Monday, July 26, 2004

"Truckers of Namakkal"

A recent research team that travelled into the depths of the AIDS (fast becoming) epidemic in India, traced the transmittence of the virus to the acclaimed Truckers of Namakkal. Now we all already eschewed the bitter statistics released by the World AIDS convention which declared that India now had the highest percentages of the virus. However, the case about the Truckers of Namakkal takes us into aspects of this vituperative culture which are indicative of the origins of these perilous behaviors; which in turn reinforce even more perinicious states of mind...

How did we reach this far? How did this domino into such a humungous issue? Researchers say that population and poverty may be some of the key causes. Yes, ofcourse they are causes..but only of transmitting/spreading the disease through blood transfusions and lack of hygiene which are inevitably triggered by poverty and pollution. Three prime suspects were cordoned by the research as being vital for the propogation of the disease. Prostitution, Homophobia and sheer heedlessness to the perils of unprotected, rampant sex overtures. In this regard it was found that the truckers were the principle carriers of the diesease, spreading the viruses magnanimously to their spouses and subsequently the children born out of such conjugal associations. State govermnets are now being urged to finance literacy programs (of AIDS awareness & safe sex practices) for truckers who travel from one end of the country to the other, spending more than 90% of their time on the road. Over the years, this has been inferred to lead to a certain detached state of loneliness, negligence of celibacy and consequently adultery and a deadly habit of frequenting sex workers in every port of their arrival. A study published in 1999 showed that 87% of the drivers had frequent and indiscriminate change of sexual partners, and only 11% of them used condoms although their AIDS knowledge was fairly good.What a disgrace to find out that Namakkal in rural Tamil nadu has the highest incidence of these cases, where 39% of the children are now already infected with the virus! According to, by September 2003 Tamil Nadu had reported 24,667 cases of AIDS, the highest number reported by any state.
Intimate small group discussions conducted with the women in this area revealed that most of them knew that their husbands frequented brothels and committed adultery. Of course, even if there wasn't a wave of feminist paranoa, these women seemed utterly devastated at the prospect of being secondary carriers and were even ready to coach their husbands on safe sex. As appaling as it sounded, some of the women admitted to being abused physically by their husbands for advocating the use of the condom even within their own private bed chambers. Obviously the men percieved the condom to be a threat to their (highly questionable) masculinities! Another point that demands a mention is that most of the wives were married before reaching legal status and stated that it was because they had learnt that 'marriage' was what concretized their identities as women. It is imperative therefore, at this juncture to critically assess these mentalities and the roots that nourish these attitudes. It is superflous to begin the issue of women's rights and those of liberation, but atleast a concern for their offspring and an intense desire for self-preservation should be lit ablaze among these peoples.
Although regarded as a taboo in public rhetorical spaces, another issue that must be brought to the forefront is that of Homophobia. There are an equal number of male prostitues, including young boys and adolescents who serve the homosexual population of India. As homosexuality is regarded as a negation of the very notion of Indian masculinity, no man will dare come out of the closet to reveal their nasty little identities to their wives or children. Homophobia is propogated by this kind of celebrated ignorance and the pathetic notion that being homosexual must mean a perverted and deranged psyche, that in all probablity resulted from rape or childhood abuse. Research also indicated that this caused closet-homosexuals to frequent prostitutes in order to quench their needs outside of their families. In all probablity it will still be another decade or so, by the time homosexuality will be an elephant in our living rooms, to obvious to ignore or feign oblivion.
It is evident after the afore mentioned arguments that AIDS is but a physical manifestation of the festering evils ridden in our society. What then are the prophylactory inferences that need to be made inorder to root out the evils that insigate the spread of the disease? If this has to be dealt with from inside-out, where and who should we point the fingers at? Do we as individuals hold a tiny bit of the answer that could perhaps be the panacea to eradicate this deadly serpent? Only time will tell...


Blogger Anand said...

Now I know about the truckers of Namakkal. Interesting! When I was in school (8-9 yrs ago) and involved in various AIDS awareness programmes and conferences, activists were predicting the very same things you have mentioned.
Also interesting to note that I once acted in a condom advertisement for truckers...!

July 27, 2004 at 1:41 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

BTW, you study with Anti?

July 27, 2004 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger suman kumar said...

You are an engaging writer: convincing, captivating, and coherent. I wish I could write like that. Got here via Anand. Mitochondria, Migraine, AIDS epidemic... are you a student of Biology or might you be a doc? Just curious.

July 28, 2004 at 5:01 AM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Anand: I dont study with Anti.
I am thousands of miles away, but my heart is still rooted in Chennai...I roam the blogs of people who write, live and celebrate the sights and sounds of Chennai, and live these experiences vicariously through my online identity. I got to your blog through that of Lazygeek's where I was a dormant participant for more than a year..The 'in-media-res' discussion on your blog motivated me to reply and that's how I got to blogging.
And, what condom ad did thou act in? Pray tell...!

Suman: Thanks for your compliments, and for visiting the blog. This is my first time blogging so I am still negotiating with the process of writing...
No, Iam not a doctor. Iam a film student from a family of the medical jargon is integrated in my system. Would also like to read your screenplay if ever you decide to upload it or something..

July 28, 2004 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

Mito: It was an old ad that did not get aired in South India except in Kerala.
I suddenly have a new respect for you knowing that you are a film student. You see, I've always wanted to go to film school.. but have not been able to so far.

BTW about you: From Chennai, doctor parents, studying film... are you by any chance Manoj Shyamal from twelwe years ago?

