithfully criticized the government and the security infrastructure.

I don’t want to get into a debate regarding how long it would take before the culprits are actually brought to book; neither do I want to debate on how effective successive governments have been and how effective our security systems are, in preventing such incidents. But what I am unable to stop thinking about is the appalling attitude of our people. Incidents such as these are not new to us. We seem to have become used to reading our fellow countrymen die. We stop to think and talk about such incidents when they happen, [probably over a cup of coffee or while travelling in the bus] criticize the government and the security machinery and get back to our lives. I don’t think this is because we are peace loving and easy going people. We do protest, when the prices of onions or milk goes up by a rupee or when petrol prices are hiked by the government. We sometimes even take law into our own hands; stone buses and burn effigies, because we understand the value of these commodities which are represented in numbers. But we mostly keep quiet when people die because life cannot be given a number. We understand that a movie has to be provided security because there is huge money riding on the movie stars; but we cannot understand the pain a security personnel’s family goes through when his vacation is cancelled, as pain is not a number. A friend and I, had once debated the effectiveness of the TV News, seeing a bit where a man was frantically searching for his lost dog, in a small city on the Canadian border. When I think of it now, I cannot help but laugh at my immaturity for debating about the effectiveness of the TV News, when I could not even understand the importance of the dog in that man’s life.

~Narendra V Joshi

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