Sunday, 24 February 2008

Mousetrap - 137

Bhopal-Delhi Padyatra
Twenty-three years, two months, twenty-one days have passed by. Half a million people were exposed to the gas. 3,800 people died that night, as per the most conservative report (more than the 2974 killed in the 9/11 attacks); the number was closer to 15,000, say others. 20,000 have died to date as a result of that exposure. 120,000 still suffer from the accident and the continued environmental pollution ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site. No one has gone to jail. Very little compensation has been paid. Promises have been broken. (See International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal & The Bhopal Medical Appeal for reams of information about that disaster and the terrible, unending aftermath.) Two years ago, our government made promises about economic, social and medical rehabilitation, and simple things we take for granted, like clean drinking water. Those promises haven’t been kept. So, four days ago, on the 20th February, 60 survivors started a padyatra to Delhi, 800km away, to remind the government of those promises. If you can’t join them, you can track their progress on the blog.

If you suffer with vertigo, this is not a site you want to visit. Your columnist has no head for heights, but, ever a slave to duty, he braved this site just for you, dear reader. Put together by a Texan, the tone of voice here is distinctly gawrsh-these-third-world-countries and slightly hysterical to boot; overdone somewhat, because the content is truly scary. He features four of the most treacherous roads in the world, three of them motorable (just about), the fourth a hiking trail. Each section is a collection of pictures culled from all over the web—the quality’s somewhat patchy as a result—accompanied with that overwrought text, and some first person accounts. The Russian road doesn’t look like that bad, but I warn you, don’t eat a heavy meal before checking out the other three.

Hot air
The Balloon Project
A city. A couple of guys. A bunch of balloons. A camera slung under said balloons. Balloons released drift over city. Guys chase balloons. Eventually balloon lands. Guys upload video to YouTube. Guys become latest web meme. Go see. (All the vids are here, by the way.)

Which way is North?
Strange Maps
Among one’s many, many weaknesses, we have a pash for maps. If a book one is reading has maps, one checks them out before one checks out the se.. never mind. This site takes that passion many levels higher, bringing you unusual maps of all descriptions, from marzipan maps to the backdrop to the Larry King show. They’re from old books and documents, from fiction, from designers, sent in by readers and there’s a new one every few days. It’s fascinating to see the many, many ways we represent our planet and, alas, attempt to slice it up and lay claim to it. The site is a mega success, with over five million visitors, and a book deal as well.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 24th February, 2008.

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