Archive for July, 2008

I

It was a beautiful Friday morning. A bit of a drizzle and a soft breeze in the air, with the roads not unduly crowded. For a change, I enjoyed the drive to office in the morning.

The first task of the day was a drive down to Hosur Road to check out a possible location for an office party. We just about got back, and it was time to head out for an already planned team lunch.

We’d moved from the main course to dessert, and were at our relaxed best, when MB’s phone rang. It was her husband calling to tell her that there had been two bomb blasts in the city – one of them in Koramangala.

My watch told me that it was 2 pm. My first thought was for M who leaves home at this time for work, passing through Koramangala. After all, Koramangala is a big place…

I called home, even as the others had their cellphones out too. Your thoughts at these times are not for your own safety, but always for the ones nearest to you.

ST managed to reach his friends. Now, the news was of five blasts in the city. Among the locations that had supposedly experienced blasts were Koramangala, Madiwala (also sometimes on M’s route) and Adugodi.

Jammed lines notwithstanding, I did manage to reach home. As it happened, this afternoon, M had not yet left for work. He was still having a bath. I left a message for him and hung up.

Meanwhile, the others had managed to reach their families too – in most cases, spouses who were also working, and could be at any part of town on a Friday lunch hour. Everyone was safe.

As we drove back to office, MB called again. There had been another call from her mother who was watching TV in Delhi. Apparently, according to the news channels, there had been eight blasts, not five. One of them we were told was on Hosur Road.

That’s when DN called. We’d invited her for an interview for a role within our team, and she was here. My first concern was for how she would get back home after the interview.

Her call was interrupted by another call from AJ, a colleague on maternity leave. “Were we on the road?” she wanted to know. Had we heard about the blasts?

She was at the Acropolis, next to the Forum Mall, and the place was swarming with ambulances. Her friend’s son had been watching a movie at PVR in Forum, when the mall officials walked in, closed down the screening and asked the audience to leave immediately.

By this time we were back in the office, and amidst jammed phone lines, rumours were flying thick and fast. The news channels, with their websites on the Internet, were our only source of information… And they weren’t helping much.

The number of blasts kept randomly increasing and decreasing at will. Even till one day after the blast, national news channels are still reporting contradictory numbers.

The reportage on locations of the blast was equally pathetic… At one point CNN IBN was reporting blasts on Hosur Rd, Koramangala, Madivala and Sarjapur Rd. As it turned out the next day, the blasts at Hosur Rd, Koramangala and Madivala were actually all referring to the blast close to Madivala Checkpost. You see, the Madivala Checkpost does in a way intersect with Hosur Rd and Koramangala 🙂 And worse still, the blast on Sarjapur Rd never happened!

But in hindsight, the unforgivable part was that the number of casualties kept rising. First, the number dead was reported as one…then two…and then five… But, the next day the figure was brought down to one. The number of casualties rose to 20… And then, the next day mysteriously diminished to 7.

Whither responsible journalism???

We did not get much work done in the office after that. But I met DN for her interview. Her father had accompanied her for the interview, and she felt like that would like to complete her interview.

The interview went well… And once I had signed DN out, I called home again. M had left for the office. He had heard about the blasts, but he preferred to be at work, and he did not perceive a threat to himself.

For a minute, I was upset with him. But then, in all fairness, I worked till 6:30 too, as I believed the worst was over.

I’d hardly put the phone down, when SJ called from the US and MC called from the UK. “What was happening there?” they wanted to know!!

The drive home was unusual. The streets were not empty, but no one was trying to horn the rest of the world out of their way. It was almost as everyone was being unusually patient with each other.

I returned home to find all the news channels having a field day…

“Bangalore under attack”

“IT city on tenterhooks”

If the bomb blasts hadn’t scared you, the television coverage would!

M commented with a bit of a guffaw, “this must be like a festival for these guys.”

