Sunday, May 13, 2007

Armless driver with one leg leads chase

This brief was among the items that was taken off the News Plus page to accommodate a huge advertisement.

New Port Richey (Florida), May 11: Authorities were led on a high-speed vehicle chase by an armless, one-legged man, and they said this wasn’t the first time he eluded the police.
Michael Francis Wiley taught himself to drive after losing both arms and a leg in an electrical accident when he was 13. He led police on a 120 mph chase in 1998. (AP)

So much was there in the page received from Delhi. Only this much part would have seen the light of the next day, had there were no ad in the page. This is the fate of almost all agency copies. Agencies like AP, AFP and our own PTI and IANS have some very good writers who endure several hardships to get one brilliant copy, and most of them get buried in the pages of newspapers. It is not fate; it is not anybody’s fault. It is how the system works. I thought I’d make a small change. So here’s the rest of the copy, that was buried in the original page.

On Tuesday, Wiley sped off in a Ford Explorer when the police approached him at a convenience store, New Port Richey police Capt. Darryl Garman said. Officers pursued, but called off the chase after eight minutes because they did not want to put others in danger, Garman said.

Wiley was arrested the next day on charges of fleeing from police and habitually driving without a license. He also is awaiting trial on separate drug charges and traffic violations. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney John Hooker said his client has paid off previous traffic fines that got his license suspended and tried to get a new driver’s license, but he was rebuffed by state officials. Wiley’s license has been revoked so many times it is now a felony to drive.

“What makes him do it?” Hooker said when asked why Wiley keeps getting behind the wheel. “I think it’s an urge he has that makes him feel as important and as good as anyone. It gives him a sense of self-esteem.”

Hooker said he had not had a chance to talk to Wiley about the most recent charges.

Even before Wednesday’s arrest, prosecutors were seeking to send Wiley to prison for at least five years for felony drug and traffic charges.

“He has a hideous record,” Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said after an August 2006 arrest. “It’s just got to end.”
Wiley was being held in the Pasco County jail on $500,000 bond.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Shame on me!!

Ernakulam-Barauni Express, Katpadi railway station.
6.05 am
A few days back

He woke up when I got in.
“Katpadi thaana?” (Is it Katpadi?) He asked in Tamil, rubbing his eyes.
“Yes.” I answered, as I pushed my luggage under the berth.
“This train was supposed to be here at 3,” he said in Malayalam.
“Late aayathu kondu enikku ee train kitti!” (I got this train because it was late!) I replied in Malayalam.

“Aaha! Naattil evideya?” (Where’s your place?)
“Working in Chennai?”
“I am also working in Chennai.”
“You are from?”
“I am from Kannur.”

And we started a chat on the nostalgic trips to home. For him, it was twice-a-year affair. For me, thanks to the compensation off facility in my office, it has become almost once in two months.

“I have to get down at Shornur and then catch a bus to Kannur. Trains to Kannur is not that frequent,” he said.
“Isn’t bus trip tiring?” I asked.
“Ya, buddy. But this is more convenient than waiting for the train. And it is faster too, unless there is some problem like break down or strike,” he explained.
“Ya, strike. Who would know better than one from Kannur?” I said, remembering the news reports of the bloodshed between the hindutva cadre and the leftists, which had been an annual affair once.

“Kannur town is relatively peaceful, buddy. It is the interiors that are troublesome. Areas such as Nadapuram and Panoor… I am from Panoor. You know the area, right?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. Panoor was notorious for local-made bombs, and many blasts too.
“The rift between the political parties has affected even family ties. A Marxist won’t go to the house of a BJP man for any function, not even for the last rites of a family member,” he said.
Back in my place, social ties were not affected to this extend by politics. Ours was a family of Left supporters, and my father’s uncle was a noted Kerala Congress leader!

“Even areas are segregated as Marxist and BJP dominions. Marriages in between a Marxist family and a BJP one is quite unthinkable,” he continued.
“How would you know which area are you in?” I asked.
“That’s simple. If the flag at the next junction is red, you are in Marxist area. If it is saffron, you are in BJP area.”
“How would they treat outsiders?” I asked.
“You have to change according to the area you are in. There is an unwritten rule in the BJP area that there should be lamps in front of very houses on the Janmashtami day. Once there was a newly transferred postmaster who went out of town on the day. There was not even a bulb burning in his house that day. The house was ransacked the next day and he was beaten to pulp. He promptly secured a transfer the very next week.”

“Which side are you in?” I asked him.
“Buddy, I had a tough time staying away from politics. Luckily I found a job and got out. There are many who have lost their family, career and sometimes lives,” he finished with a deep breath.

This was nothing short of a shock to me. I had heard about the social segregation in North India. Weekly reports come to my office about the social discrimination faced by the panchayat presidents in Madurai because they were Dalits. But in Kerala?I was always proud to be a Malayalee. Maybe he exaggerated. Maybe he was biased. But if it is true, then shame on me!