Wednesday, September 17, 2008

9/13 Opinion - Scavengers in the Blast Sites

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9/13 Opinion - Scavengers in the Blast Sites

To be or not to be a reporter.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

As a David Remnick wannabe, it's a dream come true to tumble from one disaster zone into another.

On 9/11, I was in flood-hit Bihar. On 9/13, my train chugged into Nizamuddin station. Just in time. That day, at 6.32 pm, I was in Khan Market when Barakhamba, Central Park, Karol Bagh and GK I M-Block Market were rocked by serial blasts. This was a big Delhi story and I, The Delhi Walla, thought if I do the right reporting, take the right quotes and write the right adjectives, I would be able to impress my readers and my friends.

So, there I was, camera round my neck, notepad in my hand and oh… a slight hitch. “No, you aren't going to blast sites," parents commanded. OK, I'll go the next day. A journalist friend (let's call her L) called and we arranged to meet at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital the next morning.

At RML, like a scavenger, I clicked 'great' pictures of grieving relatives of blast victims – injured and dead. I also talked to a few of them and took 'newsworthy bytes'. Next, we were in Central Park. Pictures, again. Next, Karol Bagh. Pictures, again. And then the script went out of control.

We walked into a street and met an injured eight-month pregnant woman with glass shards still stuck in her flesh. A crowd of bubblegum-chewing reporters, like me, were crowded around her, asking questions in babalog Hindi.

Following the blast, as I soon learned, the woman was taken to a private hospital where doctors sent her home after applying some very basic first-aid. In want of a full check-up, she was now wincing in pain. But no one cared. You see, most of us reporters only wanted the right visual and the right quote.

I, too, did my number and was ready to leave for M-Block Market when something happened to L. "We are taking her to the hospital," she declared. OK. Quite noble, but it was hot, I was tired, and well, was this really my job? However, I did whatever L asked me to do (arranged for a rickshaw, got her into the car etc.) while still scribbling and still clicking.

Once in hospital, L got a doctor for our patient who continued moaning in pain. But the doctor got distracted by our journo status and instead of attending to the victim, he got busy asking if I would publish his name and picture in The Delhi Walla. It hit me, then: even if somehow I managed to impress my readers and my friends, what would be the point?

So, how you feeling? (at Barakhamba)

9/13 Opinion - Scavengers in the Blast Sites

Live from the Emergency Ward (at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital)

9/13 Opinion - Scavengers in the Blast Sites

Now, just one more minute (at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital)

9/13 Opinion - Scavengers in the Blast Sites

Reporting from 'ground zero', (outside Central Park)

9/13 Opinion - Scavengers in the Blast Sites


Kartikey said...

good story,
good photos?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for stopping a moment to think. Most commonly, instead of being objective, you idiot wannabe journalists just stay voyeurs while civilisation collapses, and imagine yourselves to be some noble information-dispersing angelic do-gooders while still hacking away at the most basic needs of humanity.

Saad Akhtar said...

Well at least you stopped and thought about it. But then you went ahead and blogged about it :P

The previous comment by Anonymous seems a little harsh though. I'm sure there are many good people in the business, they're probably as sad about the situation. But I'm sure there are many who pray for such things to happen. If only a wounded person dies in front of the camera, they can milk that story for the next 2 days. Or at least repeat the same 8 seconds over and over again.

Aman Thind said...

Hey, u have this great way of making your point clear without even saying it. Let me shed some light on this: I am not a journalist or even close to that, but i know when in middle of such disasters, even if not lending a helping hand, the journos do a far great job by letting the hundred of thousands of people know what all is happening. So, simple mathematics, thousand/lakh > 1 right?

Ankit said...

'What's the point' You ask... let me tell you a small story, something which happened with me a while ago -and- I work for a tv channel which beamed images of a bloodied girl two minutes after the bomb blast in Central Park...The story is about a 2 day old baby girl who was abandoned in some bushes in Noida after her folks found out that she has a neurological disorder and would never be able to lead a normal life. If I had instead of reporting about the incident thought about how I was 'milking' the story or 'what does it matter', that baby girl would still be lying in some orphange, awaiting her death, instead of being adopted by a family who loves her dearly.

As a journalist it is my job to tell these stories, stories of people who have been affected by things worse than imagination to the world and give people a voice. With a hope that it changes or atleast makes someone think. Agreed, there will always be those who would like to sensationalise a story to get a higher TRP or more newspaper sales, but there are some, who just like to give an unbiased story - like it is.

Ankit said...

Oh and as for thinking about impressing readers or friends, each time I beam an image or a story as a journalist I am not looking for a fan mail or a blog comment, its all about giving voice to someone, mostly because thats the best that I can do or the best way I can possibly help.

Anonymous said...

Smugness gone obnoxious there. Keep beaming then.

Anonymous said...

And as for the baby girl story, it isn't as if this journalist adopted her himself. Since the advent of these middlemen journalists, charity has indeed gone impersonal.

Ankit said...

This anonymous person is indeed interesting, but what is more interesting instead is the attitude of those who themselves cant do anything but certainly would like to comment on others trying to do their bit. Obnoxiousness indeed.


Anonymous said...

Sure, you're practically Mother Teresa here! Looking for abandoned babies in the bushes to beam 'em on air!
What on earth has the world come to?
Sod the lot of you! And that includes this blog!
I'm getting off NOW.