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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Chp 62. Bangalore Burning

At around 3pm yesterday, I got an sms from my roomie who has just reached his office.

“Rajkumar died. That same guy who was kidnapped by Veerappan.”
“Shit! Are you sure? Tomorrow’s definitely going to be a state holiday then. And hey, I was planning to play baskey at KMG in the evening. Do u think it’s safe to go there?”
“No man, you better stay indoors…”

So immediately I was all over the net. Googled all sort of keywords, but there was nothing mentioned about Dr.Rajkumar and his death. Went to www.ndtv.com, www.deccanherald.com, www.thehinduonnet.com etc but nothing was mentioned anywhere. Pronto went an sms back to my roomie.

“Bastard, it’s a hoax. There’s nothing mentioned about his death anywhere.”
“Fucker, he died just some 30mins ago. Check www.msn.ac.in It’s given there.”

So I went to www.msn.ac.in . There, in the latest news section, was just one line. “Kannada thespian and film idol Rajkumar passes away”. Just one line, which was not even linked. The fact that such a news like this was not linked made it look even more genuine and current as one can actually get the feel that the news reporters are right then rushing to the scene to get the full story.

I got to work immediately. Smsed as many people as I can about this news, urging them not to go outside. All in all, I forwarded my warning to more than 70-80 people. I made sure I described who Rajkumar is coz I don’t want to receive 50 replies with “Who is Rajkumar?” A majority of the people I smsed were people from my place (Mizoram) and also those who are non kannadigas. My kannadiga frens were on the last rung of my priority list bcoz they were relatively much safer than people who are not from Karnataka. Number one priority on my list were ofcourse my tamil friends. Remember the anti-tamil sentiments that hit the streets of Bangalore in 2000 when Veerappan kidnapped Rajkumar? I certainly would not like to see a replay of that.

Here is another example where people from far away places who have been at a particular location for too long, tends to think just like the locals. I have been in the South for nearly 15 years now. I don’t know how but the moment I heard about the sad demise of Dr.Rajkumar, I knew immediately that there was going to be unruly incidents (I just didn’t know it was going to be THIS bad). And when I warned my friends about it, the non-mizos replied with a “thanx for the warning” but most of the mizos replied with “Why? Why should that stop us from going outside?” and “Why would there be a problem, was his death controversial? Was he murdered?”. Here is a clean cut case of how people from different regions think differently. People who have just moved here from Mizoram have absolutely no clue as to why people would incite violence over someone’s death (especially a natural one). Back home, funerals are a time for mourning. Everybody talk in hushed tones, sing soft funeral songs and everything is peaceful because of respect for the dead. But here, when someone dies, people burst crackers, play loud music and dance as if possessed during the funeral procession (apparently to scare away evil spirits). And in the South, film Idols are looked up with the deepest respect possible and some of them are even worshipped and given a God-like status, erecting temples in their names. Hence when their Idol dies, they go berserk destroying everything that lie in their path, to show their grief and how much they are going to miss him. By “they”, I am ofcourse referring only to the truly fanatical ones. If you have been watching the news yesterday and today, you would have noticed that many kannadiga celebrities (actors, directors, writers, politicians) have spoken out against this current violence, stating it’s a “Black day for Karnataka” and “a disgrace to every kannadigas”. I totally understand what you mean. Even I would feel the same way had my mizo brethrens did something like this.

Yes, even though most of us foresaw such an event occurring, nobody imagined it would be this serious. Yesterday as I finished warning everybody through sms and posting on the front page of www.misual.com (“Hence please refrain from going outside your home unless it is absolutely necessary. Dr.RajKumar has a fan following of more than a million kannadigas, and believe me, I may be brave but I am not stupid enough to stand infront of a million angry crowbar wielding mob on a rampage.”), I went outside to buy food and drinks for the next few days. But alas, every shop has already downed their shutter. News definitely travels fast! I was hungry as hell.

Emily, a very close friend of mine, told me to come over to her place for dinner if it was safe, and even though it wasn’t safe at all, I went anyway, mainly because I was extremely hungry and also partly because I wanted to be where the action was. I wanted to see with my own eyes what was exactly happening on the streets. Could this be the journalist in me begging to come out, or just the inquisitive child in me being curious?

Before I left, we had an unofficial building members committee at Maureen’s room. Steve, an Infosys techie, was asleep the whole day so he had no idea what was going on. Vicky, whose AOL call-centre cab did not come to pick him up, told me NOT to take the bike, and incase I was, then I should fly one of those yellow-red flags the fans of Rajkumar were carrying, but Maureen said this was a bad idea coz I wasn’t going to fool anyone once they see my face. Damn. So they suggested the best solution would be to walk, that way I can easily run into one of the gulley incase the mob chases me.

