Newspapers or advertising platforms?

I used to read the local papers online but now they’ve started charging for access i do without them, especially as their landing pages have become increasingly cluttered with ads with nary a news story in sight. In fact you wouldn’t even know you were landing on the front page of a newspaper if you look at some of the examples shown below. What you’re viewing are screenshots of the landing pages of the main newspapers in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the US and India.

Greetings from Kingston, Jamaica, everyone. It’s been a little over a month since I retired from working as a publications editor at the University of the West Indies. The last few years have been hectic with preparing to make this transition, something i’ve been looking forward to for a while. Being on my own time is a a freedom I feel I’ve earned and a luxury I intend to enjoy for as long as I can.

One of the things I’ve looked forward to doing is re-activating Active Voice, something I haven’t had much time to spend on the last few years. I may soon try out substack, but in the meantime, I will be operating right here.

I don’t know about you but one of the fallouts of the digital age we’re in now is that paper is increasingly receding as a viable/desirable product. i stopped buying physical newspapers almost a decade ago, though i intend to purchase both Jamaican papers over the next few weeks because i’m moving and the newsprint will come in useful when packing.

I used to read the local papers online but now they’ve started charging for access i do without them, especially as their landing pages have become increasingly cluttered with ads with nary a news story in sight. In fact you wouldn’t even know you were landing on the front page of a newspaper if you look at some of the examples shown below. What you’re viewing are screenshots of the landing pages of the main newspapers in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, the US and India.

What isn’t captured in these screenshots of the landing pages of regional papers is the noisy clamour of ads blinking like strobe lights, distracting videos and busy captions that type themselves across your screen preventing you from getting any sense of the main news stories. when you do find a news story it’s club sandwiched between layers of inane still ads.

Contrast these with the final four screenshots, one of the Statesman in India and the NYT, Washington Post and Boston Globe. In the latter 3 the masthead of the newspaper is clearly visible in large enough letters, there are very few ads pulling your eyes away from the news headlines that give you a good sense of the main news occupying the communities serviced by those newspapers.

When will local news media wake up and put in place serious policies about the way they communicate with their audiences? I have no desire to be bombarded with ads and if it’s an evil the regional news media finds essential then put those advertising dollars to work paying good investigative journalists to expose the many nefarious schemes and plots undermining our social and political systems. Surely there is no doubt after the fallout from ‘Pastor’ Kevin Smith’s peculiar ministrations and the daily updates from the Klansmen trial in Kingston that we are living the zombie apocalypse.

The mindless genuflection to a bankrupt corporate sector that can’t come up with better ways to advertise their products than to plaster boring blandishments across newspapers no one is reading is as much an indictment of these companies as the feckless media conveying their messages.

Jamaica Observer

Jamaica Gleaner

Trinidad Express

Trinidad Guardian

Barbados Nation

The Statesman (India)

Nigeria’s Girls and the limits of Hashtag activism

Curated tweets and articles about the kidnapping of 234 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram

On April 14 234 teenaged Chibok girls were abducted from their boarding school by Boko Haram, a terrorist group in Northern Nigeria. Nigerians themselves seemed slow to take notice and the rest of the world even slower. But when CNN and co finally did so it was like overkill. Below is a collection of tweets, mainly from Nigerian writers chronicling and reacting to the mainstream media coverage of the abduction and the hashtag campaign that started in Nigeria and its diaspora.

As the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in Nigeria and its diaspora intensified mainstream media suddenly came on board with high profile personalities like Michelle Obama and others posing with placards that shouted #BringBackOurGirls. Predictably it wasn’t long before some bright spark started hijacking the hashtagged statement as evident in the two images below, of Michelle O and Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s Opposition Leader.

