April 19, 2006

A Career To Remember A Passing Away To Forget

April 19, 2006 Posted by Vijay 2 comments
I have not intended to hurt anyone’s feelings. All these are just my thoughts and it is with due respect to all Rajkumar fans.

Shameful, that’s the image that Bangalore projected to one of Karnataka's icon's death, that of Rajkumar's. Shameful, because the death of an idol triggered riots, and not prayers. And that it occurred even though the death was natural, which was even more bizarre to say the least. Shameful, because the IT hub of India, the city which has arguably given India the impetus for economic growth and a prominent position on the Global Map, took a beating as far as it's image was concerned. Shameful, because despite a change of guard in governance, despite an infrastructure which never even threatens to improve, Bangalore had all the time in the world to go amok over the death of an idol no less. And thus was buried, the great Rajkumar, who didn't realise, that 8 more would be escorting him to the doors of heaven in a day, which would include the security given on the way up by a policeman.

It sure is a pity that the great actor's body had to be taken around the city of Bangalore, without knowing where it would be placed for the public to pay their respects. It almost seemed like a soul which didn't know where it belonged and was wandering around. First it was the residence of the late actor itself, which was a scene of fans' grief. A crowd so large, the police authorities it so seemed were scared of taking control of the situation. For the presence of the police was nothing to write home about. And then, the procession of the body to be shifted to Palace Grounds for public viewing.Realising the strength of the late actor's fan following, the body was later shifted to the Kanteerava Stadium. All this even while angry fans were trying to catch a last glimpse of the great man. Now, that does send out a small signal of planning gone wrong, or do I have to mention it in as many words at all?

All through the procession from his residence to Palace Grounds and then the Kanteerava Stadium, thousands and thousands of fans accompanied. They just wanted to catch a glimpse of their hero, the last glimpse of the man they idolised for over 4 decades. But the mood was not all about grief it seemed. The bizarre acts that followed Rajkumar's death can never be forgotten. Grief turned to anger and fans took to the streets. Smashing windshields of cars, burning down tyres, disrupting vehicular traffic, forcing shutting down of shops. It can be understood that the fans were not allowed to catch a glimpse of the body, due to the enormity of the crowds by the police. And this made them angry. But I can vouch for a fact that, if it were a true fan, anger would have been there, but the intention being to see the last glimpse of the star, he/she would have remained calm and paid his last respects. But for the anger to turn so hostile as to go out into the streets, far away from where the body was, seems anything but absurd.

This leads us to the critical question. Why would fans want to forcefully shut down shops, burn down vehicles? Is it a mark of respect to the great Rajkumar? If that is so, this is the most disgusting way of paying homage. Bangalore was closed in down in a matter of 2 hours on the day of the death of the icon. My friend who returned from Delhi on the sad day for instance, was clueless what was happening in Bangalore. He couldn't get a single auto to get back home from the Airport. He had to finally seek the assistance of a policeman to get one. He still didn’t know what was wrong with the city. He got home only to realise that no hotels would be open to satisfy his hunger. He had to finally end up buying 2 bunches of bananas, which he would survive on for the next 2 days!

The day after the death was even more deplorable. The amount of tension that gripped Bangalore, for the natural death of an idol was anything but astonishing. Lack of security at the Kanteerava Stadium only led to more confusion and outrage among the fans. And they left no stone unturned to show it with all their vigour. Hapless policemen were brought down by huge gangs who formed within a matter of seconds and pummeled the policemen into submission. Stone throwing was the order of the day for irate fans it seemed. It was so chaotic and more saddening to see what was happening in the city you live. And it was more absurd to see the fans pelting stones rather than chanting prayers for the departed soul of Rajkumar’s. The violence in Bangalore, throughout the day near Kanteerava was disturbing to say the least.

Media too was ubiquitous in the places where the stone pelting happened. And with news channels growing everyday, anything sensational to be shown would mean more TRP ratings. One channel continued to air a 4 minute clipping of violent mob frenzy over and over for about an hour. Finally, they realised their folly of giving a false impression of widespread violence, ironically from a filmstar whose views they were seeking live. Now, is that the level of responsibility that the media has?? And is this the way to present news which more than a crore people in the country believe in? Or should I say, are made to believe in?

Bangalore crippled back to life after the burial in the evening after the death of Rajkumar. I was unsure of whether I would get my bus to Chennai that night. Autos were still few and far between. I ventured out with my luggage to the nearby Bus Stop. I asked an auto wallah to take me to the Bus Stand. I was willing to pay double more than the meter charge. And that would come to Rs. 100. Guess what the auto wallah demanded? 300!! I would rather cancel my bus ticket than take a ride in the auto of that lousy driver who was relaxing with his legs in the air in his auto. He seemed confident of raking in big moolah from atleast one other person. But I was not game for this day light (night considering it was already 8:00 in the night that time) robbery. I went away with a smile which could have had 3 parts in it. Shock, surprise, helplessness. But, lo and behold, a BMTC bus chugged along and I got in. But hey, even the buses were opportunistic it seemed. Realising the situation it took a longer route to pick up passengers in desperate need for commutation. Atleast monetarily they weren’t demanding more. I heaved a sigh of relief.

All these incidents, the lead up to the riots, leads us to the most crucial question. What went wrong? Why did all this happen? Why would fans turn violent on the day when they had to pray for the peaceful departure of their idol? Many interpretations have been given. Lack of security arrangements, planning gone haywire as to where the body was to be shifted, and so on and so forth. But this still doesn't answer my most important question of all. WHY??!! Why should fans get violent in times of grief??!! What is the reason? Why would they want ordinary people going by the wayside to suffer for a loss which is Karnataka’s? Why? Is it that, if someone dies, nobody around should move? If that was so, why did the gangs involved move around and burn up things in the first place? If there was something like a gang at all, who were they in the first place? Who is to be blamed for the unwanted and illogical loss of lives and crores of losses of business and property damage? One reason given has been the growing socio-economic divide in the city of Bangalore. The growing number of big money earners and the poor who seem to be left behind. It seemed it was an opportunity that was well utilised for those who wanted to show the strength. But who they are, is still an unanswered question. There was a cartoon in today's paper, which pictured people joining in the riots, by throwing stones and beating up policemen, without knowing why on earth they were doing it. And the next line read, "Who knows, we will come to know the reason in tomorrow's paper". Well, I am not optimistic that the "why" part would ever be known and nor will the "who" part be.

Whatever it is, what has happened has happened. And life has to move on. I am sure Rajkumar wouldn't have wanted this kind of homage. And in hindsight, none of his fans who were genuine would have wanted it either. Anti social elements are everywhere. But to force people into submission, those who are not related in anyway to the events, is inhuman and despicable to say the least. Life cannot be smooth. It never has been and never will be. But life can certainly be peaceful and calm when a state mourns the death of an idol.

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