This Thursday will mark the first anniversary of the unnerving terror attacks on the heart of Mumbai.
Here is a quick refresher of the sequence of events of that fateful evening. Ten terrorists armed to the teeth, simply wafted into the city on a rubber dinghy and scurried across South Mumbai from landmark to landmark. From the Victoria Terminus, Leopard Cafe, Cama and Albless hospitals, before finally setting up a siege at the Oberoi Trident, Nariman House and the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. They fired upon innocent civilians and left a wake of death and destruction where ever they went. The brave men and women of the Mumbai police did their best to stop them, but the force's outdated and inefficient equipment were no match for the sophisticated weapons of the terrorists. The efforts of the police men were largely futile. Although, banking on sheer bravery, courage and their trusty lathi, they did manage to catch one terrorist, Ajmal Kasab alive. The marine commandos were called in. They carried out intensive operations at the three locations simultaneously and after 72 hours fighting, the battle finally ended and once again, Mumbai emerged victorious. The price of victory was high. The city's bravest men, including ATS chief Hamant Karkare and encounter specialist, Vijay Salaskar lay dead.
The attacks were followed by the usual political hoopla and finger pointing. News channels buzzed with pointless debates, and questions went flying. Candle marches and 'human chain' formations were held all over. “We will not forget”, was the mood. One year from the incident, where are we?
The same ministers who laughed off the incident as trivial, and considered it appropriate to quote a cheap film dialogue to describe the situation has been re-elected to his ministerial post. A few jeeps, a handful of guns and a few sandbags were purchased under the pretext of 'Police Modernization '. Almost all of the squad still used the same outdated equipment. Promises from our ministers have remained exactly what they have been for more than six decades of our democracy, just promises. Empty and baseless promises.
The lone surviving terrorist Kasab has still not been convicted. The trial stretches on. To add to the irony, while our government could not care any less about the rights of our own citizen, it speaks of rights of terrorists.
Dynastic, regional and blame-game politics still supersede the safety of our citizen. Our police force still has to make do with third grade equipment. State Reserve forces have been deployed to increase security, but we have no place to house them. Boats have been purchased to patrol the waterways, but we have no fuel to run them. The candle marchers who vowed work towards improvement now are back to chasing EMIs.
So dear fellow citizen, where are we a year from the worst terror strike on our beloved city? Precisely where we were a year ago, two years ago, a decade ago:
Drowning in the dirty swamp of Indian politics. Helpless and weary.
The Night in Pictures: http://bit.ly/70cGwg
Comprehensive report: http://bit.ly/8QMnKF
Video Report: http://bit.ly/4T4L1X
Some of my cartoons and posts from then:
Ye Hai Mumbai Meri Jaan: http://bit.ly/4U9qU4
I was reading an article in the mainstream media that deliberated upon the voter turnout in the Maharashtra assembly elections. I don't like calling them newspapers because all they seem to contain are polarized and colored stories these days. More fiction, less fact and a lots of expensive advertisements, that is mainstream media for you.
Anyway, the article reported that the voter turnout in the 2009 general elections in Mumbai was a measly 41.24%. Similarly dismal sub-fifty for previous elections as well. Unhealthy for democracy, some would say, but that is not what I am driving at. This low figure got me thinking.
Consider this, the Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development quotes the youth population of India to be 41.05%. Taking a ballpark estimate, the youth population of Mumbai must be along the same lines. The Rajiv Gandhi nomenclature also got me thinking, about why everything in India is named after the Gandhi family, but thats another thought for another day.
If every young person in the city simply came out to vote and exercised his Suffrage, against the backdrop of a very low voter turnout, the result of the elections would swing significantly in favor of the opinion of the youth of this city. Thanks to the low turnout, your vote actually holds a lot of weight.
So guys and girls, stop being lazy. Colleges are shut today. So are the malls and theaters. Get out of bed, pick up your driving license, PAN card, Passport, just about any government issued photo-ID. Walk into you designated polling station. Don't fret, the election commission staff are really friendly, and the queues aren't very long. Go in and choose wisely.
Its a painless process, and quite easy at that. By the way, they do not mark you with a horrid black mark on your fingers anymore. The marking ink is a cool royal violet.
Will you go vote today or do you believe its an exercise in futility?
As for me, been there done that:
If you need to look up your name in the electoral rolls, you can:
- Visit Chief Electoral Officer's website: http://bit.ly/3FELZm.
- SMS your Electoral Photo ID Card number (eg. LSH1427178) to: 09423993872/3/6/2.
- Walk into any polling booth and ask at the help-desk there.