Andrew Holness, Leader of the Opposition, Jamaica

  1. Hmmm. When malaysian flight was missin a lot of Naija celebs were praying for them and sharing opinions. Missing girls… silence.
  2. Creating child soldiers. Possible explanation. Shudders.
  3. 200 girls are missing in Nigeria – so why doesn’t anybody care? | Anne Perkins 
  4. How were BH able to transport 200 girls from one location to another in a state swarming with soldiers? #BringBackOurGirls
  5. Must read: A schoolgirl’s incredible story of escape from #BokoHaram mass kidnapping in #Nigeria  #BringBackOurGirls
  6. The world mobilized to find Malaysian Air Flight 370; can it not also do the same for 200 girls?  #BringBackOurGirls
  7. See my people 😀 “@abubakar47i: Our Mothers in the Kaduna procession today #BringBackOurGirls
  8. What matters now is that those girls are rescued. Whether by negotiations or by military action
  9. @leidychichi The girls have been taken away from Nigerian soil. Protests are to get intl awareness and military support.
  10. 200 girls forced into slavery and you can just act like it is nothing? Haba!
  11. Photos: Waje, Seun Kuti, Other Celebs Hit The Streets Of Lagos For #BringBackOurGirls Campaign 
  12. If you’re in or around #London on Friday, 9th of May, join us at the Nigeria House #BringBackOurGirls . 10am – 1pm
  13. The protests in Nigeria are democratic. This American “help” will lead the opposite way: more militarism, less oversight, less democracy.
  14. 234 chibok girls. 45 Murdered Buni Yadi boys. 100 in Damaturu. So a select group of Niggas can get power and renew Billion $ oil licenses
  15. The operation started from 11pm till 5am. all these while, calls were put across to the JTF but no response. #Chibok234
  16. After the operations, the assailants allegedly loaded their victims in about 3 trailers, 4 busses & a number of trucks. #Chibok234
  17. Their movement was slow and in about 2 kilometers away, one of the vehicles developed fault & they took about an hour to fix it #Chibok234
  18. Our security man’s sister made her own escape when they got to their 1st destination. a village not far from #Chibok.
  19. They also said that #Chibok is a xtian dominated town and that most of the kidnap victims are xtians. #BringBackOurGirls
  20. The story will not be complete without a mention of Mr.Bitrus Madu. He lost 5 daughters, he is currently on admission. #BringBackOurGirls
  21. In Nigeria as part of team covering missing girls. Tweet me questions you want put to officials.#BringBackOurGirls
  22. Because everybody must be seen to “care.” No context, only sentiment. RT @chrisbrown: #BringBackOurGirls
  23. I understand the impulse to “do something.” But Boko Haram is irreducibly complex. Makes Kony look like child’s play. 
  24. These are difficult conversations to have because we’re good and we care. We don’t want to be interrupted during the fervor of our hashtags.
  25. Part of the horror was that the girls were ignored. An opposite problem now is CNN’s heavy sensationalist interest. 
  26. Patience Jonathan: “Nigerian women, don’t demonstrate again. If you demonstrate and police do you anything, you are on your own.” #Surreal
  27. Fitfam for the mind. @elnathan urges you to “wake up and smell the moringa”… 
  28. Let us be clear, the government was never going to do anything about this; the girls were abducted the same day… 
  29. The thing with surrealism as a form of government is that the unexpected move is exactly what you must expect. You must adopt mirror logic.
  30. Delighted to welcome all the new Nigeria experts.
  31. Boko Haram Leader Shekau is meant to be under pressure from Nigerian military & he’s able to record a full 1 hour video? I am CONFUSED.
  32. @gbengasesan Top 10 countries spreading #BringBackOurGirls worldwide; Nigeria (33%), USA (28%), UK (14%)
  33. “May your house be on CNN.”—Bosnian curse
  34. And if international help is needed: why is Uncle America the default? What about ECOWAS? African Union? Other partnerships? UN? EU?
  35. Wow! I still can’t believe all this CNN action is about my country Nigeria; I thought I slept on a flight and woke up in Iraq!
  36. To use a Nigerianism, the traffic in some bits of Abuja tonight “does not have part two”. Translation? It is truly horrendous.
  37. Who did dis? *holdslaff* I said who did dis? *burst* ROTFLWTMB #diarisGodo!
  38. The story behind the story: Nigeria itself has been missing for years.
  39. @elnathan Sometimes I wonder if Nigeria is run by smart people who r purposely deceiving us, or by idiots who r really trying their best.
  40. To agree on sorrow, even in the absence of other agreements, is not nothing.
  41. @soniafaleiro @vikasbajaj Wearily deletes New Yorker app from his iPhone.
  42. Lots of armchair gossip by people hinting that they know who funds Boko Haram. The reality is that it is still a mystery
  43. The Chinese have also offered to help Nigeria #BringBackOurGirls . I never knew the Chinese for this though…
  44. History counts its skeletons in round numbers. A thousand and one remains a thousand, as though the one had never existed. —Szymborska
  45. Boko Haram killed more human beings yesterday than the total number of girls they kidnapped three weeks ago. Horrifying, and unhashtagable.
  46. For four years, Nigerians have tried to understand these homicidal monsters. Your new interest (thanks) simplifies nothing, solves nothing.
  47. Remember: #bringbackourgirls, a vital moment for Nigerian democracy, is not the same as #bringbackourgirls, a wave of global sentimentality.
  48. “‘We’ are not the ‘we’ that ‘we’ imagine ourselves to be.” This piece by @zeynep says so much so well: 
  49. Unlike some, I have no problem with the world adopting #BringBackOurGirls and the use of the word “our”. I think that is important.
  50. Now you have two sisters. RT @elnathan: I have one sister. I noticed that one of the Chibok girls has my sister’s exact name and last name.
  51. I am always worried when people in government also use #BringBackThegirls. YOU are the ones we are asking to bring them back!
  52. The girl in this viral photo from #bringbackourgirls is not Nigerian. And she wasn’t abducted.
  53. If energy does not shift hashtag into a larger political movement, next week there will be another loud sterile hashtag #bringbackourgirls
  54. 1. Spurious photos 2. White lady claims she started hashtag 3. Americans collect money in girls’ name #ff White Savior Industrial Complex
  55. There has been a long catalog of atrocities and betrayals; #bringbackourgirls contains, for Nigerians, very many grievances, not just one.
  56. BUT: I do think the domestic and international scrutiny are both putting a floodlight on Nigeria’s light-averse government.
  57. This perhaps is the international community’s role: serve as witness to what Nigerians must mostly do themselves, and amplify Nigerian work.
  58. @tejucole I am concerned about timing of concern from the west, It could be a ploy to make Nigeria like Iraq, there is oil after all
  59. Really all that remains is for Goodluck to take a selfie with #BringBackOurGirls on an A4 paper or crested on his bowler hat.
  60. I will sleep. And if I wake and see Mama Peace in a selfie with #BringBackOurGirls ashoebi I will not be shocked. This is afterall, Nigeria.
  61. @tejucole why throw cold water on genuine expressions of outrage and concern? Global indifference would be worse no?
  62. @Abu_Aaid: “@tejucole urges us to keep this at the back of our minds as we help #BringBackOurGirls.


