If you ever want to know what the outside world thinks of India, read the news from another country. It was a privilege of a select handful of people even a few years ago, but now we do not have to buy anything to read foreign media. Well you can go to any of the popular sites and read them. But remember to try the original source, not the Indian version. (Here is a tip for those who like me are still not well informed: yahoo.com instead of in.yahoo.com or Google News instead of Google India.) Coming to think of it, it would not make much of a difference. Those are mostly for the purists among us.
Be patient while searching for Indian news. Most of the time there is none. But when there is one, it is always interesting to observe the kind of news that gets reported. Natural disasters, or for that matter any disaster, tops the list: 2500 dies in monsoon flood; drought kills more than hundred villagers through out Northern India; another train accident in central India. They say bad news travels fast, but it seems in the era of Internet bad news is a frequent flyer. News about spread of bird flu and AIDS get the business lounge. Of course, anything to do with a bomb always upgraded to first class. At least post 9/11. The second on the list is bizarre news: Indian man has not washed his hair for two decades; traffic blocked by sitting cows in capital Delhi; Indian engineers claim they have found way to run cars from water. Have you seen the coverage the dead Maharishi is getting for the past few days? The next on the list is the news of cricket. Well, I guess this I have to blame on our Indian habit. In the resent years Indian stoke market is also getting some coverage. Well, mostly when it is down, not a rare event. That is a good thing for getting coverage, but not sure otherwise.
So if I have to put the image of India from these media, it would look something like this: an accident prone country inhabited by weird people with strange habits who play cricket and lose money in stock market. I know in some countries – for example Britain, United States, and most of the European countries, the general perception includes the software engineer part too. It seems the crazy land of mystics and madmen miraculously produces a string of software engineers. I have heard that the normal question an Indian abroad gets from a friendly and inquisitive native is not “what do you do for living?” but “Are you a software engineer?” So I guess I have to stick the ‘we have software engineer too’ sticker somewhere on the image. But I digress.
Do Indian media do any better job? You tell me. Let’s look at the news from Indian media today. Well there is the news about Sanjoy Dutt. Why is he on the news you ask. It must be his new movie. No? Then it must be about the illegal weapon thingy. I am wrong again? Okay let me read and tell you. He is getting married! Marriage of movie star must be a rare event in India. Really?
There is news about Reliance. Something about some drop in stock. Well, I am not too good with anything but live stock. If there is news about how to raise chicken or goats, do not hesitate to wake me up. Until them leave me alone. Things like bird flue worry me; they are the ones that affect my stock.
And then there is the news about the kidney kingpin Dr. Amit Kumar. Forget about the news, the things that gets under my skin is this: Dr. Amit Kumar! In a society that is not exactly the paragon of civility or etiquette is it not strange that the news media will still use the Dr. for a kidney thief? Are we that enamored with lucrative profession? To constantly remind everyone that your son-in-law is a doctor is one thing; to insist on calling a kidney kingpin Dr. crosses the line.
Now that is out of my system, let me get to the news. He was based in Gurgaon. I do not have to go there, but I guess it has to be a remote rural place far from the watchful eyes of the law enforcement. I think it can never happen in any of the major cities, let alone in our national capital. Would you think?
Kidney thieves are not new. I used to regularly hear about it when I was a kid. My mother would warn me about the bad guys who take little boys, remove their kidneys, and force them to beg on the street. Do not ask me the connection between removal of kidneys and begging on the street. I was too scared to analyze. And even if I asked her she would respond with, “Because I said so.” I could never argue with that.
But that was long ago, a time when we were still in dark ages, long before the new resurgence of powerful India. In this time and age with cell phones and shopping mall how can this happen? So I think it must be a small operation with say one or two unverified cases – nothing involving 500 victims and 5 crores of rupees. It cannot be. He fled to the peaceful land of Nepal. How? What happened to mighty power house India? Remember the times when oppressed people from other places like Tibet came to India for protection. How proud I was then. Now criminals take shelter in Nepal. What a bargain for our neighbors.
He got extradited, and now in the custody of CBI. It seems there are slight problem. As one report suggests, it is a can of worms – thank god, it is not a Pandora’s Box. Why? There are plenty of big shots involved: from doctors, to politicians. What a surprise. But I want to stop here before I lose it.
The question that lingers in my mind is not so much how can it happen with all the progress we made, but will anything change. My gut feel is that not much. I am putting my hands down and protecting my gut. Despite all the rich people with cell phones in the shopping malls, I still do not want to beg in the streets of India.