Sunday, March 23, 2008

Corporation, Chaka Chak & Chicken

Corporation, Chaka Chak & Chicken
Confidence building measures to commence in Panjim
By Cecil Pinto

I don't know what it is about the bird flu that seems to bring out
the humour in us. When the tsunami struck, or some earthquake, or
similar, there was always a sense of shock and expressions of
concern and sympathy. But the bird flu scare elicits nothing of
that sort. I have already received seventeen SMS alerts that the
bird flu strikes 'small cocks' first. Some even more amusing bird
flu related SMS' use rather mature language and cannot be quoted.
Newspapers are having a field day with headlines, "Foul play
suspected", "Chicken and egg situation" etc. Quite frankly nobody's
scared by the bird flu - but nobody's eating chicken either.
Restaurants and hotels had stocked up tons of chicken in
anticipation of the Carnival tourists. Wholesalers and
retailers too are stuck with freezers full of un-saleable product.
Experts from their respective field all reassure us that it's
perfectly ok to eat properly cooked chicken. But they themselves,
none of them, are actually eating chicken. While I'm on that will
someone explain to me why they use the grandiose term 'poultry
products' when what they want to say is eggs! Even the smallest
poultry farmer and deep-freezer owner has a sign saying "Chicken &
Poultry Products". Other than the eggs what other poultry products
are there? Why waste two words (four syllables) when the simple
monosyllabic 'eggs' would suffice? Anyway, my opinion is that
this 'bird flu' disease (not 'pandemic' as the press likes to call
it) has been blown totally out of proportion. Specially here in
Goa, I don't think there is any reason not to eat properly cooked
chicken. But as stray false reports and rumours are churning around
the poultry industry is going through a severe economic depression
from which it will take many years to recover.

The hotel and restaurant industry too is suffering a major blow.
I suggest they join together and make some creative moves to inspire
confidence in the public. Convey to the Goan public and the tourists
that there's absolutely no danger in eating chicken.
The simplest method of course would be to rope in some trusted
celebrities and design some impact-ful advertisements.
But this too isn't a fail-safe plan. So what if Amitabh Bachchan says,
"I can eat chicken and so can you"?

The natural reaction from the public would be "Sure, and in case
you fall sick you can afford Nanavati Hospital. I can't!". Also the
suspicion will be that the chicken Amitabh is shown eating in the
advertisement was probably imported from Switzerland, went through
multiple checks and was then cooked using complex technology
unavailable to the common man.

What we need is credible normal people eating chicken on the street.
Elections to the Corporation of the City of Panjim (CCP) are fast
approaching. Battle lines have been drawn. What is the biggest
question facing each candidate? "Should I appeal to the people's
civic sense or shall I promise them the works?" No! "Should I make
the garbage issue the main plank of my campaign or shall I focus on
the drainage problem?".

No! These matters are trivial. The question uppermost in candidates
minds is "What do I feed my workers, now that chicken is taboo?!!".
You see one of the benefits of being a worker for a candidate,
at any elections, is that one can consume unlimited chilled beer
and unlimited chicken (mostly chicken xacuti and bread). Now with
the bird flu scare what do the candidates feed their workers?
Bhaji-puri? They would defect immediately.

Fish is much too expensive. Mutton would alienate the
Christians, beef would alienate the Hindus and pork wouldn't go
down well with the Muslim voters. Consider also that with thirty
wards being carved out of a not-so-populous Panjim, almost every
voter is also a worker for some candidate. We are not just talking
of keeping workers happy, we are talking about keeping voters happy.

I suggest that all candidates have roadside election
meetings. At the very beginning of the meeting live chicken are
slaughtered and while the speeches are in progress the chicken is
cooked on the spot. The poultry farmers will surely give their
chickens free for such a good cause and the restaurant industry
will also give their equipment and cooks free. They all stand to
gain if this confidence building measure works. As soon as the
speeches conclude the candidate, with great fanfare, eats some
chicken himself, followed by the poultry farmers and the
restaurateurs. The workers will definitely join in on seeing this.

Panjim is the capital city of Goa. Panjim always leads the way.
Goa watches what happens in Panjim. The rest of the state will surely follow
suit and start eating chicken again. The country and the world will
get the message, "It's safe to eat chicken in Goa!"

The CCP candidates missed their chance during the Carnival Parades.
Cutting, cooking and eating chicken on a moving parade float-truck
would have got them international attention and praise. Instead we
had floats that magnified the bird flu scare. Having said that I
still say hats off to the float designers who overnight managed to
fabricate bird flu related floats. I hope the CCP candidates
will take my suggestion seriously and do the right thing for their
workers, voters and Goa in general. The Government has done all it
can by reacting immediately and taking all health precautions. Now
it is time for us Ponjekars to show the rest of Goa that "Chaka
Chak" can apply to "Chicken" too!.

And since the candidates won't have to spend so much money on their
workers perhaps we will get candidates elected who genuinely want
to serve the people, and not just those with the deepest pockets.

The humour column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated March 2nd

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