    So my sister came visiting. Her biggest annoyance in this whole matter is that Malala has intervened. “Nigeria is better than Pakistan!”

Why Twitter is essential for Journalists

An attempt (once again) to rally our top journalists to start using Twitter, the definitive newsgathering tool, before its too late.


2012 was the year a handful of name-brand Jamaican journalists decided it was time to start using Twitter. That was pretty late in the day already. The majority however are still holding back, perhaps signalling their impending mortality or the end of their shelf lives as journalists to take seriously? We still have no @ianboyne, @markwignall, @cliffhughes, @MartinHenry (perhaps the only local science writer!) and many others who straddle traditional media like local giants.

This post is dedicated to all the non-tweeting local giants of Jamaican journalism: The following quote from How to break into science writing using your blog and social media (#sci4hels), a Scientific American article should clue you in on why you’re shortchanging your audiences by continuing to spurn the latest newsgathering technologies such as Twitter. In addition this useful but long article provides a lot of great information for journalists in general on how to use social media to find new audiences and outlets.

“Let’s focus on Twitter now. It is essential for a journalist. Not having – and using – a Twitter account today is like not having an email address ten years ago (and yes, some cutting-edge people are completely abandoning email and doing all of their communications over social media).

Big companies have suffered losses because their old-timey PR teams were unaware of the backlash on social media, and then incapable of responding correctly on social media. Businesses can lose money if they are missing key information that appears only on social media. Academia is especially horribly insulated and way behind the times. But nowhere is use of social media as important as in journalism. Don’t be this guy who was completely oblivious that his newspaper was in the center of national maelstrom of harsh criticism, because “I only deal with what’s on paper”.

When an airplane skidded off the runway in Denver, I knew it, along with 100,000s of other people, 12 minutes before everyone else. A passenger tweeted about it, and it spread like wildfire, including his updates, blurry photos, etc. CNN had a brief piece 12 minutes later. The accidental “citizen journalist” scooped them. Sometimes, for some news, these 12 minutes may be crucial for you.

Twitter and Facebook were key methods of communication not just between participants, but also to the outside world, during the Mumbai attacks and the Arab Spring.

People got jobs and gigs on Twitter that started their careers.

Journalists on deadline quickly find expert sources for their stories.