July 28, 2004 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Anand: your SIXTH SENSE about the SIGNS of my past is not UNBREAKABLE..(sorry iam just trying to be a smartass)..

Humbled by the recognition from a fellow filmmaker...After being smitten with the film-bug I left home & came "here" to learn technique and not so much the art of filmmaking. Film as you would very well know is a language and my theory is: if you dont have stuff to say, what is the point of a perfect grammar? (Ofcourse one can argue, you can translate other's argument is that notwithstanding...)So, i trudge along in search of new experiences, breaking biases, remaking opinions, meeting people and (as you so rightly put it)transferring every single micro second of life into my mind's own in & day out.

You would have heard this a million times I am sure. But, as I sensed a teeny bit of longing in your comment right there, I am reinforcing/reiterating the one fact that I (ironically) learnt in film school. You don't need film school to be a filmmaker. The craft is perfected by making the films (and the mistakes)...(paraphrasing a professor)..It is evident (from your blog archives) that you probably possess a sound knowledge and a passion to lead you towards the rainbow's end. Enough said..

One curious question: what is your futuristic evaluation about the evolution of Tamil

July 28, 2004 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger suman kumar said...

Mito, Indian cinema is so not evolved. Forgive me for being rude, but tell me, is Mani our hope? I think he is stuck amid love stories, hollering-heroines, poor lighting, and self-congratulatory scripts. When will we ever see a William Goldman here? Story telling is about honesty Mito. Honesty. If one compromises that. There is nothing left. Nothing. The trash we see... we see, because, we have little choice. I am a wannabe writer. I was given a chance to write a script. So don't have hopes. I will mail it to you and Anand soon.

July 28, 2004 at 11:13 PM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

Suman, You are absolutely right. I should have been clearer. I just used mani-ratnam to define and categorize the generic term for "dynamic" filmmakers who are not afraid to modify the formula of tamil cinema, that's all..I am not a die-had fan of Mani ratnam either, but each film of his' gives me confidence as an aspiring filmmaker that there is space to push the envelope a little further..I guess it's just the hope that with mani's (as a generic group) evolving filmmaking styles, Tamil audiences will engage more in the process of story-telling, demanding higher quality cinema..Mani is only a signifier...the signified is newer and bolder filmmakers/benchmarks in Tamil cinema....My bad for having left-out Kamalhassan, Shankar, Balachander etc in the same category of filmmakers who in their own way aspire to redefine time-tested formulae..

July 29, 2004 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

Mito: Yeah! we are already in the post-Mani Ratnam period... the fact is that he too is in it! (some of us like to call him dynamic) Mani Ratnam of the 80's brought a certain degree of freshness to the Tamil movie scene, no doubt. Of course he also has the typical hangups of almost all Tamil filmmakers; he too "borrows" a lot. But his contribution is unique.
Coming back to your point... we are all part of the globalised generation that is as much exposed to Barathiraja and Balachandar as we are to Mani Ratnam and Kamal Hassan, and to Jerry Bruckheimer and to Abbas Kirostami, and Francoice Truffaut and Kieslowski and Kubrick...
The fact is, earlier only the filmmakers watched international cinema.. but now even the audience is watching them. That is good!
And not only movies.. but in general, public discourse and imagery have changed.
Of course, I would like to discuss a lot about the future of Tamil cinema with you. You could mail me at

July 29, 2004 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

Well, came here from Anand's post. Hmmm, comments about truckers of Namakkal slowly moving to Mani and Tamil cinema? Hmmm... thats quite a transformation. Nice one, Mito.
Mito: Can I add you on mine? And do we know each other?
Anand: How did you make that connection about Mito and me?

July 29, 2004 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Mitochondria said...

It's a small damn world we live in, Anti..
We don't exactly know each other, but mdeii was right in guessing that I "study with you"...hey, coming to think of it - he does have a sixth sense..
The story goes like this. I visited your blog through Anand's, and was amused reading your adventure with long-names and the like..
Anyways...on the side bar there was this little thing showing that Athens, OH was at 21 degrees Celcius (as of it's more like 40)..Now that really caught my eye..In the beginning I was like "how in hell......? Am I being traced? You see, Athens is my "kook gramam" too!!" After eliminating a couple more conspiracy theories, and encountering familiar parlance like ISFS, IMTS, cleaning computers etc..I figured your were from Athens too...What are the odds of that?!
..."of all the jin joints in all the world....."

July 29, 2004 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

OMG Mito! Athens OHIO? Damn... if so, the world's really a small place then..

July 29, 2004 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

Wait... I can guess how Anand guessed that you "study" with me.. IP addresses.. thats how!

July 29, 2004 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger anantha said...

Oohh... Oceans Eleven, though after the last two weekends of "three nights" in a row on TNT, I have to say "Ewwww.. Ocean's Eleven" especially cos another minute, I would have been swimming in a sea of drool! What is it with gals and Brad Pitt anyways! And to think these gals had not seen "Fight Club or even Snatch, which IMHO featured better performances by Pitt! Anyways enf of flooding your comments with unrelated crap! Pls do keep visiting my blog!

July 29, 2004 at 10:29 PM  
Blogger Anand said...

Anti: I would have preferred to call it my "Sixth Sense"... IP tracking is just a tool :p
Mito: Just watched the second arachnid. As you say.. can't wait to bitch! Just that it was such a tedious film that I need some time to write something about it.

July 30, 2004 at 10:57 AM  
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