As it happened, we’d pre-booked tickets for The Dark Kight that Friday night. We called Fun Cinema, and discovered that all film shows were running on schedule. We decided to go for the movie, as eight/seven/six blasts in Bangalore were not going to change our way of life.

We expected to find the theatre running to an empty house. But, I must say with great pride that The Dark Knight played to a ‘house full’ audience that night. Apparently, there were others too who had decided that the Bangalore blasts were not going to change our way of life.

The next day Times Now reported that “Bangalore was limping back to normal” 🙂

II

On Saturday morning, my mum-in-law had planned to go curtain shopping, and we decided to continue with our plan.

I needed to pick up some money first, and so I rode to Raheja Arcade. Cash was being loaded at the Citibank ATM and they asked all the waiting customers to return within half an hour. I walked across to Forum Mall and drew the money from the HDFC ATM there instead.

Even as I walked into the entrance, AJ messaged, advising me to stay away from crowded places. I messaged back to say that I believed that the worst of this attack had passed

The time was 12 noon.

I later discovered that a live bomb had been diffused close by at around the same time. But I did not notice anything unusual, except for the fact that Forum had fewer crowds. Yet it would also be untrue to say that Forum was deserted. People were still shopping, but not in the numbers that they usually visit Forum.

That evening, I joined NG for our usual Saturday coffee at Koshy’s. The other regulars were there as well… And with not a table to spare, the latecomers had to wait for places. In many ways and in different places, the city was moving on.

For the nezt hour, bomb jokes were passed around in abundance. For the first time I understood how the “Ring a Ring Roses” rhyme was born in plague infested Britain of the Middle Ages.

Then, the news came in of the blasts in Ahmedabad. It was only when I returned home that I would understand the full impact of the blasts in Ahmedabad. But, we still cut short our evening earlier than we had planned. This was not in fear, but in solidarity with the citizens of Ahmedabad.

As some of you know, I am currently working on converting my Master’s thesis “Imagining National Identity” into a book for Sage Publications. The book looks at the changing Indian mediascape, especially with regard to television and the Internet.

To complete the book, I need to do series of interviews that I will present as either quotes or interviews in the book.

If you are stopping by at this page, I would like to invite you to answer the questions as well. It would just take about 10 minutes of your time (more if you find the subject interesting)… And would be of great help in my research.

If you a friend/friends who would have a perspective on this and would have the time to do this as well… Do ask them to stop by too.

Thanks in advance!

The Questions
1. Going back to the time when we had only on channel in India, how would you say that Doordarshan affected your concept of what it means to be Indian?
2. In the days, when Doordarshan was the only television broadcasting body in India, which are some of the programmes that stand out in your memory?
3. Did you perceive Doordarshan as attempting to create an ‘Indian’ identity? And if so, was this identity accurate?
4. Has your concept of being Indian changed since then, or does it remain the same?
5. Since the time that cable television has been introduced, what are some of the programmes that stand out on TV?
6. Do you think that cable television has in any way changed your concept of what it means to be Indian?
7. Moving on to the coming of the Internet, how do you use the Net?
8. Which are some of the sites that you most often frequent?
9. Has the Internet in any way affected your perception of yourself as Indian?
10. Does the Internet make you feel part of a larger global community, as against an Indian community?

It’s a film that has been on my watch list for a very long time, and I finally watched it over the last week.

My biggest take away from the film is the creation of mythology around the film, with the lines between fact and fiction getting extremely blurred. So, even though the film makers tell you that this is an act of fiction, many viewers come away believing that is a real story.

The film makers use a very amateurish style of film making to their advantage to build on the aura that has been created by the preceding mythology that had been woven around the film.

Also, the planning of the film in real time, with room left open for continuous improvisation, adds to the impact of the film. In fact one is never sure of where the script ends and improvisation begins.

Finally, The Blair Witch Project works on a unique interaction between cinema and the Internet. The story telling that happens on both mediums continuously interact with each other to transform the ways in which a story can be narrated across time. This for me is the most significant impact of the project.