Journalists who observed the massive, instant, intense and scathing reactions of experts to #arseniclife or #Encode did not make the mistake of filing their positive stories and then having to backpedal later.

If all you see on Twitter is garbage, you are following the wrong people. You have to carefully choose who to follow, and then learn how to filter. Unfollowing is easy, and polite. You are not dissing your Mom, as if you would if you unfriended her on Facebook.”

And guess what the best thing about this most cutting-edge tool for journalists is? It’s free!

Wikileaks…dousing the Information famine drop by drop…

Another take on Wikileaks

Anna Ardin, political secretary of the Swedish Christian SocialDemocrats, one of the rape claimants against Assange

We are now irrevocably in the era of information activism thanks to info evangelist Julian Assange, who has been variously described as an information saint, a digital fugitive and a rapist. Accused by Anna Ardin, political secretary of the Swedish Christian SocialDemocrats of riding her ‘bareback’ as they say here in Jamdown–after the condom being used broke–he now faces charges of rape in a Swedish court. The founder of Wikileaks foiled by a leaky condom. There’s a kind of poetic justice to it; the question however is what will the quality of Swedish justice prove to be?

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks has spoken to the BBC about fighting extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. He believes he won’t be treated fairly. Should he go back? asked BBC World Have Your Say today.

Would the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Liu Xiaobo, get a fair trial in China? Is the Pope Catholic? Do bears shit in the woods? Is ganja grown in Jamaica? Of course he wouldn’t be treated fairly.

As long as Assange and Wikileaks were exposing secrets about non-Western countries like Kenya and Korea Julian was a hero. The conservative UK Economist magazine even gave him the 2008 Economist Index on Censorship Award. But by the time it was time for Time magazine to decide its Man of the Year award a couple of weeks ago things had changed considerably. By this time Wikileaks had released top secret and embarrassing classified documents about the US Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, showing the wanton killing of civilians and a disregard for human rights as blatant as the supposed abuses that provoked those wars in the first place. The United States’ cover as a crusader for universal human rights, democracy and transparency was forever blown.

Bob Englehart, copyright 2010 Cagle Cartoons

Consequently although Time magazine readers voted overwhelmingly for Assange as Man of the Year, its editors opted to award the title to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. According to a December 15 article in

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, blatantly disregarding the wishes of the magazine’s readership, who voted in their droves to put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the top spot. The award is doled out annually to the person regarded by the magazine as the “most important” figure of the preceding 12 months. Readers are asked to vote for their favourite among a long list of nominations, but the final decision is left to the editors.

When the poll closed yesterday, Assange – who is currently in police custody in the UK – topped the chart with a whopping 382,024 votes, nearly a third of all those counted. Über-nerd Zuckerberg, by contrast, appeared to garner little support within the ranks of his 500 million ‘friends’ on Facebook, only just scraping into the top ten with a measly 18,353.

The 26-year-old CEO was beaten on the leader board by public figures including Steve Jobs and Barack Obama. Even Lady Gaga shimmied past him in her rubber pants to take number three spot.

We can only assume the editors must have employed the so-called ‘Florida method’, first witnessed in the 2000 US presidential election, in their final decision.

And in The man who knows too much, Tehelka, an Indian investigative magazine observes:

What’s funniest about the WikiLeaks bashing is that up until the middle of this year, Assange was being toasted all around. Two of the many awards his organisation has won are the 2008 Economist magazine New Media Award and a 2009 Amnesty International’s UK Media Award. The latter was for its publication of a report titled Kenya: The Cry of Blood – Extra Judicial Killings and Disappearances in 2008, which led to a regime change in the country.

Then, in April this year, WikiLeaks posted a video of Iraqi civilians and journalists being killed by US forces, followed by the Afghan War Diary in July and the Iraq War Logs in October – both showing up the US in dismal light. Since then, many bouquets have turned into brickbats.

The consequences for Wikileaks have been dire. As Economic and Political Weekly noted in their article The Brave New World of Wikileaks:

The manner in which the leading “democracies” of Europe and North America have responded to these revelations has been acutely revelatory about these regimes themselves. Despite there being not a single criminal case against Wikileaks it has had its website shut down, its payment gateways with Paypal have been closed, Visa and Mastercard have refused to transfer funds, its bank accounts have been frozen (including the one meant for its Julian Assange’s legal defence) and, worst of all, elected representatives have called for the murder of Assange. And there is no certainty that he will not meet an untimely end as various people have, whenever they have crossed Uncle Sam’s path.

