Friday, July 6, 2007

Vote for.. vote for...

17. That’s the number of times I voted for the Taj Mahal. And tomorrow I will get to know whether all my various fake IDs worked towards getting the Taj into the coveted and exclusive list of the 7 Wonders of the (new) World.

I got angry email messages (“Does India Care??”; “Last chance to redeem our beloved Taj”; “Doob maro kutton..” etc) which goaded me and prodded my national pride with an electric stick, over and over, and turned me into this rabid Taj Mahal supporter. One, who would create fake email IDs, with various combinations of ‘shome’ and ‘numbers’, and online-vote his nation to glory. I just could not stop. I had to make Taj Mahal win.

On 07/07/07 the media circus will begin and people around the world will get to know whether their chosen monument(s) made it to the list. Bipasha Basu along with Hilary Swank and Sir Ben Kingsley and a host of other stars will be hosting the ceremony at the Benificia Stadium in Lisbon.

Its quite amazing how lists work. The “top 10…”, the “100 most..”, the “big 3..” and now the “7 wonders..” No one cares if you are the 8th wonder of the world or the 4th biggest. No sir. Either you are in the list or you are nobody. Once a list that you care about is announced, you just have to be there...

Lists by their very nature play more on the principle of exclusion rather than inclusion. If you are excluded, you just have to figure out a way of getting in. But if you are included, then there is a feeling of brief joy followed by emptyness.

Once Taj Mahal is there on the list, we will rejoice for a day and then not know what to do next. If it did not make it (and that can only happen because you did not back up my 17 with your votes!), we would be burning effigies on the streets and uprooting railway lines in anguish and protest.

Which brings me to the question that if we did not make it, whose effigy do I burn?

To have a clear line of hate, I picked up a cup of hot tea and jabbed my fingers into the Google search box.. What I found out, took me by surprise.

Unlike the popular perception that this election is being conducted by some “World Council” [like “World Commission for Selecting the (new) 7 Wonders of the World], the man behind this is a Swiss chap called Bernard Webber. No government, no ‘world council’ no organization is affiliated to this election. The whole thing is orchestrated by an individual

This modern day Antipator of Sidon is not a poet but a rather shrewd business man who has pulled off probably the most successful global PR campaign EVER! Described as a “film maker, museum curator, aviator, and explorer”, they should probably add “astute business man” to his list of titles.

Webber’s project started in 2000, and for the last 7 years the man has sustained public interest in this. I remember stray mails on this over the last few years. Of course now the noise levels have reached a crescendo. Not only has this man got individuals to vote and SMS, he has got AR Rehman to produce a video, Airtel to launch a media campaign and all the news channels devote time and energy and space on his project. Without spending a dime of his own! How’s that for working capital management.

The official website, says that a million votes have been received so far. Imagine the money that the voting generated. The big bucks though will come in from people who spend $2 to get their “Official Certificate”, and from shoppers who will buy the Official NEW7WONDERS “Clothing and Fun Merchandise” (ranging from $2.49 to $200) , “Pins and Medallions” (ranging from $4.95 to $99.95), “Song”(!!), and go for the official NEW7WONDER “tour package” that the site offers (“see the candidates for yourself” is their clever tagline).

50% of the net revenue generated will be going behind restoring world heritage sites, including the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan. The remaining is Mr Webber’s kharcha paani.

Now, I don’t know how to react to all the information that I dug up. On one hand I am disappointed that this entire thing is being done by an individual (or should I say an entrepreneur) and not a world body who has some direct stake in world heritage, like UNESCO. It would have given the whole effort more weight and credibility.

On the other hand, I am happy that there is this immensely successful campaign that puts world heritage sites under the spotlight and on centre stage. For a world thats obssesed with the future, its good to take stock of what we already have and celebrate it.

The case of apathy towards heritage is even more acute in India. India is a nation where every street has a story to tell and every rock is a part of history. It is also a nation where the people by and large care a hoot about conserving or respecting heritage monuments.

So what if Mr Webber makes money through this event? Atleast he got India aware and awakened on a fairly mass level on the importance of our monuments and our collective responsibility to promote and conserve them. This is in a country where every wall and lift door has some puerile proclamation of love or random mention of genitals is no small feat.

I do hope that the Taj makes it. And I do hope that it brings in a culture of respect and conservation for our national heritage. And I do hope Mr Webber makes lots of money through this. We need people like him to prove that the past is as exciting as the future.


svety said...

absolutely not much of a history fanatic...unless it touches me today....but i agree the Taj campaign had done the PR fraternity proud. I have my reservations about this whole drill at some level, but, as u rightly put it even if the outcome is a commercial carnival, the intent bonds so many of us together for one cause....a cause we have never shown any interest in espousing...

damn good post shome

Ganju said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ganju said...

inspired by your rebuke i have been trying to vote but the bloody site refuses to work "Web server too busy" or some such nonsense.

But I am also pretty sceptical about these little marketing scams. In fact I am thinking of starting my own "7 Wonders of the World" to rival this one. I shall of course make more money by being corrupt and taking bribes. For a million dollars I'll include your backyard ;)

Ganju said...

just read your first post ... the shome_23 one - hilarious!!

Grafxgurl said...

im working on it im working on it!!!!
*angelic smile*

diya said...

What happened to you hereafter? you have changed the way the blog looks but there is no new input, gone to sleep or what?I read all your posts together at one sitting, it was good hoping to see you add some more soon.
love Didi