Of all the reasons cited for people increasingly going to doctors and popping pills, this must indeed be the most original one, offered by no less than Minister for Labour and Minority Welfare Iqbal Ansari. Speaking at a conference of Urdu scholars, Mr. Ansari said that people were falling ill more often because they didn't listen to enough Urdu shairi. People would remain more pleasant and calm if only the mellifluous Urdu syllables fell on the ears more often. This would, naturally, help them keep more fit and healthy, he said. This was simply the last straw for the august gathering of scholars, which was already amused by Mr. Ansari's "not-so-grammatical Urdu syntax" as one member of the audience politely put it. Struggling not to burst into laughter, a woman suggested: "How about opening a shairi ward in the Bowring Hospital?" As the Minister concluded his speech, she was heard asking: "Now, where is the ambulance?"
Reporters sometimes have to sit through some of the most ridiculous press conferences. Call it the "benefits" of being in the profession. Recently, this reporter had to cover a press conference by a small-time pro-Kannada party leader. The event began with a rather long-winded introduction of the leader, much to the chagrin of the reporters. Finally, one with a short fuse asked the leader why the media was called. The leader then disclosed his plan to stage protests in front of the houses of the members of the management of the derecognised schools. "We do not need any police protection. Our party has links with terrorists and even the LTTE," he claimed proudly. He then confided he would make a film and threatened to write the script and finish shooting the same day. Carried away by his own rhetoric, he expounded on what former Deputy Chief Minister Siddaramaiah should do. This was the last straw and several reporters voted with their feet for the exit.
Conventional wisdom has it that politicians and people's representatives are corrupt and have their hands in the public's pockets. There are many witticisms on the subject and here is one more. Recently at a programme where he was the chief guest, poet K.S. Nissar Ahmed added his own take on the subject. He said: "I am honoured that you have called me to cut the ribbon and I have done it with much pleasure. But generally, people who take "cut the tape" are also the ones who "cut the jeb" (empty people's pockets) but I am not one of those." As there were no politicians present, the comment was greeted with peals of laughter.
The ubiquitous bottle
At the inauguration of an international conference that was to deliberate on the importance of environment preservation, H.C. Sharatchandra, chairman of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, was speaking on the judicious use of natural resources. He said that water, a natural resource, had now become a commodity. "Even 10 years ago, no one bought water. These days, people, even in the villages, are buying water and the bottled water industry is contributing to the nation's Gross Domestic Product. I am glad that the organisers have not kept bottled water on the dais." No sooner had he finished the sentence than a young man arrived with a bottle of branded water to be kept on the dais. One of the organising committee members almost pounced on the youth and tried to conceal the evidence. However, the chief guest spotted it and remarked: "Ah, there it is! I was wondering where it had gone."
A big heart
When autorickshaw driver Krishnappa brought his son, who has lost both his eyes to cancer, to the Press Club the other day, he probably did not know that the spontaneous gesture he made would make that much of a difference. The child's plight moved readers from various corners of the State and help poured in. So much so that Krishnappa's mobile phone keeps ringing all the time. "I rarely find enough time to talk to the doctors," he told this reporter. He and his wife Kamala, both residents of Kottigepalya on Magadi Road, wanted the media to stop reporting on their son. "I have received enough help. Is it good to ask for more?" Krishnappa asked. He has realised one thing now: "A pen and paper (newspaper) is very powerful. I did not know this before." Their son, Hemanth, is undergoing treatment in NIMHANS.
Chitra V. Ramani
Govind D. Belgaumkar