Much has been said and written to decry Assange’s claims of being a journalist. He certainly is not a journalist in the traditional sense of the word, but his Wikileaks intervention has definitely altered the prevailing paradigms of journalism forever. Accusations of data dumping and lack of analysis of the data dumped miss the point completely. In Invisible Leaks Aaron Bady aka zunguzungu, a California-based blogger who has attracted a lot of attention recently, explains the significance of the ‘scientific journalism’ that Assange is proposing. Pointing out that it isn’t only Wikileaks that is leaking documents he examines a story in the UK Independent based on a leak showing that government “Ministers believe most graduates will spend their whole working lives making monthly payments to cover their loans and interest – without ever being able to settle their debts.” Yet the government went ahead and raised university fees regardless provoking the massive student riots and the near lynching of Prince Charles and Camilla we saw in early December. As zunguzungu points out:

…the entire story is nothing but a leaked document, and yet who leaked it? You barely even notice that there even was a leaker. And you don’t notice that The Independent’s role here has not been to propagate and disseminate the leaked document, but in fact, to obscure it. They read it and decided which parts were worth emphasizing, and then they excluded those which were not (the author of the report, for example, or other budgetary details). Such details might be much more damning. Yet standard journalistic procedure here is to excise such details, making an editorial choice (and taking the interpretive license) to tell you what the document says. Which is where Wikileaks’ “scientific journalism” comes in, the idea that all leaked documents should be fully released, so that conclusions can be independently checkable (not just checked by The Independent). Which is, of course, Assange’s real sin, and the reason he could be tried for espionage for publishing classified material, while the NY Times and Guardian never will be: he deigned to let us read the news ourselves.

Zunguzungu’s blog itself is an extraordinary one that shows the volatile and fast-shifting nature of the current media environment. According to Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic:

When historians look back at WikiLeaks and how the world’s pundits tried to make sense of what was happening, they’ll see a familiar list of sources: Foreign Policy’s Evgeny Morozov, The Guardian’s John Noughton, The New York Times’ David Carr, several people from the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, and various long-time digital leaders like Geert Lovink and Larry Sanger.

But among that list you’d also find Aaron Bady and his blog His probing analysis of Julian Assange’s personal philosophy and possible motivations became an oft-cited piece of the global conversation about what WikiLeaks might mean. Before Bady’s November 29 post, Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government”, only a few hundred people a day found their way Bady’s blog. In the days afterward, tens of thousands of people swarmed to the site — and Bady ended up linked by some of the most influential media outlets on the planet.

This article explores how that happened because it shows that in today’s media landscape, an act of journalism can spread quickly to the very highest levels of the culture and news industry, no matter where it comes from.

Interestingly it was via the tweets of one of the tweeple i follow, ethnomusicologist  @wayneandwax {the twitter handle of Wayne Marshall–not the Jamaican DJ–though Wayne has actually written about Jamaican music extensively (, even publishing an article in a special Reggae Studies issue of the journal I edit, Social and Economic Studies} that zunguzungu’s fascinating blogposts on Assange came to wider attention.

I end with a couple of tweets from my timeline: At what point does information become knowledge? asked @dmccaulay. When data is organized it becomes information. When it finds a potential application, it is knowledge, responded @damienwking.

Nuff said. For more info on Wikileaks, Assange and the history of the organization watch the videos below. The first one ends abruptly before the end, but the second one has the final clip:

26/11–Mumbai Murmurs

There is a lot to be said about the shocking series of events in Mumbai that finally–too late–drew to a bloody and violent close. I may eventually get around to articulating my own views on the subject but for now I offer a collage of quotes from a range of sources, all from the blogosphere, mostly the Indian blogosphere. I think they convey more eloquently than I ever could the confusion and complex disquiet Indians of every stripe, colour and creed are experiencing in the wake of 26/11.


Tab, The Calgary Sun

What has struck me forcibly from watching the news unfold on CNN and the BBC and from the blogs and other online sources I’ve read are the numerous accounts of selfless and gallant behaviour from subordinate staff at the hotels and restaurants. Look even at Chabad House where the two-year old child of the hapless Jewish Rabbi and his wife was rescued by his Ayah who apparently faced down all obstacles in her path, escaping to safety with her tiny charge.

