Posts Tagged ‘German Bakery’

I am depressed, very depressed. There is so much cynicism all round. It’s difficult to take anything at face value. As journalists we have been mentally tuned to disbelieve anything we are told. Often, that penchant for taking with a pinch of salt anything we are told, has transgressed from our professional lives into our personal.

You can’t really blame people for feeling the way they do. The ordinary citizen is getting squeezed for his last rupee while the corrupt politician is busy raking it in. The ordinary citizen is paying his taxes and then he finds the government blowing it away in daft populist schemes that are only going to increase the burden on the tax-payer.

Of all the hair-brained schemes (MGNREGA, Aadhaar?) this UPA government has come up with, the Food Security Bill has to be the stupidest. I don’t say this because I have any antipathy against the poor and the downtrodden, but because I am convinced that not even five per cent of those living below the poverty line will benefit from this idiotic scheme.

Just like the funds meant for NREGA are being siphoned away by the contractors, the food meant for the poor will be forcibly taken away by the landlords, hoarders and black marketers and sold at double the price in the open market. The worms in white Gandhi caps and their cohorts will steal even the rice that the government promises to give to the poor for three bucks. That is their mentality and that will never change. Scum they are, and scum they remain.

It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand that the Food Security Bill is just a squalid vote-grabbing exercise. No government scheme for the poor since Independence has helped improve their living standards, and neither will this. The PDS is a good example.

There is another troubling fact. Where are we going to find the funds to feed so many? If one heard Sonia Gandhi, it would seem to the whole country that it is not her problem what happens to the tax-payer. The implication in her speech was clear. She needs the money to buy the votes and if she has to ram more taxes down the throat of the tax-paying citizen, so be it. And all this when her son-shady in-law is busy making crores through even shadier deals! So can you really expect the middle class taxing paying voter to trust this government, anymore? More importantly, can you expect them not to be cynical?

And it is not just silly schemes that are leading to this all round depression. In 2008, Mumbai was attacked by a bunch of Pakistanis. Yup, never mind the cock and bull story about “irregulars”. They were Pakistanis and they waded in and set the ‘maximum city’ on fire. The Centre and the State promised a lot to make its citizens feel more secure. Then there were more bomb blasts. We were again told that the State government would (metaphorically speaking) stand on its head to ensure the safety of citizens. Then some idiots with backpacks blew up the German Bakery, killing seventeen people who were probably enjoying their Chocolate Latte or Mocha or whatever. More promises. Then the bombs went off on Jangli Maharaj Road. More promises. If that wasn’t enough, the Pakistani Army kept up its relentless barrage of gunfire on the border, pushing in terrorists into India. And Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet keep telling us that all is well. In this situation, expecting the honest tax-paying citizen not be depressed and cynical is asking a lot of him.

Even an earnest 21-year-old asking for help is looked upon with disdain. This young girl, who teaches in a school for children of the economically weaker sections, sent me an email a week ago to ask me whether, firstly, I could find a journalist to address a bunch of 11-14 year-old from her school on what the future holds for them, and secondly whether she could bring them over to our office to show them what the inside of a newspaper office looks like.

My first response: What does a 14 year-old know about journalism? I was just being me – cynical and condescending.

Another email from her turned the whole issue on its head. It won me over: …8th is an extremely crucial year as that is currently when free education stops. If the kids and their parents aren’t invested enough in the idea of education to pay for a private school, they may drop out. So, because of the limited opportunities the kids already face, we start conversations about achievement, college and opportunities with even a 3rd grade class. Most of my students haven’t ever seen an office of any sort, and apart from what I have told them, have no knowledge as to how a newspaper works. So, I think that this would be pretty beneficial for them.”

Her earnestness won me over. I personally offered to talk to the children at her school and also got an immediate approval from the Editor to show them around the office. And then I thought… if the poor children from this school can actually get out of the cycle of deprivation and poverty and make a better life for themselves, it would be a fitting reply to the idiotic schemes launched by this government for the poor – ones that would only end up making beggars of them, instead of giving them a better life.

So cheer up, things can only get worse from here on…!


So another important Indian official got frisked at some US airport. The Yanks probably thought she had an AK-56 hidden in the folds of her sari! But jokes aside, at least she got frisked. In India try frisking your own MPs and bureaucrats and the next thing you know the Airport Manager will be transferred to Tinsukhia.

I remember the outcry by MPs and bureaucrats when it was suggested that they all be frisked at airports. What’s the harm? If they are carrying firearms they can declare it. And like the rule states, it will be handed back to them once the aircraft reaches the destination. But it does make one wonder why they refuse to be frisked –especially when they and returning with their spouse from sojourns abroad.

I’ll agree that the US airports do stretch things a bit at times – like when they made Defence Minister George Fernandes undergo a strip search and patted down former president APJ Abdul Kalam. But sometimes an advanced state of paranoia is a good thing. The US has, by and large, managed to avoid any major terrorist attack after 26/11, unlike here where we wait for an incident to happen and then make a lot of noise, point fingers at the whole world and generally flounder around. At most places there isn’t security worth its name.

