Emergency causing emergency

June 16, 2010

Annie Zaidi

Who knows what one swift decision might lead to?

I wonder if those who grant licenses to chemical industries can even picture the possibilities contained within those factories where hazardous chemical compounds are being manufactured. I know I couldn’t have imagined it – boxes of inanimate matter leading to deaths and birth defects even at a generation’s remove… and all it takes is a signature on a piece of paper. A license, a clearing of bureaucratic hurdles, a dismissal of all fears about pollution. A paper – whether in triplicate or not – got signed. And then thousands and thousands of dead mutilated bodies.
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Nothing and nothing and nothing

June 12, 2010

Annie Zaidi

I spent some time on the Bhopal website. They have a timeline tool. It shows you a page crowded with information on what happened during the gas tragedy in December 1984. On the right, there is a horizontal bar with forward/backward arrows in neon green. I clicked on the forward arrow.

There was nothing. And nothing. And nothing. And nothing.

Then there was something, a little something. In 1989. Criminal charges against Carbide. Then a little further on, in 1991, the Supreme Court review of the Carbide settlement. Then, in 1992, the reopening of the criminal liability case. Then in 1993, Union Carbide and Warren Anderson were declared ‘absconders’ from the law.

And then nothing. And nothing. And nothing. All the way to now, and nothing.
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No More Bhopals

June 12, 2010

Deepti Khera and Ritu Jhingran

(Published in the Annual Magazine-Redefining Limits SCM batch 2009-2010. Reprodcued here courtesy Deepti Khera)

On December 4, 1984 the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh witnessed an extraordinary exodus. Every train, every bus, every vehicle leaving the city was packed with people. For in the early hours of the morning, over 40 tonnes of deadly methyl isocyanate, and other poisonous gases such as hydrogen cyanide, leaked from a pesticide factory, owned and run by the Union Carbide Corporation, USA, now Dow Chemicals.

Naturally, the trains coming into the city were almost empty. But on board one of them was Sathinath Sarangi, better known as Sathyu, who had been taking a break from the rigours of a PhD in engineering, in his village, Paliyapitariya,in Oshangabad district.Sarangi says, “I heard of the Bhopal gas tragedy on the radio. I immediately decided to visit Bhopal. It was simply out of curiosity to know what was happening in the city. I decided to go there for a week. But what I saw that day was much more terrible than what I heard on the radio. People were wandering down the road with swollen eyes, tears streaming from them. Many were hobbling as if in pain. Some had fallen down and found it impossible to get up.”
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I’m Not A Bhopali Just Yet

June 10, 2010

Manjul Bajaj

Today I woke up to a strange conundrum
Am I a Bhopali or am I not
It takes a few seconds to say I am one
on a Facebook page
And it costs nothing
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet
I know Facebook is good and Twitter is better
To reach out to people and
get them to care about causes that matter
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not just yet.

It costs nothing and is simple to do
As simple as pressing a button which
says I AM A DUDE
or I HATE LUV STORYS
As costless as a tarot reading
Or consulting Anita the online psychic
Not as entertaining as playing Poker
or Scrabble
but better perhaps than that
Farmville thing
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet

“Oh stop being such an insufferable prig”
A little voice whispers
and I try not to shout back at it
The numbers and the statistics –
The full magnitude of the disaster
The complete travesty of justice made
For I know, I know these numbers only
because of an invite to that FB page
So I decide I will join cause
Press that button on that FB page
But I can’t bring myself to –
at least not yet.

First, I’ll take a few minutes
and write out a cheque
I know money is not everything
It will not bring back the dead
Or make us citizens of another nation
where justice is subverted less
But money’s language is less ambiguous
It says I am sorry for your pain
And sorry for my own helplessness
in the face of it
In the complex arithmetic of my life
This is the number I have been able to put
to our brotherhood
It is little but I hope that somewhere
it will all add up

So for the moment
I am not a Bhopali,
not just quite yet
I’m just an old fashioned woman
trying to make my way around
supporting causes
in a new fangled world.
But I do hope to get there soon.


Dear Mr Obama

June 10, 2010

Dear Mr Obama

This is my first letter to you. I have to confess, I didn’t much care when you won the election. It may have been history in the making but it was American history and I live too far away to care. I didn’t wear Obama T-shirts. I didn’t read the book. I didn’t buy the ‘Change’. Call me cynical. Goes with the job description.

But today, I feel compelled to write to you. You’re having a problem with oil spills. I don’t know how you’re going to deal with it but you’ve been promising compensation and not just ‘nickel and dime’ stuff. Which is good. By and large, the US seems to take accidents, the disabling of human beings and monetary compensation pretty seriously.

I also read about some plans to compensate veterans, those who worked to test nuclear weapons. It says here that the compensation could be pretty generous.
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चलती हुई ज़िन्दगी का ठहराव

December 4, 2009

आज फिर भर आई हैं यह आँखें
क्या करूँ , कमबख्त मानती ही नहीं
कितना समझाया कि मुझे इससे क्या
मेरा इससे के क्या वास्ता
पर फिर भी बार बार भर आती हैं …
तमाम शोरगुल के बीच निकलकर
आती हुई सिसकियाँ …
अनजाने में ही भेद देती हैं अंतर्मन को ..
हवा में घुली वो बेजुबान सिसकियाँ
मेरी बेबसी को और बड़ा देती हैं
और में इस बेबसी के बचने के लिए
स्वयं को इन सब के दूर कर लेता हूँ …
…लेकिन वो ज़मीं जिस पर में रोज़ चलता हूँ
वो पानी जी रोज़ पीता हूँ
वो हवा जिसमे रोज़ सांस लेता हूँ
रोज़ मुझे मेरे इसका हिस्सा होने का एहसास दिलाती है
पर में स्वयं को इससे दूर कर लेता हूँ
समस्त एहसास और जिम्मेदारियों के दूर …
…शायद एक और ऐसी रात का इंतज़ार …
ताकि में अपनी निष्क्रियता कि जंजीरों को हटा पाऊँ …
…पर तब तक हर साल यह आँखें
यूँ ही तारीखों कि तरह भारती रहेंगी
और जाती हुई हवाओं के साथ सूख भी जाएँगी .
कहते हैं ज़िन्दगी ऐसी ही चलती है
पर क्या वाकई ऐसा होता है..
बस एक बार ३ दिसंबर १९८४ से रूबरू तो हो
… तो जानोगे कि चलती हुई ज़िन्दगी का ठहराव क्या होता है …

गीतांजलि
भोपाल


Song, 2

December 3, 2009

Annie Zaidi

Poison breath, poison blood
Poison milk, poison mud
Poison pump, poison tap
Poison in your mama’s lap
Eyes of milk, limbs askew
Dow child mine, is that you?

Baby-making, weird art
Many arrive with half their parts
You don’t know the nuts and bolts
Little girls bleed, women don’t
There’s mercury and chromium too
Dow child mine, is that you?

Applications, admin blues
So many don’ts for one big do
Petition-petition boring game
How to run if you are lame
Dharna-dharna, starve and sue
Dow child mine, is that you?

Leader comes, toxin pet
Says I’m fine, not dead yet
He fought toxin long ago
Now he’s paid for, top to toe
Back bent whole, toothless too
Dow child mine, is that you?

© Annie Zaidi, December 2009