Its Saturday morning, and I settle down in front of my desktop with my morning mug of Mocha, and open my Gmail inbox, expecting to find a subscription update from Youtube. Sure enough, its there, but with one minor distortion. It was in Hindi.
Why do these companies decide, that since I am from India, I would be overjoyed at the sight of the devanagari scrawl mutating my subscription update? Now don't get me wrong here. I love my nation, I even speak fluent Hindi, but reading devanagari gets a little difficult, more so on a computer screen.
English is as natural to urban India as it is to the British. Granted, we do not speak it with the same vocalics, we are still nearly native English speakers, at-least this generation is. Some of us even do a brilliant job of donning a fake American accent.
Our education is imparted in the queen's language. All work transacts in English. Well, except for in depraved government offices, where work transacts in bribes. Around us, from newspapers, advertising hoardings, movies, music, television; all the information we are bombarded with, is in English.
This facile adaptation of the language is not necessarily a bad thing. It allows us to be the prime destination for outsourcing. It allows us to settle in every corner of the planet. A testament to the power this dexterous adaptation is the fact that there is a Non Resident Indian, NRI for short, present 180 of the 183 countries in the world.
Now lets reason a bit here. Most computer systems sold in India, are sold with English versions of operating systems. Pirated versions at that, but I am not driving there. Therefore, most people with access to a computer in India, and who know how to use it must be adept in English. Then why on earth does the Google management expect me to jump in joy at being greeted with Hindi, I will never figure out.
Now lets get to the second aspect, regional divide. The number of people from Tamil Nadu, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh etc. pleased with this bit of enthusiastic localization from Google is a purely imaginary number. Even a cretain Mr. Raj wouldn't be too pleased either.
Something similar happened with Microsoft's MSDN a sometime ago. Tempers and angry emails flew and today the language sets to India-English by default. The question remains. Why do these companies simply refuse to understand, that today, we Indians are more English than fish 'n' chips?
So, will Google please keep me out of its campaign of fervent localization? I do not need to type my email in Hindi, and I most definitely don't need my Saturday morning and my subscription updates to be ruined searching desperately for the change language link.
And yeah, I do not even like Youtube India, its filled with perverted videos of scantly clad B-grade models. The first thing I do on Youtube is set my Geo-filter to 'World'.
Here is a screen-shot of the email:
While we are at it lets poke fun at Google's transliteration. Subscription become 'ग्राहकी' which, if my Hindi serves me correct, is more to do with customer than subscriber. If you are like me and are looking for a way to quickly change back to English, click on the very first link, the one that says 'सहायता केंद्र' and follow the English instructions.
What do you get when you connect a country, with one billion people, with lots of free time, to the internet? Human generated spam.
If you have ever visited any major Indian web publisher, chances are you have run into it already. Sify, MSN India, Rediff, IndiaTimes, you name it. Any exposed comment form, potentially becomes a candidate for parasitic unsolicited advertisement.
It's a sure bet in Vegas that any visitor to one of these Indian web portals will be greeted to at-least one such comment:
“Dear Friends, Are you interested to make Rs.20,000 to Rs.1,20,000 A Day ? This is not a get rich quick scheme. This is a legal opportunity to make good money."
I do not wish to imply that this enthusiasm towards making easy money is limited to the Indian subcontinent alone. But the ratio of parasitic advertisement to genuine user feedback is alarmingly high in web sites targeted at audiences in India and her neighbors.
Humans, with lots of free-time, access to the internet and a desire to make easy money, become highly efficient spambots. Bots, capable of defeating most anti-spam measures with biological precision and flooding sites with 'piggy-back' advertisements and referral links, in hope of improving their bank balance.
What's The Harm?
The internet by nature depends and thrives on users and their generated content. If the very content that is to drive these sites turns out to be unsolicited advertorials, the very foundation is shaken. That coupled with the fact that these spam comments considerably subtract from user experience. They serve as a major annoyance to genuine traffic, driving it away faster than you can say Web 2.0. No genuine users, no good content, no advertisement, no dough. It a simple equation really.
Advertisers pay for advertisement on sites because they want to get a message to the site's traffic, who they view as potential customers. Now, if a large percentage of traffic comprises of 'micro-advertisers' themselves, who do not really form 'customer candidates', advertisers would definitely not like to pay for it. Gradually, but surely, advertisers are going to start recognize this 'undesired' traffic factor in Indian sites, if they already haven't, They would reluctant towards advertising on India-centric sites at the same rates they pay internationally.
Thus, while the regular Indian 'comment-to-comment salesman' may seem harmless, comic, and a integral part of the Indian way of life, they damage the prospect of Indian internet and new age businesses.
And lastly it leaves us to wonder, does anyone ever make any money this way?