The Water Cooler
  • One (long) night in Gangtok

    Sarikah Atreya

    Gangtok on Monday woke up to a cold and wet morning.

    Scared to death by the 6.9 magnitude quake, most Gangtok residents spent the night outside. In spite of the biting cold and incessant rains. Any open space around the capital became the most sought-after place for shelter. Moms tightly clutching onto their handbags with whatever valuables they could gather before fleeing their homes. Babies wrapped tightly in blankets, elders assisted by family members, young children pacified with chips and cola drinks and men generally shepherding their families throng MG Marg, the heart of the state capital, through the night. Rumours of another major quake hitting the area anytime getting louder than people’s heartbeats.

    Gangtok was slowly closing down for the day after an uneventful Sunday when the massive earthquake hit the town at 6:11 pm – shaking multi-storied RCC buildings like they were made of cardboard, accompanied by the loud chasing noise of crockery falling off the

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  • Earthquake 6.9: Fault lines of Relief and Rescue

    Kishalay Bhattacharjee

    A man sits amid the rubble of a building which was destroyed by Sunday's 6.9 magnitude earthquake at Rangrang village north of the northeastern Indian city of Gangtok September 20, 2011. Air force helicopters flew rescue workers to a remote Himalayan region on Tuesday in search of survivors of a strong earthquake that killed dozens of people in India, Nepal and the Chinese region of Tibet. Most of the casualties were near the epicentre of Sunday's 6.9 magnitude quake that bucked roads and knocked down houses in the sparsely populated India state of Sikkim, popular with trekkers for its Buddhist monasteries and spectacular trekking. REUTERS/Stringer (INDIA - Tags: DISASTER)

    Having been born and brought up in a seismic zone I am familiar with earthquakes.

    Having worked across the Northeast for a little more than a decade in the same area prone not only to conflict but natural disasters, I have done the drill. But I have never had the opportunity to report the aftermath of an earthquake.

    Watching the reportage from a ‘capital distance’ has allowed me a perspective and an insight to the disconnect that geographical distances can affect.

    For someone who has been lamenting the disinterest of media in areas like Sikkim I must admit that the reaction time of the Sikkim coverage and the manner it has sustained is quite significant.


    The Richter scale has certainly shaken the media, bringing home pictures and stories of the disaster on the hour. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to negotiate that highway from Siliguri to Gangtok and then to Mangan. It must have taken hours of patience to overcome the landslips and broken bends

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  • ‘Falsified’ Beauty

    The title's a bit of a misnomer, actually. Beauty queens, by definition, are false in the strictest sense of the word, for the most part. There's not much under that gown, or indeed, under the bikini, that's au naturel, let alone the award-winning answers of noble aspirations of feeding the poor and the hungry.

    So why the big hue and cry about Miss Universe's crown princess of this year? Allegedly, this year's Miss Universe Leila Lopes used falsified documents to gain entry (Gasp! Who woulda thunk?) and win the contest (Double gasp! Sacrilege!) To be precise, she obtained documents that suggested she was a student of a British business school, even though she's never lived outside her home country, Angola, to enable her to participate in the beauty contest.

    Beauty pageants, even those that have garnered a loyal following over decades now find themselves mired in scandals and controversies, thanks to overambitious aspirants who will not let a small thing like their citizenship, risque

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  • Are Personal Affairs ‘Current Affairs’?

    If Omar Abdullah isn't in the news for his tweets on current affairs, he's in the news for his tweets on his, well, current affairs.

    Sorry about that.

    J&K's flamboyant chief minister has had to quell rabid rumours about his personal life via his chosen mode of communication, Twitter, as breathless speculation continues unabated, as is its wont, in the media, given to Page 3-ness, as is its wont, about his remarriage to someone who, well, might not really exist.

    Meteoric rise of stupidity, one would think.

    I guess it's pointless to ask what gives us the right to sit in judgement on the personal lives of public figures. Because, you know, the time-tested argument of 'the moment people choose to be in the public sphere, their personal affairs become issues of national importance' continues to hold sway, sometimes taking precedence over all other issues that continue to plague the nation. Right?

    Speculation and theorising are not new to media houses, honour-bound that they are to

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  • Voices from Japan: Six months on

    This piece should really be called mera something hain Japani? After all, what is that talking point that runs off, just skirting our headline radar in a heavily mediated world? Something that often eavesdrops on our collective cynicism with its quieter can-do-ness. Leaving one with an exasperated wow from the confines of a busy day. Or reminding the journalists that a human interest story often begins with one  human, struggling to be so.

    The September 11 date, with its spate of  quiet and graphic remembrances, converged on another more recent anniversary. 6 months since Japan's March 11 earthquake-tsunami-nuclear situation. While the media megamart chronicled it with a powerful sense of the phenomenal from ground zero (remember  NYT's before and after satellite imagery), I turned my distant empathy from Indian shores to a different sense of the interactive soon enough. Japanese voices that spoke compellingly of their own tribulations through these six months.

    There was a Osakan vegan

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  • Muhammad Ali never left the ring

    September 15 marked 33 years since Ali brought down Leon Spinks to become the first and only boxer to win the lineal world heavyweight championship title three times.

    Before Parkinson's disease quieted Muhammad Ali, he made great copy. He still does, apparently, in retrospect.

    His taunting, his prophesying, his racist jibes, his questionable patriotism, his refusal to kowtow to Americana. He was a photographer's talisman: He made menacing eyes that popped back at the mob of flashbulbs with orchestrated, theatrical malice. His acerbic tongue inflicted damage equal in insult and injury to the blows that his padded fists delivered. He became, effortlessly, the most recognizable sportsperson in America, more than Joe DiMaggio, more than Michael Jordan and, arguably, more than Tiger Woods. Forget America, he is perhaps still the most recognizable sportsperson in the world, representing the glorious sunshine moment of a sport that has now fallen on dim days.

    September 15 marked 33 years since Ali brought down Leon Spinks to become the first and only boxer to win the lineal world heavyweight championship title three times. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr

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