In two of the accounts that follow, Sonia Faleiro and Amit Varma, a pair of prominent Mumbai authors, both express their gratitude to a security guard who scooped them and their friends back into the hotel from the street when all hell started to break loose there, and the hotel staff who put them up for the night refusing to accept payment the next day. Shobha De, the writer and socialite, tells why the Taj, built by Jamshedji Tata “to let the British know that there can be a magnificent hotel built by Indians, for Indians” is important to her. A man named Patel is almost inarticulate with rage over the callousness of news coverage on all channels, whether Indian or foreign while Dhiren explains why he never liked the Taj Palace. A Sri Lankan gives Indians cogent advice from that country’s decades long problem with ‘terrorism’. On an economic and financial note Danusgram warns that the loud sucking sound we hear “is the sound of the big vacuum cleaner sucking the jobs you guys took from American back to this country.” Taken all together these comments allow a multifaceted perspective from which to view the recent mayhem in Mumbai.

November 29, 2008 2:09 PM
HOBO said…
I cried a lot and switched off the Television.

November 29, 2008 2:30 PM
hitch writer said…
Should we say Wake up India ….
One of the biggest problems with our country is we tolerate a bit too much….

Thursday, November 27, 2008
Sonia Faleiro [This excerpt and the one following by Amit Varma are twin versions of the same series of events by writers who were together that fateful evening around the corner from the Taj Hotel]

Children of Bombay
And then we attended the exhibition and to celebrate Nyela’s wonderful success we went to Indigo Deli in Colaba, a restaurant which is behind the Gateway of India, behind the iconic Taj Hotel. An hour later a man stepped out of the deli and terrorists shot him dead. Terrorists stormed the Taj, they took hostages, they killed people, they set the dome on fire, blood poured down the stairs.

The Deli was full so we walked down the street and turned left to the Gordon House, a boutique hotel where the guests speak in iPhone’s and teenagers wear suits. We ate stir fry and drank campari and then we said, where now?

We stepped out of the hotel and bullets rang in the air, people screamed, a tidal wave raced down the street and the security guard said ‘Inside! Madam, Inside NOW!’

We ran inside and I messaged my friend Chandrahas. ‘Encounter. We’re staying in for now.’ We thought then it was a gang war, and it would end soon and Rahul and I looked at one another and we thought: This is what we’re bringing our children into the world for.

Even then though there was no fear, only worry and stress. This is Bombay we said to ourselves, we fear no gangs, they are part of our bloodstream.

…When dawn broke, we walked down through the empty hotel, front door barred with chains and locks. Outside the street was silent, and I thought I smelt smoke in the air…The security guard, a tall thin Sikh gentleman, who had ushered us back into the hotel when the shooting started, was walking down the street with a friend. His shift had ended. I went up to him, and shook his hand. It felt amazing. ‘You saved our lives,’ I said to him. ‘You didn’t have to. We had paid our bill, we were leaving, not entering the hotel. We weren’t your responsibility.’ He smiled at me, the smile of a little boy. ‘Thank you, madam,’ he said.

This too is Bombay, I thought to myself. A city where a stranger who owes you nothing will do anything, everything for you.

27 November, 2008
From The India Uncut Blog
Published by Amit Varma

A Night Out In Mumbai (Updated)

This is turning out to be one crazy night. A friend of mine had an opening of her art exhibition a few hours ago, so we ventured to South Bombay for that. We attended the exhibition, sipped the litchee juice, nibbled on party snacks, and then six of us headed out for dinner. First we tried Indigo Deli, which is a couple of hundred metres from the Taj. We were told there would be a 25-minute wait. So we headed to All Stir Fry, the restaurant in the Gordon House Hotel in a lane down from there. They told us we’d have to wait 20 minutes. We stepped out again, and as we did so, we heard gunshots, and saw people running towards us from the left side.

One of the hotel employees rushed out and told us to get back in. “There must have been an encounter,” he said. “Get back in, you’ll be safe inside.”

We followed him in. We waited in the lounge-bar upstairs for a while. The big screen there was showing cricket. India won. Then someone changed the channel.

That’s when we realised that this was much more than a random police encounter, or a couple of gunshots. We heard that terrorists with AK-47s had opened fire outside Leopold’s, the pub down the road. We heard there was firing elsewhere in the city as well, including in the Taj. We watched transfixed, and as the apparent scale of the incidents grew, we realised we couldn’t go home. We asked if they had a room vacant; they did, so we settled in, switched on the TV, and watched in horror.

