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     Volume 7 Issue 17 | April 25, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  Writing the Wrong
  View from the   Bottom
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  A Roman Column
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View from the Bottom

The Veritable Vitamins

Shahnoor Wahid

My friend Alek Mir Golondaj almost crashed through my office door with all his length, breadth and kilograms. On normal occasions it takes some effort for him to come through that door in one shift, but today he defied all odds and came right through. He was sweating, he was panting, and he looked doubly worried.

“Friend, maybe this is for the last time we are meeting. Please forgive me if I have hurt you anytime, ever, by being naughty, like not supporting your candidate in the elections, or eating up the entire chicken roast before others came, or crashing your car in a drag race...etc...etc...dear God, Here I am, here I am...just give me a few more days.... God...Oh, if I only knew...if I only knew...!”

He was wailing though there was no wailing wall around!

“Now, cut that out and tell me what is it this time, Golondaj...what ails thee?” I asked him in a voice tainted with incredulity.

“Oh, friend, it's terrible...terrible...I have just read in a newspaper that now, after all these years of speaking in support of vitamins, like A and E, bio-researchers are saying that they are bad for you! They said that the components, anti-oxidants, that are supposed to help delay ageing and make you feel strong and healthy are not all that good. They can have really bad side effects and may even cause your death! And think of it, I took a large vitamin-E tablet after my breakfast this morning, like every morning! I went to office and there read the news item. Now, you know me, I have been virtually surviving on vitamins! I am not supposed to eat biriyani, mutton roast, beef curry, chicket dopiaji, polao, korma, cheese, butter, jam, jelly, sweetmeat, halua and so on. It is painful to stay away from those food items but I did keep myself under control. But now this! It is too much, really. Now they are even taking vitamins out of my diet! How am I supposed to survive?”

My friend Golondaj looked devastated at the bleak possibility of missing out on his vitamins. He stared at me with a vacant look. It seemed the world was peeling off before his eyes. I felt a surge of emotion within me. I was actually feeling angry inside at those vitamin manufacturers who launch mind-boggling campaigns to push their products with such attractive advertisements. We fall for them and queue up to buy. We consume them like mad without even knowing how harmful they are. We have no power to do our own research and tell the giant manufacturers to get out of our sight.

More often than not, multinational drugs and chemical manufacturers and their local agents dump inferior quality products and raw materials in poor countries at very attractive prices. They do so even knowing what harmful agents there are in the stuff they dump on us. Then they unleash an aggressive marketing campaign, which succeed because of the foreign brand image.

I felt sad for people like Golondaj who have consumed trillions of vitamins by now and made the manufacturers filthy rich. Maybe it is time to market something else. So, very soon we shall be provoked to buy and consume that new product. After twenty years a newspaper report will say that that particular product we have been giving our children contains traces of cyanide, so do not take it. It is that simple.

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