The half smart response

Going to the movie house is not my idea of a fun end to a week, but this weekend I wanted to make an exception for Kaminey — the Vishal Bharadwaj signature  is guarantee enough that the film I spend my time and money on won’t prove to be a dud.

As it turned out, I didn’t go — because there is swine flu in Pune, didn’t you know? So instead, I ended up chauffeuring the wife all the way from Chembur to Thakur Mall in Dahisar, because there was some ad about some furniture sale at “unbelievable prices” and the other half wanted to see if she could pick up some nifty bargain [she didn’t — the unbelievable prices were a consequence of unacceptable quality].

On our way back, we stopped at this new mall in Chembur, K-Star, so I could browse for books at the Odyssey outlet there.

Both malls were packed to the rafters. The only free space was around the box office — because the theaters were shut.

I suppose there is some logic underlying the decision to order that theaters stay shut while the malls housing them stay open — but damned if I can figure it out [likely, some bureaucrat must have come to the wholly scientific conclusion that swine flu does not affect shoppers, only those who are stupid enough to sit through interminable Hindi films].

The moment that made my day was watching this youngster in the car park at the Chembur mall: blue jeans, fade haircut, light green T, and a swine flu mask to match. Every so often, he would move the mask to one side to take a drag on his cigarette, then carefully pull the mask back into place. Nice. I so like when educated young people take all the proper precautions.

Thanks to Amit Varma, I discovered this piece by Swaminathan Aiyer. Relevant quote:

In 2001-03, the Registrar General conducted a survey to gauge the main causes of deaths in India. Heart disease came first (19%), followed by respiratory diseases like asthma (9%), diarrhea (8%), respiratory infections like pneumonia (6.2%), tuberculosis (6%), and cancer (5.7%).

Applying these percentages to India’s annual deaths of around 9 million, we find that 1.37 million people die annually of respiratory diseases and infections, 7,20,000 of diarrhea, and 5,40,000 of tuberculosis. These are staggering numbers. They imply that on an average day, 3,753 people die of respiratory diseases and infections, 1,973 of diarrhea, and 1,479 of tuberculosis.

Seen in this light, 20-odd swine flu deaths are almost laughably trivial. I do not laugh, because every death is a tragedy. But i am infinitely sadder for the millions whose plight has been swept out of public view, and is actually being worsened by upper-class panic.

Amit has more, on the twin topics of swine flu and Shah Rukh. And Great Bong has even more, on the last named.


4 thoughts on “The half smart response

  1. LOL @ the story of the youngster in the car park.

    I guess one picks one’s poison based on one’s comfort .. the poison you know vs the poison you don’t 🙂

  2. Prem,

    The points raised by Aiyer (and cited by you) are important and to be kept in perspective. In addition, there are a few other points regarding swine flu that are important enough to warrant mention here. 1. While most of the above (but not all) mentioned diseases are chronic ailments, the current pandemic is of an acute infection; i.e., if someone does not die of this infection in 2-3 weeks time, the chances are that they will return to near normal life; unlike, for example, an asthmatic will become progressively weak, and death is always lurking in the corner – may be 2 years or 10 years. 2. Thankfully, the virus responsible for this outbreak is not as virulent, in comparison with some historical cases. We have been having flu season each year, and this also it will pass off with some minor damage. 3. Lastly, in the spirit of knowledge being like a weapon, when used properly, can be beneficial, spreading of health advisories for the readers of this blog: (a) The infection spreads through contact, aerosols, fomites, etc., i.e., prevent contact with infected individuals. (b) people with flu symptoms close their nose, mouth while coughing, sneezing, use kerchief. (c) Wash hands with soap and water to get rid of the germs, particularly after coughing/sneezing. (d) If there are symptoms of flu (fever, running nose, body ache), do not go to school / work / crowded places.
    Stay well.


    • Thanks Ram. Isn’t it funny, though, that this is precisely the kind of thing the media doesn’t think is worth its time and front page space?

      • Yes, I think there is always a conflict between being prudent and being profitable. Just read this morning that Reader’s Digest is filing for bankruptcy (with all the millions being given away as prize money!).


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