From my place, it’s a straight road till Banaswadi flyover which is around 2-3kms away. Walking down that road at that exact time was a completely new experience for me. There were tyres burning everywhere in the middle of the road, all the shops were closed and the street was completely void of any vehicle moving. Ofcourse I did not see any vehicles burning like the ones on TV, but there were broken glasses everywhere littered across the street, glasses from the windows of vehicles (they are brittle and not sharp). There were quite a number of people here and there standing on the edge of the road in groups, not fanatical mobs but rather residents of our area. And many of the families have put up huge posters of Rajkumar and garlanded it with flowers, sweets etc. Now this is how one should pay homage to the dead. Over all, the atmosphere was extremely tense and heavy, and now and then I was finding it a bit difficult to breath. It felt like a dream actually. Everyone talking in hush tones, looking here and there, turning sharply at the least loud noise heard, as if we were sitting in a time bomb ready to explode. Even all the dogs were unusually quiet. Not a single dog barked. Clever dogs. The entire stretch of road is filled with shops and commercial establishments, but till the flyover, only two medical stores were open that day. It was exactly a ghost town.

From the flyover, things were a bit different on the main road. There were a couple of life commuting on the road, and it definitely felt safer. I reduced my pace a bit and started walking normally. There were even a few autos plying on this road, a perfect opportunity for them to make a killing. Finally reached Emily’s place after a total 45 minutes of walk. Siami, roomie of popular blogger arunima was there too and she made this amazing “bai”. The dinner was definitely worth it. After dinner, Emily’s bro Jim asked me to stay over as it’s even more dangerous than before to go back. But something in me (stupidity?) wanted to go back home. My roomie called me up and told me he’s safely back home, but some drunkards threw a beer bottle at his Convergys call-centre cab. That incident took place near the Lingaraja flyover which wasn’t the route I was taking anyway, so it didn’t affect me much. The streets, which were partially deserted before, was now completely deserted. Not a living soul in sight. But as I proceeded towards Banaswadi flyover, the sudden sound of bottles breaking nearly gave me a heart attack. Two drunk guys were throwing bottles at the buildings around them. Even though they were on the other side of the road, I just ran and ran until I reach the flyover. The putrid smell of burning rubber still filled the area under the Banaswadi flyover and I have never been this alert in my entire life. From there till my house, no further incidents took place, thank God. I passed four vehicles on that small street, and all four drivers stared at me, probably as scared and alert as I was, seeing if I was carrying any bottles in my hand or not. Lolx.

You know what was really scary last night? The fact that there was not a single cop in sight. During my journey from my house to Emily’s and back home again, there wasn’t a single law enforcement officer on duty. On that very same road I was walking, on other days there would be lots of cops checking bike papers and giving the people their “holier than thou” attitude. But tonight, haha, they have all gone into hiding. Even the Kamanahalli Police station was locked up!

Reached home and there was this Arsenal-Portsmouth match going on at ESPN. Around 30 mintues into the game, the channel suddenly went static. My roomie n I cursed and searched for other channels. One by one, each channel was becoming static. Only the news channels remained active. So we watched the rest of the match on the net. Arsenal drew with Portsmouth. Bummer. It was only today that we found out all the cable operators have stopped airing all channels other than news as a mark of respect for the dearly departed.

Woke up this morning and was ecstatic to find out the small shops near my house were opened. Bought the most basic essential immediately: Goldflake Kings cigarette. Woohooo!

I went out in the afternoon to buy some grub. The big daddies like Nilgiries, Hotel Empire, Aiwas etc were still closed, but Hotel Imran, a small sidey kabaab place had its shutter half open. I went over there and asked for a biryani. Immediately I was ushered to a corner of a street and ordered to stand there. I gave the guy 40 bucks and later he came towards me and slyly handed me a plastic bag. Lolx. It felt as if I was buying some illegal contraband stuff. So I went home with my biryani and watched the news again.

Ah the news! NDTV kept on showing this clip about a cop running away from the mob with stones flying towards him, until one guy caught him and then the people trashed that poor cop. And he was grinning as he ran. Man I feel soooooo sorry for the bugger. Another clip showed a cop being carried away by the mob. God knows what they were planning to do to him.

All in all, what the kannadiga celebrities said was so true. Most of the mobs are anti-social elements, making trouble just because this is the only time they can commit such outrageous crimes. Compare the two television clips of angry Palestinians stoning an Israeli tank and “fanatical fans” of Dr.Rajkumar stoning a burning KSRTC bus. You can literally see the anger and passion in the faces of the former, while the latter shows grinning faces up to no good. Here I quote what the NDTV driver said after he was roughened up by the mob: “They were pelting big big stones and clearly everyone is booze, and they did not come to see Rajkumar but came to make violence.” sigh* How true.

