Seeing me speechless, he continued, “Look at them. Did you see any Japanese woman beating her chest on the front page of any news paper? May be they did beat their chests but it was never shown to the world. But still, that helped to maintain the spirit and it held the nation together in times of crisis. The credit should go to the maturity and understanding that the Japanese media has shown. Can you imagine what would have been the case with Indian media? They thrive on tragedy. Tragedy makes TRPs for them and that is probably the only thing they care about.”
"I think you are going overboard there!”, I retorted, “Have you forgotten the 26/7 deluge in Mumbai and the areas around? Or the Train blasts? The media played an important role in India. Especially Radio Channels who helped people get in touch with and keep track of their loved ones! You cannot single out Indian media for their love of tragedy and TRPs. You should accept that they have their uses and are highly effective too.Take the case of 26/11, were the media not responsible for disbursing information that was so necessary in order to bring a little order to the chaos?”
Sambhaji was ready, “Agreed that they were useful but they did do some damage that was irreparable”
“And how is that, my scholarly friend?”, I asked, sarcasm being one of the essential components of my DNA.
“Do you forget that the media was also responsible for broadcasting each and every detail about the movements of the police, Marcos and the NSG commandos? Do you really think that the terrorists inside a 5 star hotel would and who were the masterminds behind that attack would not have the sense to just switch on any of the TV sets and get all intelligence about the troop movements, served to them on a platter? Moreover, by stationing themselves close to the attack places they endangered their own lives and also made the job of the police difficult! And for this exceptional behavior they were criticized widely by the press agencies world-over!”
Sambhaji continued,"The mature behavior of the media in such a crisis is not the only thing we should learn from Japan, there is a long list of lessons that we must take from them. Just take the example of when floods or any such natural disaster hits India. Have you seen the chaos when food packets are distributed? It is like people will kill for one food packet. However, in Japan people stood in queues, patiently waiting for their turn. No one shouted at anyone nor were there any flaring tempers. Things were organized and orderly because people understood that each one has been affected by the disaster and has lost something or worse someone special.”
“But..”, I tried to cut his flow of words.
He continued unabated, “Not to forget that the people did not loot the shops in such a time. In one shop when the power failed, people just kept the items on the shelves and left the shop. Can you imagine what we Indians would have done? When there were riots in Gujarat, people got down from their Mercedes Benz and looted shops. Greed, that is what we Indian people like. No matter how much we have, most of us are never content.”
“But Sambha, you are generalizing this to the whole of the nation. A handful of people do this. The rest of the country did not do this. How can you consider one such situation and say the whole country is like that?”
“Ok. Fine. I will not generalize. I will tell you many more such examples. In Japan,after the Tsunamis and earthquake struck, the strong cared for the weak. Each one understood that they should use only how much they needed. No hoarding of goods was done. In India, backed by the local gundas and politicians, on a regular basis hoarding is done in ration shops. And our great leaders will not even think twice once they smell the scent of money! And what about those 50 workers who stayed behind in the Fukushima Reactor so that others could be safe outside?"
“Are you saying that we Indians would not have done so?”, I said, “Have you forgotten during the Mumbai deluge how people went out of their way and helped others? How BEST drivers still kept the bus service running so that people could reach home? Or have you, Sambha, forgotten those constables on bandobast duty on 26/11? Those brave souls who with nothing but lathis in their hands and courage in their hearts took on the terrorists who were armed to the teeth? They just shouted ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’ and rushed at the terrorists. Tukaram Omble held the barrel of Kasab’s rifle and pounced on him so that his colleagues could capture him alive. He took bullets so that others may survive. What drove them to do this Sambha? There was no guarantee of any award for this act. He knew he would die still he did it. So say anything but just don’t say that my countrymen will not make sacrifices because there are enough examples to prove that!”
He had touched a nerve somewhere in my brain to cause this outburst and I did not relent in my rebuttal, “ I agree that Japan has so many good things that we all can take lessons from but we Indians are not worthless. The examples that we are talking about are some incidents in the country. You cannot blame the whole nation for that. Agreed that these incidents are of grave nature and must be tackled with. Even my blood boils when I listen to such news about a woman being stripped in public. Sometimes I wish even I could take the law in my own hands and cut their hands off. But as law abiding citizens we cannot do that and have to wait for legal action.”
“And how can you forget times of Kargil,Tsunami and Mumbai Deluge when people were united and went out of the way to help each other? Even people in Japan did that. Anywhere in the world, people would still do that!"
Sambhaji was taken aback, “I should not have said that. I was wrong. However, there are a lot of areas where we can learn from the Japanese and may be vice-versa also. Look at the architecture of Japanese buildings! They know they have many earthquakes throughout the year and hence they have developed their buildings so that the earthquakes won’t cause much damage. Look at us, we get one flood each year in Bihar and Orissa region. This has been going on since times immemorial. But still we do not do anything to prevent that flood from causing wide-scale damage. Rather, we let the floods strike and then look for the cure! Anyway, discussing this won’t make much difference to the current scenario.What we need is action.Come on, lets have a cup of tea and head home. I have to reach office in time!”
We had tea and as Sambhaji went away, I got lost in my own thoughts. The whole negative path that the conversation had taken had depressed me a lot. He was right, talking won’t make the difference. Something had to be done. Discipline would have to be instilled from the childhood. Children must be taught to care for each other and always be selfless in their thoughts. The corruption in the system can be removed only if we teach our children right from the childhood, only if he adults can resist the urge to be corrupt and to make others corrupt. It is a very long process. I wish I could make a change. I did not know how. I felt helpless.
Is there any hope for us Indians then, I thought. Our youngsters are losing touch with their Indian side. They‘d rather ape the western culture. They won’t look out for the good things in the western culture but would rather stick to the bad things. Our politicians have mastered the art of Divide and Rule and would teach it to the British now. Sex crimes against women are on the rise.The Judicial System has become a big joke in itself & it has more loopholes than laws.
As I was thinking and was dejected,I remembered a Ph.D. friend who had gone back to his village near Sangli to educate children, sponsor their education, carry out aforestation and also water harvesting. Nearby,I saw a small school going girl helping a blind man to cross the road. Nearby, a youth was carrying shopping bags for an old lady.I smiled as I saw this.
There is still hope for this Great Nation.
– Pranjal Wagh
04 April 2011
Note: Inspiration for this story/post came from a e-mail I received from my friend, Anup Bokil about ‘10 things we should learn from Japan’ and also from the news about molestation taking place after the India-Pak semifinal match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011
This work by Pranjal A. Wagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License