Wednesday, November 10, 2010


If you thought this was about "Maayajal", the one stop entertainment destination in Chennai, you got it wrong. ( I should be dumb to think that everyone knows about Mayajal in Chennai, including non-Chennaites.)

This is about the Maaya cast by the TV channels about the psychlone "Jal". Yes, this cyclone cast a spell like no other on the psyche of the people. Nobody wanted to move ot of their houses.
Imagine what would have been the coverage they would have had given if there was a Tsunami brewing up. 'Jal - Em Maaya Chesaave' (translates to 'You weaved magic' in English, 'Kya Kamaal Kiya' in Hindi). We should seriously think about adding captions to cyclone names too.

I am still not sure as to who I should blame for the amount of negative propaganda that was given to this cyclone. Did the meteorology department guys get it all wrong or was it an order from the government to the news channels to create as much panic as possible or was it
just that the media went overboard as always?

It was a great job by the government to evacuate as many vulnerable people as possible to safer areas. The sea levels had risen and it was only wise to move people to higher grounds. At the same time, giving false reports that the sea had eaten into the land by 100 feet or more
was plain ridiculous. They would have a villager stand in front of the camera and ask him to admit the same. Why wouldn't he do it? He would want the world to know his plight. Afterall, whether the sea advanced by 30 feet or 100 feet, he was the one who was affected. And
these guys were busy 'making' news.

"Winds at 120-140 km/hour. Rain up to 25 cm. How worse can this get? Lets have a look at the history of the biggest cyclones in AP so far.
November is the month of cyclones. " - These were the headlines that were dished up.

The most shocking part was the complete lack of information on what routes were functioning and what were not? In this day, in this age, it is just not enough to say that a canal was breached or that a river was overflowing its banks. The highway numbers, the places between
which the roads/railways are pliable/non-pliable, alternative routes, safe zones- this is the kind of information we expect. Moreover, it is the job of the government to furnish this information to the media houses and have this information scrolled or displayed regularly with
frequent updates. We need to create hope not panic. The government should also take to task those media houses which indulge in fear mongering, especially during crises and disasters.

I had to undertake a bus journey from Vizag to Chennai. According to all possible reports, I was heading right into the center of the cyclone when it was supposed to cross the coast between Ongole and Chennai. I called up the bus operator quite a few times to make sure if
there was any change in the bus schedule. Every time I called him, he replied in the negative. I understood why when I reached Chennai in the usual 13 hours from Vizag. The roads were wet, but there wasn't the kind of downpour and havoc that was predicted by everyone. More
importantly, the bus operator had the first hand information of how the highway was doing. They don't tell you this in the news channels.

The bus operator was surprised to see that there were empty seats in a bus to Chennai, that too after the Diwali weekend. He spent about 15-20 minutes cursing all the news channels for the kind of hype they created for a cyclone. People canceled their tickets because they were
misinformed, not because there was any apparent danger. And, I guess the bus driver really wanted to prove the media wrong. He covered the 400km odd stretch from Vijayawada to Chennai in less than 6 hours. This never happened in any of the umpteen number of times I traveled from Vizag to Chennai.