How not to deal with menacing elephants

Half past five this morning the first signs appeared on local news channels. Some refused to believe it, some others decided to wait and watch. And some, like me, were still asleep.

By six o’clock it was confirmed: three elephants from a nearby forest were on a mad rampage in the very heart of our city. Two cows had been injured, add to that five people, and then one man dead—all within a couple of hours.

Certainly, the funny part was that—apart from saying some people awoke to find an elephant at their door—nobody knew which of the two neighbouring forests they had come from! And the outrageous part was that until about half past eight—almost three hours later—there was no sign of the authorities doing anything about it.

More often that once has it struck me as amusing that the media is far more punctual in, and I daresay capable of, getting to the news than the authorities are at solving problems.

The situation today, for instance, serves as an example for most of the points I wish to make clear. For starters, there is the delay in responding to the problem. It took them three hours—or, rather, the injury of two cows and five men and the death of one man—to get out of their bed and onto the streets.

And then the people, even those watching the news on their TV, let alone those on the streets near the elephants, knew very well what the next action was: tranquilise the animals.

But the authorities knew full well that it was not priority; what was priority instead was to give audio interviews to the news channels. And one of the leading politicians here even decided to show his grinning face on the cameras.

The interview was typical. The media, themselves being overwhelmed, stuttered and faltered and erred grammatically and asked everybody the same set of questions, none of which—all being factual—could be answered in any way more than one.

Where are the elephants? Answer. What steps do you wish to take? We plan to declare today a holiday to all schools and colleges. What else? Crowd control, divert traffic. And the zoo authorities? We plan to send them.

The pivotal question that was never asked was, ‘Are you actually doing all of this?’ The answer would surely have been, ‘Of course not! We only want to do it.’ In other words they were contemplating.

Indeed they contemplated for close to an hour as to whether they had to declare a holiday for schools today. And when they have such important matters to keep them occupied, trivial issues such as maniac elephants can hardly be expected to bother them.

By eight o’ clock the elephants had traveled as per schedule: across half the city. By eight o’ clock the authorities realised they were running low on tranquiliser supplies. By quarter past eight, all their attention was on one (baby) elephant of about eight months at whom they had shot three darts, all of which had mysteriously awoken the elephant thus serving its purpose (?)

Alas what happened after that I was too frustrated to stay with. Then again, perhaps I was happy with the way things were (mis)handled.

The worst bit, in my opinion, even though unconnected with the elephants themselves, came a few minutes later: the nightmarish reminder that the elections were nearing; the wonderful time when all politicians get down to earth again.

Relief funds, as far as my minute knowledge of them are concerned, were meant for the following circumstances: if a cat was killed in an unexpected natural disaster, if terrorists killed the cat in a crossfire, if a bomb accidentally fell of a plane exploding tragically on the cat. But not if it was curiosity that killed the cat.

However, if the elections are fast approaching, it becomes necessary to look beyond the killed cat itself, at its surviving family who will be voting in the polls soon.

What happened today, if it was not the same, was at least something remarkably similar. The dead man died out of curiosity. He knew full well that an elephant was outside his house, on the street, and when everybody decided it was wise to shut their doors and stay inside, this wonderful being thought it better to satisfy his curiosity (though a curiosity of what is beyond me; perhaps the curiosity of seeing an elephant?) and decided to step out to the street, right splat (literally) in the middle of the elephant’s path. What happened next one can only conjecture.

The idea here is that the government did not ask him to do anything that would result even minutely in this (in fact they asked the people to stay home) and the circumstance was certainly not an unavoidable one. Given all this, I think the need for a compensatory relief fee to the family is pointless.

But then the Chief Minister himself comes to the news on a hazy audio line and promises a whopping five lakh INR (about $11,200) as a relief fee which he will, himself give. While the government can be blamed for letting the elephant in, in the first place; or perhaps even for being unable to control the animals; they cannot be held responsible for a man who sees fit to lay himself in an elephant’s path hoping it will not hurt him any.

Presently, everything seems quiet. The elephants were making their way towards where I live, but then for some reason found it to their liking to detour and are now heading about 45 degrees in some other direction, outside the city. I also wonder how these authorities can control terrorists with ammunition when they cannot contain two elephants safely; especially considering that the elephants do not even have complex instruments to fight back with.

