An Open Apology Letter from Ramu…

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My Dear Fellow Citizens,

I know that an apology has been due from my side ever since Ram Bhopal Burma Ki Aag. Mummy-Promise, I had all intentions to write an apology letter but khallas…I mean alas, I never got the time to do so because of the busy shooting schedule of RBB ki Aag – The Sequel (Coming to a theater near you in Dec.2009). Before you get me wrong again, I am not here to promote my movie, I am here for something almost as important, I’m here to apologize for tagging along with our CM Alasrao Deshmukh to the Taj and the Oberoi.

Now doubt me if you may, but I am not writing this under pressure from anybody. It’s something I felt I needed to do as a responsible human being who is answerable to his own conscience. That, as far as I’m concerned is the Satya! None the less, I still need to answer all of you as well. I’m sure all of you must be wondering why the hell was I there at Terror Tour of the Taj and the Oberoi, which, quite frankly, was none of my business.

Well, let me tell you how it all began. A couple of days ago, I received a call on my cellphone. After quickly ensuring that it wasn’t a distributor calling to ask for his money or one of the usual wise-asses who keep hurling abuses at me ever since Aag came out (Yes I have list of your numbers you bastards!), I picked the call up. The nice, friendly, sweet talking girl on the other end asked me “Sarkar ke ban ne mein aap involved the?“. I immediately replied “Of course of course, I was the mind behind Sarkar! Not once, but twice, and if I get support again, I’ll make it once more.” The girl seemed to be pretty happy when she heard this and told me that she would like to meet at the Taj. Now usually, I don’t entertain requests like these, but these days I’m on a creative hiatus (read ‘jobless’), you can say its some well-earned time off for myself (read ‘totally jobless’), also I haven’t had the time to go to the Taj in a while you know (read ‘broke’). So I agreed to meet the girl.

Only when I reached there did I realize that she was not a female fan who had invited me for a date. She in fact was the CM’s Head PR person. Apparently, the CM told her, “Jisne bhi Sarkar banane mein help kiya, usko Taj bulao!”, and she thought he was referring to my movie, Sarkar. Poor girl, I won’t blame her. That was a very hit movie after all!

So you see it was all just a delightful misunderstanding! Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why didn’t Ramuji know about the terror attacks in Mumbai?” Well, folks, do you really think I’ve read the papers, or watched TV or even made any contact with the outer world after my last two movies? I know, all of this could have been avoided with a bit of common sense on my part, but hey, I’m the guy who has made movies like Darna Mana Hai, Naach and Darling! I mean seriously, do you still think I have any sense left in my head?

I guess I have to just admit it now. There’s no where I can Rann! So here goes, *ahem * Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m sorry, I totally Phoonked up! I mean I don’t know what else to say here, I’m like totally Nishabd! Just yesterday, everything was Mast, but all thanks to one silly little mistake, the people are hunting me down as if its a Jungle out there. But as Kaun, I mean Akon sang, “You Can Put The Blame on Me”. Sorry once again folks, I’ll try and be more cautious about the Company I keep next time.

Yours Apologetically,

Ram Bhopal Burma.

P.S. Sorry for shamelessly inserting all my movie-titles in this letter. It’s a part of my Contract! There, that’s all of them!

Mumbai Floods The Gateway

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Nearly four years ago, protesting against the government became the in-thing after Rang De Basanti showed how apathetic youngsters took things into their own hands and started off a revolution.
Last Wednesday, 10 young men stormed into various hubs in our city posing as martyrs. A week later, I’m proud to report that the city has  risen up with all its fury, instead of curling up into a ball and saying ‘Chalta Hai’, or insensitively moving along citing ‘Spirit of Mumbai’. And I don’t mean the Sreesanth-brand of rebelling without a case. I mean, actual, coherent agendas and clear thought.

Today in the land of ‘Hota rehta hai’, something ‘happened’. And I can assure you, I have never witnessed a gathering of this sort in the city before. Well, okay, if you include the T20 World Champion Indian Team’s calvacade was huge as well and displayed similar ‘unity’, this certainly cannot be compared with it. if anything, this was louder and angrier!

I have to admit, I had serious doubts about what a forwarded SMS could achieve. Even more so, when I heard that about 10000 people would be attending this rally. In all probability, this was going to be a circus, where people would shout, push, shove, trample on each others toes and go back home with even lesser faith than they came to the Gateway with. But something told me to give this a chance before I wrote it off. And so, we headed to Colaba, like thousands of other Mumbaikars did today.

