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)
Live from the Emergency Ward (at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital)
Now, just one more minute (at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital)
Reporting from ‘ground zero’, (outside Central Park)