Watching the news and other people comment definitely makes the common man come up with their own different judgment. NDTV claimed there was only one death during the violence while Times now said 5 people died so far. Girish Karnad, actor and theatre personnel, blames this whole thing on the poor response and preparation made by the police, while DGP DS Sial said this whole incident is an insult to the departed soul, clearly evading the question on whether this whole incident is a failure or not on the law enforcement part. Still, whatever be the outcome, the common man suffers. No water supply, electricity blackouts in some part of the city (luckily we had electricity the whole day), no restaurants open, and most important of all, no wine shop open!

I hope and pray tomorrow is a better Bangalore. It’s Good Friday tomorrow. Am planning not to miss the evening Mizo Church service. Hope I don’t get pelted with stones on my way to Church.

10 comments:

JasonSpalding said...

Why do the unemployed Palestinians stay living in a battle zone?

illusionaire said...

Well, the Palestinians stay there because they consider it to be their home. Am sure you too would stand up and fight for what you believe in rather than take a refuge somewhere. Anywhere, I only quoted that single Palestinian line as an example (a comparision) and I really don't want to start a Palestinian-Israeli debate here in my blog, atleast for now :-)

Thanx for visiting though. You do have a pretty well collected data on Palestinians on your blog. It made a very good read.

myindia said...

Hi I am sangam, being a kannadiga I stringly appose those who did this. As i have more non-kannadiga friends I always have a kind attitude towards those who dont know kannada. In bangalore you are as safe as every other kannadiga if you can speak kannada. But what happened on thursday was because of anti-social elements. I hope non-kannadigas can understand this.
Non-kannadigas dont bother to learn kannada because they think its absolutely not necessary as local bangaloreans are so open to english and hindi. But if you observe you can see how happy kanndigas become when you even try to speak in kannada.And this attitude of not to bother to learn kannada of non-localites has built a hatress in the kannadiga hearts. So my dear friends please show some respect to kannada and try to learn few words of it.........

illusionaire said...

Dear Sangam,

Its not just with Kannadigas but the whole of South India where the people really feel happy and impressed if an "outsider" talk to them in their regional language. South India is more or less made up of the same race and the only real distinction that is seperating them is the language factor. Hence every South Indian is highly proud of his culture and language, and sometimes tend to be a bit over-protective.

I speak and understand good tamil, can blabber a bit in mallyalam, never got the chance to learn telegu while I was in AP for a year, and here in Bangalore, I do take an attempt to learn kannada whenever an opportunity arise. I try my best to speak in kannada with the auto wallas etc (my frens tell me I am not just killing kannada, but raping it!) Here are some of the sentences I use regularly "nanu hoguththidene", "ninninda enadithu" and "pathregalannu thole" :-) I hope I wasnt that bad.

The thing with South Indian language is that, once you learn one, learning the next one becomes much easier as there are many similarities (I am not just talking about similar words, but also the way they ask question, the way the pitch goes high n low etc). Maybe in the next few months, my kannada will be as good as my tamil.

-Kima.

benjamin rualthanzauva said...

Thank you or linking my bai recipe. Would appreciate if Siami pass over her recipe.

Thanks God you made it back save that night.

illusionaire said...

Yup I'll pass on teh message to her. :-)

And yeah, was really thankful to God nothing happened to me that night.

virgochhas said...

brave but not necessary...

take gud care of urself...

Anonymous said...

hey kimsy
take care and avoid the ciggy if u can during times like these...u dont want ur cenotaph to read "died for a ciggy"
cheers
sonam

Allen said...

Hey man! Its soooooooo frustrating when you try to warn people there'll be trouble and they don't take you seriously and ask you so many questions about why should there be trouble etc. I dragged Sathya and Khare home from golf and the 2 losers cursed me the whole way back! Ungrateful bastards!

Btw they killed the cop. Bludgeoned him to death. When incidents like this happen everyone knows you can indulge in any violence / kill your enemies/ loot some shops and get away scot free. Thats why all these assholes come out and make use of the opportunity. But you were actually in a safer part of town. :-)

illusionaire said...

@ Allen! Lolx dude wish I was there to see the look on Sathya and Khare's face when the riot actually broke out! Yeah man, i know exactly what you mean. People who arent from around here should just listen to the wise words of the more experienced people with questioning us :-)

By the way, when are you joining your company?

@ Sonam: Bro! How you been? Yeah me cutting down a lot on my ciggies now.. Very soon I will quit. This is one thing where I dont mind being a quitter :-)

@ virgo: hehe.. yeah I know it wasnt necessary at all. Guess curiosity got the better of me.