When we reached the Gateway at around 4.30 pm, the place was  starting to fill up with a couple of hundred people already there armed with home-made banners and cameras. A few tourists here and there took pictures of the crowd before zooming onto the charred window panes of the Taj and snapping away. Some students from Khalsa College too had turned up, but all in all, the gathering didnt even seem like a shadow of what it had been built up to in the papers. As time went by however, the people started to trickle in. Volunteers in black tshirts reading ‘Enough is Enough’ formed a circle right next to the Gateway and set up a pedestal in the middle, awaiting their speaker. Elsewhere, the junta started their standard fare of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ and the likes through their broken megaphones.

Witty banners then started to emerge from all corners. While some lampooned RGV saying, ‘Aapne do Sarkar banayi aur aaj ek aur sarkar girayi.Thank you!’ others took a shot at all politicians in general suggesting a possible ban on dry-fruits. Mumbai certainly had brought their funny-bone along today, but the ire of angry citizens was yet to be witnessed.

It didn’t take long for the angry Mumbaikar to show up though. In fact things almost took a turn for the ugly when more people seemd to be shouting Anti-Pakistan slogans than anything else. But as the sun set, the real Mumbai began to rise. As soon as the clock struck six, the trickle of people became a raging flood. Hand-made signs gave way to full size flex hoardings, broken megaphones were replaced full-throated screams, and within no time, one could witness the tricolor as far as the eye could see.

Mumbai had woken up, and it was angry! The crowd got denser and the protests got louder and louder. Things however, didn’t show any signs of getting out of control at any point of time, as could be seen on the relaxed (and proud) faces of those who were posted there to protect us. I in fact had the privelege of speaking to one such unnamed unsung hero from our Police force.

This was no rifle-wielding NSG commando, he was an ordinary constable with a lathi, the kind we see everyday and pass by without a regard. At first, he just made small talk with us about what college we came from and where we lived. But soon, he told us about how he was posted outside the Taj for four straight days, about how the stench inside the Taj was so unbearable now that even he didnt have the courage to go inside anymore, about how he and his fellow men took on the AK-47 wielding terrorists with their lathis and lived to tell it, and how he wished he was suitably armed to at least take one of them down. The man had neither age, nor the odds in his favour, but he was there, and he was not complaining! And for that I salute him with as much respect as I would salute an NSG commando.

By the time we began to wade through the crowd to make our way out, the protests had a reached a crescendo. There were in fact more people going in than coming out. Those who couldn’t go inside were perched atop trees and lightpoles and some even hanging out of their balconies and terraces! And this was the scene more than half the way to Churchgate station.

I don’t know whether we created history today, or whether this will be the beginning of a change that will shape this nation. I don’t know if this random, mish-mash account of my experience makes a difference to anyone. But for once, I feel like I’m a part of something that might just work. In fact with the elections around the corner, anything is possible. For now though, all I can say is ‘Kudos Mumbai!’And lets hope for the best.

Mumbai’s Worst Ever Terrorist Attack – Updates

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Mumbai, (28th Nov. 2008 2030 hrs)

FOR EARLIER STORIES CLICK HERE

The Current Updates

“Operation Nariman House Over, All Hostages Dead”

After ‘Yes-No’ reports for over 3 hours, the NSG finally confirmed that the third floor of Nariman House (Now known as Chabad House) had been cleared and that unfortunately all five of the hostages had been killed. Two terrorrists were also slain in the encounter.

Since 1640 hrs, the NSG intensified their operations at Nariman House, systematically attacking floor after floor. Spectacular explosions were observed as the NSG used rocket-propelled grenades to clear out the said building.

At around 1750 hrs, the NSG blew out a window on the fourth floor. A major explosion earlier, left a gaping hole in the wall on the first floor. The commandos therefore could clearly be seen surveying the cleared floors. And so, at around 1840 hrs, amidst confusion and speculation, the media prematurely declared that ‘Operation Nariman House was completed and the hostages were safely rescued’ (India TV & Star News).

Unfortunately, at 1905 hrs, the NSG confirmed that terrorists had killed all five hostages.

Reports yesterday suggested that a Jewish Rabbi and his family were amongst the hostages. The terrorists had even released the Rabbi’s son along with his nanny. The focus then shifted to the rescue of the Rabbi and his wife. News reports revealed that there was increasing diplomatic pressure on India as far as their safety was concerned.  The fact that the commandos haven’t been able to rescue the said hostages is certainly a big blow.

” Operation TAJ Still Unfinished. “

Despite all hostages being successfully rescued last night, the NSG commandos are yet to uproot the terrorists holed up inside the Taj. Reports as to how many terrorists were still inside the Taj lacked unanimity throughout the day. Some channels speculated that there was one terrorist who was possibly injured (CNN-IBN).  Others claimed that there were two (India TV).