…I was on Larry King Live on CNN about three hours ago. They called me and asked me to be on the show as an eyewitness, at which I protested that I hadn’t actually seen anything, I was merely in the vicinity. But they’d read what I wrote in this post earlier, and they wanted me to talk about that. So I agreed, and came on briefly. King asked me if I’d actually seen any terrorists—I felt guilty that I couldn’t offer him any dope there.

Deepak Chopra was also on the show, speculating that the attacks had taken place because terrorists were worried about Barack Obama’s friendly overtures to Muslims. (I know: WTF?) That sounded pretty ridiculous to me, but such theories are a consequence of our tendency as a species to want to give gyan. A media pundit, especially, feels compelled to have a narrative for everything. Everything must be explicable, and television expects instant analysis.

…The kind folk at the Gordon House Hotel did three important things for us last night. One, they ushered us in when the gunshots began, assuring us that we’d be safer inside than outside. Two, they got us a room for the night, and extra mattresses and so on. Three, in the morning, they refused to accept payment for the room, insisting that we were their guests and this was their duty.

We left them a hefty tip out of gratitude, but I’m still in disbelief about their kindness. I often complain about the poor service in the hospitality industry in India, but never again about All Stir Fry or the Gordon House Hotel. What guys!

Friday, November 28, 2008
Shobha De [India’s most glamorous writing socialite]

Cry, my beloved city

The sight of the Taj burning, is the one that will remain forever etched on my mind – a ghastly and tragic reminder of this city’s vulnerability…. and also it’s grandeur. That is where I was courted, got married. The place I consider my second home. Taj is family. That is where my daughter is getting married ten days from now… or that was the dream…. the plan. Till last night. Today, that beloved heritage building – Mumbai’s pride and joy – is a monument to death and destruction. The Taj has always been an inspiring emblem of India’s defiance and glory when it was built in 1903 by a great son of Mumbai, Sir Jamshedji Tata, to let the British know that there can be a magnificent hotel built by Indians, for Indians. As I watched the flames engulfing the top floor, my tears flowed for those incredibly brave men and women from the hospitality industry who performed such a stupendous job, along with the others, in saving as many lives as possible. The terrorists picked their targets well – by hitting Mumbai’s most-loved symbols of wealth and prosperity, cosmopolitanism and progress, they succeeded in their mission of demonstrating to the world just how simple it is to attack iconic institutions and hold a teeming metropolis to ransom. Yes. My daughter will get married. And yes,the ceremony will be at the Taj — burnt…. but not bowed. We will always love it. Terrorists may destroy a structure. But our souls are our own.

2008-11-29 11:41:47
Dhiren said:
I hated that hotel, twice i had gone there as a kid and twice my mother and i had arguments about etiquettes needed in such hotels…. i was always not suauve….

But some how all those emotions aside, the day Taj re-opens i would surely want to go there… and stay there, lets not allow these terrorists to terrorise us….

November 27th, 2008 at 2:01 am
Well Done Media.. Like CNN IBN. They covers Full STORY. I have just watched the CNN IBN live on their website. They show the open firing, the injured people taken to the hospital.

BUT,…B..U..T, How the hell you are covering it. For covering the NEWS, these shameless people put the camera over the HEAD of Military people, who are helping out the proces… Pushing those Military/police people and making more work for them. Reporters are Rushing to the Injured People.. Just to take a Picture of they injury? Like They are a Monument?

If you see one of the footage, in which they show the terrorist are firing from the Police van. In the end of the footage, one person got injured on his hand and he was running here & there for help. The camera person sits besides him and covers this NEWS. Camera man moves this other hand, which is supporting the injured hand and try to Cover the FUll BLOODY HAND in his NEWS.

So, What is more important… NEWS Covering for the People sitting at HOME OR Helping the GUY suffering infront of You?

November 27th, 2008 at 9:20 am
hetfleisch helmut alb.:
we are verry sad,about the situations you country has now.verry verry sorry to all the people of india and mombai.strange world.i hope your touristbussines-will not be toucht to mutch.sad sad sad. Helmut

November 27th, 2008 at 10:17 am
Sunita Parida:
Shame on the Religion of Terrorism……….This is to all the terrorists and Jihadis …………please stay away from this lovely peaceful world……if you want to go to heaven then kill yourself and do the needful….but do not try to kill the innocent people…

November 28th, 2008 at 11:44 am
I might as well go ahead and accuse CNN-IBN of aiding the terror-mongers. Its 5:00 PM in India and CNN_IBN has George Koshy reporting LIVE on the grenade launch by the NSG at the Taj in such details and focussing their camera images at the target and the NSG launcher that such information can be of help to no one except the terrorists and possibly harmful to the security or the public.

