Sunday, September 11, 2005

Thoughts From India

Today as we rode the "luxury deluxe" bus from Jaisalmer to Bikaner, I had some thoughts. In India, a luxury deluxe bus is one that has two seats on one side of the aisle, and two seats on the other side. There is some padding to protect your butt from the never-ending bouncing and shuddering. At some point in time, the luxury seats were able to recline. The windows open (or don't) to let in desert air in the heat of the day.

Today's deluxe bus started off with a normal amount of people inside. Thirty-five or so people for the thirty-five or so seats. The luxury deluxe buses never turn anyone down who wants a ride so the buses become increasingly full as the journey progresses. Tody's trip, after stopping at a massive festival to pick up more passengers, I'd guess we had 100+ people inside the bus and another 30+ on the roof. No one was complaining. We were just one of hundreds of buses, camel carts, tractor trailers, and heavy goods trucks loaded with human cargo today. And festival aside, it's a normal day.

Last week one of the many heartbreaking images on the television coverage of Katrina was of a solitary yellow school bus parked outside the Superdome. The image the camera transmitted was of the bus surrounded by hundreds of people waiting for rescue. As the camera pulled back, the hundreds became dwarfed by the thousands, all hoping to get on one school bus.

When, a couple of days later, the luxury air-conditioned buses finally arrived, I remember news reports saying it would take quite a while to evacuate 20,000 people considering each bus could only hold 35 people at a time.

Not so in India. The buses will take as many people who can cram inside. There's no complaining. The one thought is, "Just get us all where we need to go!"

This afternoon Chris and I watched a BBC special, The Reporters, about this week's coverage of Katrina. Since it's the BBC, we saw a lot of dead bodies. There were bodies floating in the water. There were bodies left on the pavement. There was a body in a house. Five children had flagged down the news crew. The BBC journalists were the only people the family had seen in the week after the flooding began. Their mother needed an inhaler to breathe. She didn't have one... so the children took the reporter to the body of their mother, laid out on her bed. The BBC rescued the children and a neighbor with their private boat. It was the only hope the people had.

Why share these unhappy stories?

After seeing the BBC special and feeling more than ever how urgent the problems are along the Gulf Coast, we came to an internet cafe to check messages and read the latest news. Filed away under "entertainment" on the AP Wire is a story about government attempts to limit the types of images and thus information that can be collected along the Gulf Coast. Access is being denied. I can't make a link to the story on this particular computer, but you can copy and paste to see how CNN filed suit against the US government to protect access to information coming out of the hurricane region.

People may not want to see horror, but they need to see a semblance of truth, horrific or not. Sanitized information helps no one.


Blogger Ms. NOLA said...

I must say one of the few good things to come out of this mess (aside from seeing the Radiators, Allen Toussaint and the Neville Bros on MTV) is the fact that it appears that we are getting our media back.

I watched Fox news yesterday and people were criticizing the president!!! When has that ever happened before?

I have to believe there is hope, otherwise what can we do at this desperate moment?

Your writing hits the right note, J. Keep it up. Love, L

September 11, 2005 12:29 PM  

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