The NSG earlier requested the media not to relay live coverage of the operation as it was becoming a disruption. Subsequently  there was a black out of news channels in several parts of the city, as well as in Thane and Navi Mumbai.

The operation has now greatly intensified with as many as 17 explosions being carried out by the NSG within a span of 20 mins between 1750 hrs to 1810 hrs. The supply of electricity which was earlier cut off, was resumed after sundown to facilitate the operations of the NSG.

In a freak accident, 3 members of the media were hurt by shrapnel after an explosion was carried out on the first storey of the TAJ.

“Operation Oberoi-Trident Accomplished, 24 found Dead.”

The NSG confirmed at around 1430 hrs that the operation at the Oberoi-Trident Hotel had been successfully completed and that the hotel was now under control of the NSG. Mumbai Police Commissioner Hassan Gafoor confirmed that 24 dead bodies were found in the premises today, in addition to the 6 bodies found yesterday.

The NSG claimed to have gunned down 2 terrorists at the Trident.

The operation showed encouraging signs as early as 1255 hrs when Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh confirmed that the Oberoi section of the hotel had been totally cleared and that the Trident section was almost clear.

The NSG is currently second-checking the premises and looking for possible clues that can aid the investigation.

Long Road To Jawahar.

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Starring: Mom, Dad. Bro, Bro’s wife (Sis), Scared Bengali Driver (SBD), Tata Sumo and Your’s truly.

Dateline: 5th April 2008

The Scene: It’s 9.30 PM. Yours truly and family are returning home from Shirdi in Scared Bengali driver’s Tata Sumo. Halfway home the road forks into two, we have the option of taking the Igatpuri route to Mumbai(straighter ,shorter road, pathetic condition) or the ‘Paryayi Rasta’ (Optional Route) via Jawahar (Zig-zagging ghat but good roads and virtually no traffic). We decide to avoid the cratered Igatpuri road and opt for the Jawahar route instead.

35 kms to Jawahar: The road looks very scenic, dense forests on either side of the road, perfect roads and NO TRAFFIC! We all agree it was an awesome idea to take this road.

33 kms- We notice that the road looks a lot like the ones we see in bad thriller movies like Kaal and Darna Mana Hai. Random Vivek Oberoi and Ajay Devgan jokes follow.

32 kms: The road is getting very curvy. I feel like I’m on a F1 track loaded with chicanes while bro imagines he’s riding on his imaginary Bullet. We hit a sharp, curve…Scared Bengali Driver brakes hard. The car comes to a standstill. SBD suspects a flat tyre. Mom and sis panic. SBD assures this wont take long. SBD and Dad step out to inspect the car. There is no flat tyre, instead something called a ‘balance rod’ has snapped. We are not quite sure what that does but realize we are in deep shit. The jungle road no longer seems scenic. We take back every joke we made about Kaal, Darna Mana Hai and every other bad horror movie. We see an Ambassador far in the distance and frantically wave. The Amby stops. It’s a ‘Maharashtra Shasan’ car. SBD and Dad explain situation to the driver who inspects the Sumo and confirms SBD’s prognosis. SBD seems proud of the fact that he is correct. Driver expresses helplessness as his ‘Saab’ is running late, he however mentions a gaon 4 kms away where can find a grill welder who might wake up and help if we request him. SBD says we can make it there provided we drive very slowly. We drive on.

28 kms: Almost half an hour later we reach a signboard which directs towards a narrower,curvier road , with absolutely no lights which leads to the gaon. Not eager to explore we keep going ahead.

26 kms: We keep moving ever so slowly on the road to nowhere. Every 15 minutes or so a truck passes by in the opposite direction, becomes smaller and smaller as it goes farther away, then finally becomes a tiny speck of light on the horizon and then disappears. Trippy stuff!

25 kms: Hurray! No Vodafone coverage. Maybe Dad’s Tata Indicom phone will have full network like the ads promise….Negative…no network again! Damn you Kajol!

23 kms: SBD is almost in tears. He says that the car is jinxed and that it runs huge repair bills every time he makes an outstation trip. (Great timing!). Mom contributes to the jinx conversation, says that the dress she is wearing is the same one she wore when the family (excluding me) missed their flight from Delhi to Mumbai. Bro rubbishes the jinx theory and says that they missed the flight because Dad took a 45 minute halt to have a plate of mix-pakoras. 5 minute argument about the pakoras.

22 kms: SBD says, “Hey look at that! What a huge snake!”. Mom doesn’t quite catch it at firsts and asks if there are snakes on the road. We unanimously deny. (The snake however was REALLY HUGE!)

20 kms: SBD goes into Nat Geo mode, says that ‘the biggest danger on this road are the leopards’ Mom hears him this time. SBD changes and talks about furry little brown rabbits which can also be seen on the same road.