Every time I read about a bomb blast somewhere in the country I realise how helpless we are when it comes to protecting ourselves. While politicians get z+ security the common people are left to fend for themselves. Look at what happened in Varanasi. A bomb went off and, somebody died because the police were goofing off on the job – which is nothing new when it comes to the UP Police. But instead of doing something, Mayawatiji says the Centre should give her the kind of security that Mumbai got after 26/11! Then the Centre blames UP, and the chief minister throws it right back. In all the buck-passing the people who suffer are mere statistics.

Take even Pune, German Bakery was reduced to rubble two years ago, but it hasn’t really changed anything here, has it? At one of the biggest malls in Pune the security apparatus is a joke. At this place two people – one who slides a mirror under the car and the other who opens your boot and gives it a cursory look- are what we have in terms of security. Where is the thorough check that is required?

Hundreds of people flock to the mall every day and the damage in terms of lives and property can well be imagined if some nut-case decides to do something. Yet is the Pune Police or even the authorities at the mall bothered? The cops will shrug it off with the words that security inside the mall is not their concern, and the Mall owners will say they are doing all they can. But is that enough? So often, we’ve parked our car in the parking lot at the mall and stepped across the road to do some shopping.

A colleague told me this rather interesting story and I think it fits perfectly into the bureaucratic bungling which we see when a terrorist attack takes place. She was in Delhi in 2001 with students on a study tour when terrorists struck Parliament House. The Capital was suddenly under siege so the lady decided to visit George Fernandes, who was a friend of her father’s and also the defence minister.

When she reached his house she informed the security personnel who informed Fernandes. The minister called her and the kids in, but, surprisingly, his security refused to allow them in! Since this was the day after the Parliament attack they were adamant that no one would be allowed in even without the required approval, even though the minister had no objection, since guarding him inside his house was their responsibility.

The security personnel then told the lady that she could meet Fernandes when he drove out of his bungalow. Once the minister left the bungalow, he would step out of the car and meet them. The lady then posed the classic question: What if, when Fernandes steps out of the car, someone waiting across the road shot at him?

The security officer’s answer left her speechless. “That’s not our problem. Our jurisdiction ends the minute he steps out of the gate. If something happens after he leaves his residence, that’s the responsibility of the commandos protecting him.”

Terror within our walls…

Posted: February 15, 2010 in Terrorism
Tags: , ,

So it finally reached our doorstep. All these years, even during the dark days around Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the Mumbai riots, Pune was peaceful. Every time there was a bomb blast anywhere in the country, we drew solace and prided ourselves on the fact that Pune did not react. But once the reports started pouring in about Pune being infested by ‘sleeper cells’, deep down a lot of us knew that it was just a matter of time, before terror hit us in the face.

The first thing I did when I heard about the blast at German Bakery was to call one of my students who frequented these spots on a weekend. I was relieved when she answered, “I’m on a bus back to the institute. I didn’t go there today.”

During the interviews and GDPAs for new admissions at SIMC the other day, I met one such youngster, who was looking to switch from his job at a leading firm to take up journalism. When I read that one of the victims of the blast had been employed with the same firm, I hunted down the visiting card the boy had given to me during the course of the interview. It wasn’t the same one.

Over thirty years ago, the Joshi-Abhyankar murders shook Pune like never before. No one really knew who was behind the murders and why they were happening, so the mystery led to many rumours and panic prevailed. Till the killers were caught, Pune was a ghost town after 7 pm. Theatres were running empty and so were the streets.

In the present case, at least we are aware, or at least we think we do. Let’s not get carried away by the rubbish that opportunistic politicians tell us about Intelligence failure etc. Our honourable Lok Sabha MP even called the incident an “event that was being coordinated by our State Minister for Home!” or some such nonsense. He’s the proverbial loose cannon, our man in Delhi, isn’t he? So it was an unintended faux pas, but, at least, it made me smile!

And PC was right. We can’t do anything about someone putting a bag filled with explosives in a crowded eatery and walking way. But, we can start protecting ourselves and others around us by not being too smart and opening the bags that someone left behind. And for heaven’s sake, let’s listen to what the police are trying to tell us, instead of thinking we know more than them. Even though there is nothing much we can do, except be more vigilant. Let’s at least do that.

What happened on Saturday was also a result of a little carelessness on our part, and this “don’t-tell-me- what-to-do” attitude that’s rampant today, be it at home or on the streets. It’s the little things like security checks at the multiplexes and malls, and even on the roads that get us all hot and bothered under the collar. I’ve seen how people get worked up and start honking, sometimes even shouting at security personnel checking vehicles, at the multiplexes. It’s time we showed a little patience.

On Sunday evening we were at one of the malls near our residence doing our monthly shopping. Outside, in the street there was the usual hustle and bustle, but inside, even at that hour, there was a sparse crowd. For a Sunday evening that was quite unusual, because the place is usually overflowing with customers. Is this the shape of things to come?