Friday, June 4, 2010

Waiting for Phet

The approaching cyclone in Karachi has got its residents in a state of dreaded anticipation and nervous excitement. To be sure, if the 'severe tropical cyclone' actually makes landfall as predicted by the Pakistan Met Office, its over 100 km + / hour winds and sea surge (waves) of 4-6 metres could do some serious damage given Karachi's fragile and crumbling infrastructure. Expect flooding, expect power to be knocked out, expect communications to be cut as telephone wires snap and mobile phone towers are damaged, expect a shortage of foodstuffs as supplies and transport are hindered, expect people to be killed by flying debris and electrocutions, expect the city to grind to a halt.

As things stood as of 11a.m. today (source: Pakistan Met Office)

What the approaching storm has shown also, however, is the inability of most of Pakistan's electronic media in not only grasping basic scientific concepts but also to read simple press releases. Not only did it initially not understand that meteorologists can only make predictions based on probability about the movement of the cyclone while it was still 1100 km away, it could not even grasp the idea of naming storms. So Geo at one point, about two days ago, was claiming that the cyclone would not hit Karachi even though the Met Office press release clearly stated that its predictions were for the cyclone to curve towards Karachi after initially moving in a north-west direction from Oman. And various channels were attributing the same cyclone as making landfall simultaneously in Gwadar in western Pakistan and Indian Gujarat in the east while sparing, bizarrely, Karachi and other Sindh coastal areas in between.

But the idea of naming storms with non-scientific names - quite a normal occurrence in the West - is what has really confused the hell out of some in Pakistan's media. The fact that the name has been coined by a regional storm watch centre and is actually a Thai word, "Phet", meaning 'Diamond' has not helped matters. So one reporter I heard on Aaj TV was earnestly telling viewers about how 'whichever country the Diamond cyclone has ever hit in history, has suffered great damage.' As if this particular cyclone is something that has existed forever and keeps being reborn periodically.

Even more confusing for the media and Pakistanis is the fact that "Phet" is apparently pronounced as 'pet' in Thai, which the Met office, to its credit, had been at pains to point out from the beginning. Geo managed to cotton on - even though written in Urdu it looks like they are talking about a tummy ('paet') - but not everyone has been as bothered about pronunciations. And of course some, such as the recently dormant punning headline makers at Express Tribune, just couldn't let it go without having some fun.

So, we had this story from yesterday, detailing that the cyclone, initially expected to make landfall today, would not get here till Sunday, headlined:

"Phet not, cyclone delayed to Sunday"

And today, we have:

"Thatta, Badin 'Phet-up' of the cyclone"

Here are some we could yet see in ET:

1. Headline for story about President Zardari directing local departments to make contigency preparations (he actually said this yesterday, did he really need to say it? If so, God help us): 'Make Preparations Phet-a Phat, Zardari Orders'

2. Headline for story about the sad state of coastal fishermen forced to stay away from their livelihoods for days: 'It's Always Our Phet, Say Dejected Fishermen'

3. Headline for story about DHA Phase 8 residents, most exposed to the cyclone among ET's target market because of the lack of developed surroundings: 'Phase 8 residents say 'Humari Phet Rahi Hai'


Good luck to all.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who the heck is Pyala to comment on the work of reputed news organisations, both electronic and print? Pyala's pieces are written by faceless and unnamed people who could be from the same news organisations whose output they comment on. Doesn't that translate into the worst kind of clash on interest? The people who respond to the Pyala blogs are also mostly anonymous. Compare that with the fact that all news organisations have established their credibility in varying degrees through years, even decades, of hard work. Pyala should be welcome to comment on other people's work provided it gives the names of its writers. And we should be told who the owners are? Otherwise, in my view they are out to grind their axe.

Bolshevik said...

Hahahahahah @ phet rahee hai! That was the first thing that came to my mind too. *giggles*

Nizamuddin Siddiqui said...

I am 100 per cent with you, Anonymous. But when you demand transparency, which is a legitimate demand, you should be bold enough to say who you are. That's my only complaint. Otherwise, whatever you said was good. Nameless and faceless people should not be allowed to pick apart work of courageous people who put their names on the line and sometines even their lives.

XYZ said...

Wow. Who woulda thunk that this post would draw such an angry reaction? Not me for sure. Here I was just writing a mild-mannered, light-ish post about the weather!

