Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Monday evening was hectic. I was wading through this incomprehensible story that one of the correspondents had filed, trying to beat it into shape. I received a message that there had been an accident involving the Delhi-bound Rajdhani Express. My mind raced. After all, Howrah-Delhi was the route frequented by friends, relatives and acquaintances. Was anybody traveling? No, not as far as I knew. This friend of my mother had left a couple of days earlier.
The TV was on at the office and I heard ‘Rajdhani’ being mentioned. Zee News was doing a special bulletin on the accident. “2301 Up Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express had jumped the rails over a bridge on the Dhawe river. One of the coaches had fallen in the river. The others were hanging from the bridge.”
“Shit! This was big,” I thought.
Aaj Tak, meanwhile, had nothing but a news flash. Complacent buggers, they were probably sleeping over it.
Zee News already had its correspondent Shrikant Pratyush doing a phone-in.
Then, someone called me. Said there was a guy on the phone who wanted to report an accident he had witnessed. I took it. His voice sounded normal. Okay, this wasn’t some drunk raving. He sounded excited. He had been driving down the Ring Road in the Delhi Cantonment area when he saw this truck hit a cow and plough into some pavement dwellers sleeping on the roadside.
He said the scene was horrific. Probably, 15 people dead. He heard the wails of the relatives trying to extricate he bodies of their loved ones from under the wheels of the truck. In fact, he himself had got down and called the police station.
I took everything down, thanked him and informed the desk in-charge.
Tomorrow morning there will be a lot of Page 1 stories, I thought. (Funny, how journalism makes you categorise everything — from the smallest trivia to the biggest disasters — in terms of how ‘big’ or ‘small’ a story it is.)
The desk in-charge echoed my thoughts. “Tonight’s a big night for news.” (There had been a news of a hijacking earlier.)
Aaj Tak got its act together a good one-and-a-half-hours later. But, not before Zee had gloated about how it had “broken” the story and managed to get an interview with Mamata Banerjee. It was a God-sent disaster for Banerjee. And like a vulture she had descended. However, she didn’t forget to mention that it was purely humanitarian reasons which had brought her to the Howrah railway station. (What a bitch!)
I reached home at 5 am and went straight to bed. Got up from bed in the afternoon and checked out the Times of India. Expectedly, they didn’t have the news.
I thought of turning on the TV for an update. Remembered, that I didn’t have a cable connection. And breathed a sigh of relief.

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