It reminds me of a scene from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon: Lee’s opponent, in a dramatic show of ability, punches an exam board far away; Lee, still looking him square in the eyes, says ‘Boards don’t fight back.’ I think we have a similar situation here, now; the only difference being that we are unable to hit the board in the first place.

And, as I go about my day quite like nothing different has happened, the trio of elephants are still taking their bloody tour of the city.

DSK set up? Who would profit from it anyway?

A 23 strong Grand Jury in New York is examining the evidence against former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn (popularly known as DSK in France) as the man himself spends time in house-arrest under constant watch of police personnel. If they find sufficient cause, they will vouch for a full-scale trial and the United States government has promised a fair trial to the high-profile man who allegedly has quite an indecent history with women around him.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn
Dominique Strauss-Kahn

But, whatever the United States government promises or however the court sees this case, statistics have now shown that 57% of France believes that the DSK issue was fabricated and that the man was set up. And the French have absolutely no conviction in the fair trial that has been promised to DSK. And why? For starters, in France individuals are not publicly transported or photographed in handcuffs. But every single wall in New York now stands adorned with DSK’s picture, in handcuffs.

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This is what Facebook is for!

The social world online, I believe, is divided into three categories: Facebook fanatics (who live half their lives on Facebook,) Facebook users (who know their limits,) and Facebook ignorant (Facebook? What is that?)

I watched The Social Network seven months after it was released (I got my hands on it only in May!) and thought the film was interesting and well-laid. The screenplay was Oscar-worthy but most of the story was made up–except Zuckerberg’s wardrobe which, he said himself, the film had portrayed correctly every single time. But the point in a film is that it has to entertain and The Social Network did its job well.

Who would have expected now, three years after the incidents in the film, that Facebook would become so entertaining to people? Continue reading

Bloggers, reporters, journalists and the fine line in-between

The question as to whether bloggers are journalists is a much-debated and indeed over-blogged one. Try googling the phrase are bloggers journalists and you will quickly find that almost all of the results at the top have the same title and all lead to articles where an extensive examination is carried out on the topic. It makes no difference then, if I did the same. What I want to do instead is, in giving out my opinion, also comment on what I have read so far on the idea of bloggers as journalists.

One reason, perhaps, why the issue is on an all-time high at the moment is because of the Apple Asteroid, a yet-unreleased product which Apple Inc., claims is its trade secret. The big question was thrown to the public openly for the first time recently when three blogs, PowerPage, AppleInsider and ThinkSecret carried articles on the product which was never supposed to have fallen to public eyes. The catch? Can the bloggers take cover under laws protecting journalists and legally keep their sources confidential? Continue reading

To Mr Rajinikanth, from nowhere

Mr Rajinikanth is lying in an Intensive Care Unit bed as I type this. He is, it is needless for me to say, one of the most iconic actors in the Indian Film Industry. His impossible stunts, his funny dialogues bordering on the silly, and his unbelievable visual effects all through a film are, in the pith, not what made him the man he is today.

Anybody, you and I included, can cut a speeding bullet in half or score twelve runs in one ball in a game of cricket–on the silver screen. But what made Rajini (as he is popularly known) the star he is today, and what kept him there more importantly, was his character. Continue reading

Once Upon A Different Time

I had wound up my day tonight when I received an email from ABC via a blogging ring I am a partner with. The American Broadcasting Corporation is coming up with two new dramas, they said; a curious one they have named ‘Once Upon A Time‘ and a new take on the 1970s celebrated series, ‘Charlie’s Angels.’ I was sent an exclusive first look to review and knowing how these dramas can turn out to be, I confess I was quite skeptical about taking up the job. But what Once Upon A Time had in store for me was something I had never come near picturing right (no pun intended!) Continue reading

Somebody just preponed death!

Apparently, the end is nigh for most of us humans. The eBible Fellowship is just one among many claimants (Family Radio being the other major claimant) of the fact that judgement day is May the 21st; and five months later, on October 21st, we shall witness the end of the world.

Now I do not know if this is a race to declare an ‘end of the world’ date, but these fellows seem to believe that the Mayan prediction of December the 21st 2012 is not the end of the world, rather it is October this year! Continue reading