Saturday, January 07, 2012

Where's Part-2 of the story?

News items usually come in pairs. For instance, if there is a story on a terrorist attack, there will be a complementary item which will say, “PM condemns the incident”. A report that “Cyclone Thane threatens the coast of TN” will have an accompanying “Fisherman have been advised not to venture into the sea” report. Stories on “100 people killed in hooch tragedy or 20 people drowned in boat capsize” have as an adjunct a report that “CM announces ex-gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh to the kith and kin of the deceased.

I suspect that these are automatically generated by the computer at newspaper offices without any human intervention whatsoever.

The reader or the listener is conditioned to getting these stories in pairs. You read out the first part of the story and he can complete the second part. And, if by chance, the second part of the story is not reported, there is a sense that something is missing- as was evident from this incident.

A landing on a footbridge in Chennai gave way yesterday, injuring 4 persons. One of them, Yuvaraj, was admitted in a hospital and this is what he had to say when media persons met him later :

“It has been several hours since the incident took place and we have not received any information on compensation or ex gratia until now,” Mr. Yuvaraj said from his hospital bed at 9.30 p.m.

The man could have vented his ire at the poor state of infrastructure and the lack of maintenance, etc. But what was uppermost on his mind was the ex-gratia rightfully due to him and why the second part of the story had not played out as per script. That’s conditioning, for you.

By the way, in this case, the Govt is obliged to compensate the victims. It was caused due to failure of a Govt dept to maintain a public facility in proper order .I am not sure about the hooch or the boat tragedy, though.

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