Saturday, 26 July 2008

Dhoom!

It all began when my GTalk, in the middle of its afternoon siesta, was suddenly jolted awake.
Hope you are okay, said Pop-up One.
“Yes I am, thank you,” I replied to her.
Before I could finish, another popup appeared. “Hey just heard, what’s happening?” asked another acquaintance.
Uh?
“What happened?”
“Blasts! In Bangalore. Five.”
Oh My God!
My first thought: Why the hell am I not a journalist anymore… why am I stuck in this office in Whitefield-halli! Oh why why why????
My second thought: Where’s Appa?
Once it was confirmed that Appa was home and not wandering around in Panthrapalya/ Annepalya/ Langford Road/ Mysore Road/ Raja Ram Mohan Roy Circle/ Adugodi/ Kengeri, excitement set in.
We rushed downstairs to Shalin’s apartment to check out live coverage on TV. The fact that they were low intensity blasts in fairly deserted areas calmed us to an extent. Repeated shots of a plastic bucket being put over a suspicious looking object brought our humor back. Traffic pileups failed to shock us; they were typically Friday-afternoon-3pm-traffic jams. A hyper journalist pointed at smashed window panes to drive home the gravity of the situation. One TV reporter of a Reputed Hindi Channel accused Al Qaida, citing recent intelligence reports that claim that Osama is out of work and has run out of creativity and timepassing with gelatin sticks (ok, I am lying. They haven’t yet reported THAT. But they did report the death of a woman and a pigeon due to the blasts. The latter is NOT made up!). We switched the TV off and resumed normal life.
Very late at night, I had an interesting GTalk conversation with a journalist friend who was still at work.
Me: You are still at office?
He: Almost done, rewriting. I feel like a high-end prostitute.
Me: Adding masala when there was none?
He: Precisely. The brief was to look for "moving" stories, so I am manufacturing panic and emotion, by turn.
Me: Ah!
Well, my personal take on the conspiracy theory is, either this is the work of the opposition parties to create trouble for the BJP government, or more scarily, this could just be a precursor of things to come.
I hope to God that I am wrong.

Bangalore: Thanda Thanda Cool Cool

On my first day at work in a Bangalore newspaper, way back in Feb 2003, my chief reporter, with eight years of work experience, sagely told me: “If you are looking for excitement, please go to Delhi or Mumbai. Nothing ever happens in Bangalore.” But to make my life as exciting as she can, she gave me the infrastructure beat, and so for four years I wrote on something that is still considered sensational in Bangalore: Potholes.
However, her words have come back to haunt me quite often. Events that could have possibly shaken other cities suddenly become as thanda as a phuss phuss phataka in cool Bangalore.
Some examples:
* Riots: Post actor Rajkumar’s death, the entire city supposedly witnessed widespread violence. I was out on the streets and I tell you, I have never had so much fun before. I walked along with the wannabe mobsters, who engaged enthusiastically in destructive acts like smashing cars and breaking window panes, but not once was I eve teased or passed comments upon. In fact, some from the unruly groups even paused to create a PRESS sticker for our car so that other unruly mobs don’t trouble us. At the end of the tense day, one poor policeman was beaten to death which was tragic, but still far less than horrifying. I wonder what would have been my fate if the same situation had played out in Delhi.
* Bandhs: Bangalore bandhs are as adjusting as the State’s coalition politics. I think this city loves its 6 am to 6 pm bandhs. In this win-win affair, Bangaloreans enjoy an extra Sunday, watching TV all day and shopping in the evenings. In fact, I even did a story on soaring sales post-bandh, thanks to the evening rush. However, for journalists who have to report to work because they fall under the ‘essential services’ category, it’s an annoying affair. Bored and listless, with no stories coming in, we used to jaywalk on the deserted MG Road, singing cheap songs, gossiping, and helping traffic policemen paint zebra crossings.
* Floods: A few weeks after Mumbai was almost drowned, Bangalore too had its own “devastating flood”, in 2005. Low lying areas, infested with illegal constructions, concrete-choked drainage lines and poor roads, paid a price for their sins. However, at the flood sites itself, the locals were making good money. With the water level reaching over three feet on Hosur Road, negotiating through the waters became quite dangerous. The local Samaritans got down to business, albeit at a cost – Rs 30 for guiding the way; Rs 50 for holding your hand and helping you cross; Rs 100 for pushing your bike and Rs 300 for pushing a car. I bargained, showed my Press Card, complained about my poor salary package and got away with an expense of Rs 70 (inclusive of holding hand and pushing bike of my Indian Express colleague). Many turned briefly rich with the blessings of the rain gods.
* And now the serial blasts which mercifully didn't turn as bad as it could.
I was once told by an astrologer that Bangalore is ruled by the planet Venus – many find love and good luck here. I believed her then, and I believe her still. Touchwood!