As the maddening rush hour picked up and the people jockeyed for space on a muggy afternoon at the Camac Street-Park Street crossing, a motley bunch of enterprising youngsters (aided by an awestruck middle-aged man) set out to achieve what nobody else could do so far in 21st century sovereign India. The signature campaign against Google maps fetched mixed responses from Kolkatans, some of whom were naÃ¯ve, ignorant and attitudinal and some others were keen to join the battle. Engaging a cross-section of society in a signature campaign is not an easy task, but CF completed the two-day journey with such conviction that at times I wonder if I could be twenty-something again.
“We’re not going to get the Internet if we shut out Google maps, are we?” was the naive query from a middle-aged man who had no clue to either the intricacies of cyber space or their complete misuse by Google. I stifled a laugh and explained to him in layman terms why it is important for him to be with us. And he obliged.
Animated explanations followed random queries on the road and everybody involved put their best foot forward daring rain, heat, humidity, mindless traffic, devil-may-care Xavier’s students and an old Anglo-Indian lady who kept nagging us with her greenhouse effect vibes.
“So, may I check the Google map on my Blackberry before I sign” asked another doubting Thomas. “Go ahead” I said. Moments later, he flashed grin at us saying: “Well, you guys have really done your research. I will sign.”
What emerged from the entire campaign was the fact that few knew or bothered to know how Google has been undermining India’s sovereign territory with impunity. For most people we contacted, it was a learning curve.
What remains as a golden takeaway from all this is the cobbler who signed in the campaign to once again drive home the point that to be a proud Indian, you just have to be an Indian irrespective of caste, creed, religion or social standing. It was this lost pride that the Civilian Force managed to espouse among Indians on those two days.