@Anon826: Hey, don't get your knickers in a twist. If we're so irrelevant, why do you keep reading us? You know you could just stop...

@Nizamuddin Siddiqui: Mr Siddiqui, we have explained the reasons behind keeping this blog anonymous a number of times before. But what I don't understand is what compels anyone to read us if they think we are unethical or unfair - I mean, it's not like we're forcing anyone. Everyone is free to decide whether or not to give credence to our point of view. Which makes your statement that "Nameless and faceless people should not be allowed to pick apart work.." all the more surprising. I am not quite sure what you mean by "should not be allowed." Unless you wish to imply that the government should block us, the simplest solution for all those who don't like us "picking apart" things in the media, is not to visit us. It's our blog, tough luck, we certainly have no intention of stopping.

Anonymous said...

If anonymous people on an anonymous blog upset people so much, why don't they just ignore the offending site and move on?
As an anonymous poster (who would get sacked by his employer if they knew his/her identity), I enjoy what I read here and relish commenting on media-related issues without fear.
It all boils down to credibility and objectivity I suppose. If cafe pyala had axes to grind, spared any particular media group(s) and went out of its way to make personal attacks , its informed audience would simply stop checking it out.

Anonymous said...

PHET it out people

Anonymous said...

Another ET headline for the future: Is the cyclone really a phet accompli?

Anonymous said...

phet accompli. that's good! :)

Anonymous said...

i have a feeling most of the quibblers hail from the nkob, i.e. tribune. that's the only explanation for the amateurish whining...

Anonymous said...

What I said had something to do with propriety. I was talking about clash of interest. Would it be ethical if someone working for say News launched an anonymous blog that only found faults with a certain page of his own newspaper. That would be like donning a mask before stabbing the competition (in one's own newspaper) in the back.
Similarly, if a News guy constantly found fault with items in Dawn would also be unethical. That's why I say that everything should be transparent.
But things like propriety, clash of interest and transparency don't matter much to CAFE PYALA because they prefer to attack people from behind

Nizamuddin Siddiqui said...

XYZ, I never implied that Cafe Pyala should be blocked or censored. And believe me, I too don't intend to stop writing what must be said.

khabardrama said...

How would our leading English papers report cyclone Phet if it hits Pakistan?

Dawn: Cyclone causes devastation in Sindh, Balochistan; many dead, missing in coastal areas; Zardari, Asma Jahangir, Belgian PM condole;

The News: Is Zardari behind cyclone devastation? Justice Iftikhar's warnings repeatedlyy ignored; NRO-beneficiaries rejoice as people suffer; Geo first to report calamity

Daily Times: Taseer shocked at cyclone horror in Sindh, Balochistan; PPP rises to the challenge as Nawaz flies off to London; Rana Sanaullah denies Taliban hand; New Hamid Mir recording suggests links; Sarah Taseer Shoaib shuts jewellery outlet for a day in mourning; Puchu's birthday party postponed; US think-tank calls on Pakistan to do more

Express Tribune: DHA suffers calamity as cyclone strikes several phases; panic stations as phet of many drivers, maasis, chowkidaars unknown; tweeters, bloggers and facebookers lose contact with rest of world; hundreds die in far-flung Keamari, Neelum and Shireen Jinnah colonies; colourful-but-deprived fishing villages fear further blow to child rights; Grammar School reunion cancelled

The Nation: Storm destabilises Sindh, Balochistan as Indian, Blackwater conspiracy bears fruit; hundreds die but nuclear assets safe from Hindu and Jewish incursions; Kayani, Hamid Gul shocked; Nawaz would cut short London visit if Kulsoom were better; Nazriya-e-Pakistan, Majid Nizami safe

Anonymous said...

cafepyala is written by a bunch of phettoos in my opinion. They actually think they're brave to hide behind a mask and take a jibe at everyone they don't like. phettoos!

Anonymous said...

Beware people, cyclone Phet se phet na kharab ho jaavey.

Faiza said...

@Khabardrama: Priceless! This deserved to be a separate post, not buried inside the comments section.

aynalif said...

@Khabardrama - great stuff!
Phet pat gaya aur humara aziz shehar Karachi bach gaya

Anonymous said...

whats up with Tribune and stupid headlines....is that all they work on???

Anonymous said...

Hahaha, I REALLy loled at khabarnma's reply.