19 kms: I have officially decided to make this into my next humor piece and start paying attention closely. The others think I’m crazy because I’m laughing alone in the backseat. Dad tries to divert mom’s attention and points to the Great Bear constellation in the sky. Mom however is more worried the possibility of real bears on the road.

17 kms: Progress seems smoother now. We reach a Police Naka-Bandi. The cops do not know whether there is a garage in the vicinity but assure us that we will find one at Jawahar….22 kms away! WTF!

16/21kms: Dad , who suggested we take this road in the first place, recounts the days of his youth when he frequently traveled on these roads. Memories of trucks skidding off the ghats, cars breaking down and adivasis attacking and looting motorcyclists are fondly recalled.

15/20 kms: The jungle seems to get denser. Dad talks of a time where he had to spend a night in the jungle with no one by his side but for our dog Rambo. Rambo had to be given up as he attacked my cousin sisters one time too many. Dad and bro sigh in his remembrance. We consider getting a dog again.

14/19 kms : We see 3 villagers dressed in white overalls walking in a straight line going God-knows-where. Just what we needed to complete the horror movie scenario! On a brighter note, Vodafone coverage is back!

13/18 kms : SBD spots another animal. ‘Is that a wolf?’ he asks. With the help of quick word-play, mom is made to believe that it was a dog.

12/17 kms : Another animal spotted, this time by me. I see silhouettes of two men and a horse. As we turn and get a closer look, I realize it is actually a cow.

11/16 kms : We see a signboard which confirms that it is indeed 11 kms to Jawahar and not 16 as it would be according to the cops.

11 kms: About a kilometer later, another signboard says that we are 11 kms away from Jawahar. I suspect that we are driving in circles.

10 kms: Mom is very worried. Bro suggests that she should do some of Baba Ramdev’s KapaalBharti (She took lessons for the same all of last week). Mom however cannot distinguish KapaalBharti from Vividh-Bharti.

9 kms: I receive an SMS from IDEA that sounds more like a threat. ‘Uninterrupted roaming is a good idea. To continue enjoying coverage…switch your network to IDEA NOW!’ I cannot afford to mess with IDEA and promptly search for it on ‘Phone settings’

8 kms: IDEA does not show up as one of my available network options. In fact there are no options. We have no coverage again! YAY!

7 kms: IDEA shows up on list of available networks. I hurriedly select it. 5 minutes pass and IDEA still won’t let me use its network.

6 kms: BPL Mobile shows up as another option. I switch to it. Screw IDEA!

5 kms: Mom wonders who won ‘Star Voice of India: Chotte Ustaad’ – Aishwarya or Anvesha?

4 kms: We see signboards which say Jawahar is farther than we think it is…AGAIN! Who the hell does these measurements anyway? I also need to pee.

2 kms: A new signboards contradicts the previous two. Since it mentions the shortest distance, I stick with it. Bro and sis are hungry. Dad says that the nearest dhaba is at Char Roti Naka. What irony no?

2 kms: We’ve definitely driven more than 2 kms. I’m getting a feeling that the signboard was wrong again.

2 kms: Yup, it was wrong!

1 km: We spot a petrol pump. Woohoo, we can get the car fixed and they’ll probably have a loo as well!

At the petrol pump: They, in fact, have no mechanics on hand. I get down to go to the loo. There isn’t one. The guy at the pump points to the back, which is a wide open ground… Man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do! I hear a dog barking ferociously not so far away. I guess man’s best friend isn’t amused by what a man’s gotta do! The guys at the pump assure us that we will find a mechanic at Jawahar

At Jawahar: We reach the village and ask a few locals where the mechanic lives. They deny the existence of any such creature. We drive ahead and ask other locals the same question. They point to a bunch of garages…all with their shutters down.

We find one with the door slightly open. Thankfully the mechanic is awake and has the parts needed to fix the vehicle. As he starts to hammer away, his neighbour walks out to see what’s causing the commotion.

The neighbour is none other than the driver of the white amby! He apparently lives here. We ask him what happened to his saab. He says his saab is in Mumbai and that the guy who was in the car was a random stranded fellow whom he helped! On a normal day we’d punch the living daylights out of an idiot of his caliber but we make an exception today.

6th April, 2008. 0300 hrs : We arrive home almost 4 hours behind schedule.

7th April, 2008. 0056 hrs : I have just finished writing the article!

Me Bambaiyya!

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Chaos is our peace within,
Adjustment: Our way of life.

Polluted is the air we breathe,
More is what we always need.

Distances blur,

Boundaries break,

Day turns to night

Night to day,

Nothing ever stops.
 

The filthy sea,

SLOWLY…

Consumes them all.

In the city
We call home.