Friday, July 29, 2005

The decline and fall of the Times of India 

There was a time in the dim and distant past when the Times of India used to be an excellent paper. Of course, most of the younger generation would find that hard to believe given that all they've seen is rubbish/tripe/bile pretending to be a newspaper. How this newspaper continues to sell as much as it does will always remain a mystery to me, unless it's used mainly to wrap peanuts or some such. But, I digress. You would expect the TOI to behave a little bit more like a newspaper given everything Bombay has been through in the past few days. No such luck. As Uma of Indian Writing points out, TOI had an entirely different angle to its coverage of the Bombay floods. [ed: The italicized portion is directly from the TOI while the rest is Uma's take]
It was with a stab of disbelief that some seven lakh families woke up on Wednesday morning to find that their daily tonic had not arrived....On July 27, the city woke up without the world's No 1 headlines to tell you that Mumbai was marooned. No top-angled photographs of umbrellas shivering in the rain, no Paolo Coelho stories of how despite it all Mumbai has a heart which is waterproof....There was much grumpiness all around at having been stood up by the Old Lady of Boribunder. Yes the trains were down, and there was no bread or power or water, but et tu OLB? "Only when I didn't get the Times of India on Wednesday morning did I really realise the full fury of the rains," said Ajit Wadekar, residing at Sportsfield Worli Seaface."I've been reading it since I was born, so to say, and I really missed it yesterday," said the former Indian cricket captain.
The article goes on to assure us that the Old Lady "didn't give up without a fight" - that "close to 1.75 lakh copies" were printed at Kandivli, but the 220-odd vehicles which drop off the copies at the vendor depots were incapacitated by the rains. So people like Manisha Koirala, who like their lemon chai with their ToI, didn't get it. We are told that Sachin Tendulkar, however, got his copy. How reassuring to know that.

It isn't often that I get to post something as phenomenally comment-worthy as this, but I am speechless right now. Does this paper have half a clue about what's happened in the city? It's own other pages are filled with reports about people dying as they waited inside their cars; people dying in landslides; people taking shelter in other people's 10x10 tenements; over a thousand buffaloes and thousands of shackled goats being left behind to die. People have been calling and smsing and emailing each other frantically for news of their loved ones. People have spent the night on the roofs of buses and on the streets.

And yet the ToI devotes half a page to sound-bytes about people who didn't realise what was happening until they didn't get their ToI with their morning cuppa. Yeah, right.

Dilip D'Souza adds in comments:
I certainly wasn't able to tell that the city was marooned by simply looking out my window. I needed the Times to come by the next day to find out. Besides, I was very glad to be informed that Sachin T got his copy of the paper. I had spent all day worrying about this, wondering how he would find out that the city was marooned.

Exactly. Rashmi Bansal, though, suggests that the dazzling display of idiocy was not restricted to just the TOI. According to her, Airtel did splendidly well too.
SMS from Airtel: Stuck in the rain? (half of Bombay is , today!). Dial 501 for information on the nearest coffee shop.

As Rashmi herself put it, "would it kill them to provide some useful info instead. Like which train lines are down, when the water is expected to recede etc etc etc?"