November 28th, 2008 at 14:37 pm
Zee news has a foreign news edition, they had a news piece on the mumbai terror attacks, to my horror they sensationalised the news, used pre-recorded gun shots noise and, kept using as back ground sounds…bang-bang-bang-bang…disgusting, stop making a mockery out of it, absolutely ridiculous!

November 28th, 2008 at 15:37 pm
these British and American news channels have shown in this crisis, how they see “non-british” and “non-american” as, they have shown that if you are not an american or british then we dont give a damn about you! I mean, the tragedy happened in India didnt it? then why in the world are they concerned about its impacts on the American and British people. why arent they showing the Indian aspect; the ones who lost everything!

November 28th, 2008 at 15:43 pm
Many ppl here in chennai are not able to catch the news as the tv s are not available due to continous rainfall for over 3 days .
I m actually catchin all the news on CNN , where there is live tv and its from there that i found live news on CNN-IBN
So actually CNN-IBN themselves do not have a live tv and i thank CNN international here

November 28th, 2008 at 16:24 pm
To see what is happening in India today is to look in the rear view mirror of what we did wrong in Sri Lanka. When we suffered terrorist attacks, we blamed it on foreign interference, namely India. India does the same today: the Prime Minister in a televised message blamed a “group based outside the country”. Both countries have failed to realize that the root of the problem is not outside our shores; the problem lies within. Messages from the Indian public are scrolled continuously on NDTV, most of them blaming the government for inadequate security and calling for a severe crackdown on terrorism (as if they weren’t already trying all this time). Not one message asked the question: “what drove these Indians to do this to other Indians?” …

So here’s a word of advice from a Sri Lankan to our big neighbour. Don’t go down the path we have taken. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice the freedom of another for your own safety. Be smarter than us. Look within and find the disease that is causing this fever called terrorism. For now, your terrorists seem to be ad hoc groups of lethal young men. With every attack in your country a new terrorist group with a new label takes credit. That’s how it starts. The day will come when a determined and motivated leader manages to coalesce the many fingers of extremism into a hard-hitting fist, with an ideology as compelling as it is evil. When that happens, you will pay a price in blood and sorrow for generations to come. We know this because we have seen it all before.

November 28th, 2008 at 19:52 pm
Message to all of you over there hear that sound that is the sound of the big vacuum cleaner sucking the jobs you guys took from American back to this country. No corporation is going to use your country for workers it is too dangerous and yes that is our concern as these are american concerns not Indian in so you can stop attacking the Americsn news media they have go report this based on our investments there. Say bye bye to your outsourcing scheme….that has hurt so many American families

November 28th, 2008 at 23:42 pm
Karen P:
Some American’s are just idiots. There are many people who do not hold Indians responsible for taking American’s jobs. Do not listen to the idiot posting prior.

We feel for you and your country, just like you felt for us when we were under attack.

Stop using this attack as a way to spew hateful talk and creating more resentment to American’s worldwide.

We are so sorry that extremism has once again hit your shores.

Anonymous said…

INDIA – A Sitting DUCK

The news telecasts for the past three days have been like watching Hollywood thrillers and Bollywood action flicks unfold at different places. The only unfortunate part is that the heroes did not emerge without any damage to innocent civilian lives.
…Expectedly, the quotes from the political class were hopeless & spineless. One cannot help compare an extempore inspiring speech by Mr. Obama with a totally damp squid speech by our PM. What was needed was an extempore and heart felled speech peppered with bold talk. This would have helped warm the cockles of the heart of a worried nation. As usual the politicians pointed fingers towards Pakistan? Does it matter who did it? First we don’t do anything to prevent these kinds of attacks from happening but are ready to point fingers right away. Does pointing fingers get protection for your country? Why not focus on getting things organized at the scene of crime. Let a politicians family member be in those hotels, then see how organized the fight becomes. We have had so many bombings in India that we should have been prepared. But who will tell these politicians. Now all we would see will be the visuals of those coward politicians lining up to meet the families of the dead- promising to make them martyrs, giving false promises of not sparing the terrorists, announcing compensation packages, etc.

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