Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mumbai Spirals: Day 3 - The Darker Side to the city

A chilling and disturbing photograph about crime in Mumbai that has lodged in my mind is the one I saw two years back at a press photograph exhibition at Express Towers. The photograph is attached alongwith this article. A mentally disturbed individual armed with a knife had attacked two girls at the Gateway of India, tourists from Manipur enjoying a stroll along the promenade. It was a completely random attack, with no real motive or even a connection with the victim. One moment, they were happily strolling along the promenade and the next, were being repeatedly attacked by a stranger, who stabbed one of them to death before anyone could react. He attacked from behind and slit one girl's throat and when her friend tried to stop him, he stabbed her on the forehead. A photographer from the Indian Express had captured this incident shortly after it occured, and that's how I got to see it one damp, windy, and gloomy saturday morning.

I saw this photograph early in the morning in my office lobby while waiting for the lift(my office used to be in Express Tower). This was a day when I remember being all alone at work, and feeling consistently disturbed by that photograph in a strange manner. Maybe it was the randomness of the attack which struck me, maybe it was the (by now, sad) beauty and youth of the victims. I remember feeling a deep rage against first the attacker, but then realising he himself was a victim who couldnot cope up with societal norms. Next, i was angry at the photographer- how dare he click snaps when humanity demands him to help the victim? Then i reasoned, he was performing his duty and pehaps there wasnt much he could do to help either. I was therefore left without a villian and didnot find anyone to blame and move on. The incident shouldnot have taken place, and someone with so much to look forward to, shouldnot have sufferred such. More so, I should not have been left feeling so confused and helpless. That is exactly the feeling which comes over me everytime I read or hear about a major attack of terror in Mumbai.

Thankfully, i get spared having any such feelings while reading about crime in the Mumbai Mirror. For the Mirror, crime is a joint venture. The serious half of the venture is handled by Times of India, their sister publication. Left-overs and hat-ke incidents is what this publication gets to dish out. And it does so with aplomb. Creating and dishing out twists where none exist. Building angles to the incident which neither the victim nor the villian would have thought conceivable. Jumping to conclusions faster than the proverbial bullet. Imagining criminal ideas, which would shame even the most ingenous criminals about their ineptitude. Have a look at some of the headlines from the crime section of the Mirror that i've managed to hunt down in my May spiral:

Fig 1: A former gangster goes to meet Balasaheb Thakare. Random article
created only to come up with a catchy headline.
Fig 2: After airlines, its now trains. It takes a Mirror to come up with a
full page practitioners manual on "Hijacking Trains for Dummies"
Fig 3: Previous day headlines- Docs booked for Making Suggestive
Gestures in local park. Next day headlines, its turns up they were only
following Ramdev's instructions.

The guiding principals of the Mirror editors seems to be "What's a city with no crime and no gangsters?" Chicago without an Al Capone, London without 'Jack the Ripper', Munich without the massacre, Calcutta without its pocketmaars, Paris without 'the jackal', and Gordon City with no joker and no penguin just wouldnot be the same. Mumbai, they gleefully point out, is after all the city with the best network of organized crime in the country. After films, horse racing, matkas, and movie hall popcorns it is the city's most profitable industry. After Sachin Tendulkar, the city's most talked about son has been Dawood Ibrahim. Gangsters in this city are not pure criminals, they are required by the tabloids to be entertainers as well. Pure crime can get you to TOI, but its only if your crime can come with a tapori twist would you find yourselves in the pages of a Mirror.

1 comment:

Kaustubh said...

Dear Nishith
Maybe u feel better if i say tht the centre of humanity is chaos and randomness and not order and logic.

These incidents are just reflections of human behaviour governed by a system (the brain) which is yet to be understood....its just randomness getting to expect logic and rational in peoples actions....but maybe tht is wht u shud not te end of the day all humans are biologically animals and are prone to behave like animals do....