Grandma's Tales

December 27, 2006

Media hype at its worst! Or best? Mumbai had no water, so?

Filed under: Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 11:12 pm

Of all the disasters that Mumbai has faced in recent years, the one-day water supply shut off must have been the worst. At least that’s what you would have thought going by media coverage of the “story”.

May be, living in traditionally water-starved Chennai makes me feel disgusted at this overkill. For years, many parts of Chennai have been getting water only once in two days. You know what that means? One day you have supply, the next day you don’t. The third day the taps gush out the liquid, the fourth day they clam up. Sure, I’m over-reacting to all the attention another metropolis in the country gets over lack of water for a day. Just for one measly day, 24 hours!

Why is this piece of news so important that the news channels need to give you tap by dry tap, kitchen by all-vessels-filled kitchen running commentary?

The no-water blitz started on Tuesday. Understandable. The spirited, business-savvy, never-say-die Mumbaikars had to be informed that their water pipelines would go dry the following day. Ok, a couple more times of this warning during news (is this national news?) was fine. We didn’t want Mumbaikars to get up on Wednesday, turn on the tap and die of shock. No, no, we love our brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts in Mumbai. But the news should have stopped with the advisory. STORE WATER OR TAKE A 24-HOUR TIME OUT. A routine announcement.

What you got in the next 24 hours was a deluge. Breaking News – “No water tomorrow” every half hour was followed by “No water today” on Wednesday morning. That was the time the channels got into a contest. Who will have more water on the newscasts? This was truly a water war. Of Niagaran proportions.

The headlines went screaming. “Mumbai goes dry” (ha, ha!)! “Waterless Mumbai!” “No water for 24 hours!” “A day without water!” Then the reporting crew took over, camera in tow. The mike went looking for the suffering sea of minus-water Mumbaikars.
[1] Do you know there won’t be water? Do you? You? You? At one point I thought they were going to ask every denizen of this great city.
[2] Are you storing water? Sad, no one said, “No, I’m not storing water. What do you think? I’m taking a day off from life.” Then the camera and crew went around inspecting kitchens and bathrooms. Yes, people DID store water. Amazing! How well-prepared this city is for any calamity! They filled up even their washing machines! (The camera actually peeped into the machine.) Talk about disaster management!
[3] Then came the post-crisis pictures. “The city is coping up!” crooned the reporter ungrammatically. She looked full of wonder and admiration for the brave people. “They have managed the water crisis!”
[4] The excess didn’t stop there. There had to be another round of interviews. “HOW did you cope?” Even as I began to shake my head, a kid piped in, “I didn’t brush my teeth.” Another said, “No bath today, jolly!”
[5] Were the adults able to survive the catastrophe? “I finished cooking, washing and cleaning last evening,” said a matronly woman. “My family will not bathe this morning. No water for the plants. Everyone has been told to use less water for everything today.” (Yeah, on the other 364 days you could pour water down the street!)
[6] The filmi crowd perhaps didn’t want to expose their unwashed bodies to the camera. But news channels can always depend on filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt for a “dry” quote. You know he has a quirky opinion on every topic under the sun and beyond, but this topped it all. “No cooking today. We’ll order sandwiches and pizzas.” I guess the guys who made them saved water by not washing the veggies.
[7] Reluctant to let go, The news crews trained their guns on the taps, yes, taps! There were old ones (probably produced only air) and new ones, in the streets and in yards. Then a brainwave! The OB van rolled down to dhobhi ghat. “No problem,” said the washers, without looking up. “We always have a day’s supply of water in our tanks.” Tse, tse, no sob story there.
[8] All day, news segments flashed the “latest situation”. Did anyone fall ill due to dehydration? Was anyone taken to emergency? Did anyone commit suicide protesting lack of water supply? Did the sensex come crashing down? Aw, man, no.
[9] But what is this? Something wrong here! Camera, camera! A couple of water tankers making hay while the sun shines over dry Mumbai! (An absolute, un-heard-of horror story for the rest of the country!)
[9] Then the final straw. The handicam panned the face of the wife of the corporation commissioner. “Will there be water in your house tomorrow, ma’am?” The lady Mona Lisa-ed a smile. “Yes, He has promised me (he better keep it!). Not only for me, but for entire Mumbai.” Phew, all clear. Curfew lifted. The danger is past. Mumbai can now drink, gargle and spit. They’ve come out smelly but unscathed!

Significantly, the camera had no time for a hospital survey. But all those shots of every single spare-able dish filled with water made something clear. Either Mumbaikars are water-obsessed or they simply did not believe the corporation would restore the water supply.



  1. whats wrong with the sentence, “The city is coping up.”? i understand that there is a grammatical error but i am not able to specifically correct the sentence.can you help me do it?
    and also, i am doubtfull about the usage of “in”,”on” and “at” in sentences like:
    1.travelling by/ on train
    2.i went on/by foot
    3.i lived in/at chennai(ihave heard people say “at”!!)
    4.the staff room is in/at the first floor
    5.walking in/ on the corridor

    specifically, sentences in which making a choice between “in” and “at” becomes a problem for which, i am not able to think of more examples.i hope you understand what i am trying to ask you for.

    such routine statements as these are ones which are very frequently wrongly used.can i request you to help me out with more examples??
    Thank you.

    Comment by anjana — May 1, 2007 @ 10:40 pm | Reply

  2. Hi anjana, here we go. The English language works on the redundancy principle. You are expected to use only those words that are necessary to convey your intent. “Brevity is the soul of wit”! Using a word that doesn’t add to the meaning is considered poor writing. The word “up” in “coping up” belongs to this category. It is redundant because “coping” means “managing”. You won’t say “managing up” will you? This is a mistake in usage, not grammar.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 3, 2007 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

  3. Hi anjana, your other doubts. It is “travelling on a train” probably because the original trains were open at the top, till someone said it was a dumb idea in a country (England) where it rains in summer :-).
    I went “on foot” to avoid confusion in the meaning of “by” (see my post on “by”).
    “in Chennai” of course.
    Neither. It is “on the first floor”. This is to indicate it is above.
    Just how do you walk in the corridor? It is “down the corridor”.

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — May 3, 2007 @ 9:37 pm | Reply

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