Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Rough Guide to Terror Tourism

“Ram Gopal Varma ki yahi kamayee
Do sarkar banaye, ek girayee.” On SMS

Bungee jumping. Paragliding. Skateboarding.
I mean – yawn.
Because on December 1st, as I watched our dear Chief Minister tour the ravaged interiors of the hotel Taj and Trident, I knew it was time to make way for the hottest, hippest way to take a break, let your hair down, tune out, switch off.
Terror tourism.
Now I don’t know about you fellas but my motto is - “be prepared”. So, I write this in preparedness for the outside chance that someone amongst us might just get as lucky as aapro Vilasji did to tour the latest terror hotspot. I also write this in preparedness for the even more outside chance that a certain male relative of a certain gent who was once known as Maharashtra’s Remote Control might be reading this. For tips and tippanis for his very own impending terror tour. Which should be happening anytime now?
So, without further shilly-shallying or beating around the bush, let me begin.
First and foremost, this is an extreme sport, not for the lily-livered, the yellow-bellied, the milksops, the pusillanimous chickens. For example, right now, there is a huge misconception doing the rounds that the brave hearts of the Mumbai terror attacks were the NSG commandos, the hotel staff of the Taj and the Trident, the cops etc. etc. What a crock.
Because the bravest of them all was our beloved CM-saheb, strolling so courageously through that ghastly burnt-out shell of the Taj. With nary a thought for the extreme danger that he was putting himself in. After all, any minute, his beautiful white neta-in-mourning kurta could’ve been picked off and blackened by one of those deadly soot-covered walls. Or lurking around the corner could be a deathly bullet hole waiting to ruin his manicure. And we shudder to think what terrible fate awaited his freshly dyed-for-the-telly, carefully coifed hair in the hands of that terrifying rubble-dust.)
In other words, be a terror tourist only if you have the guts for it. And only a few very, very brave people do.
Second of all, if you are one of those me-alone-communing-with-nature kind of people, then it’s best to give this a skip because terror tourism is a group activity, best enjoyed in the company of friends and relatives. And that could include your third grandson’s personal potty-trainer, your fourth second cousin’s ex-wife’s current mother-in-law, your pooch’s psychiatrist, your dhokla-khandvi chef and your dhobi’s donkey.
Not to mention your friendly neighbourhood film director.
I know what you are thinking. You can see how a rousing round of bullet-hole-spotting and musical bloodstains in company of kith and kin help to unwind, unclench those teeth, relax that sphincter and generally aid world peace.
But the film director?
How else could he get people to forget that he made a film called “Ram Gopal Varma’s Aag”?
Third of all, it’s very important to have a tour guide at all times After all, you need as much to be able to tell the blue-bottled fly from the blue-bottomed baboon as you do to differentiate rubble from rabri (no relation to Laloo) and charred ballroom from charred toast. (Ideally, the guide should be the cop who held the terrorists at bay for eight hours before the commandos turned up. Adds globs of “realism” to the enchilada.) The important thing though, while listening to the guide, is to constantly make hissing noises and scrunch up your face in expressions of horrified commiseration. (Don’t worry if it looks more as if you’ve just smelt some very nasty navel jam - you can take tips from your actor son before your next trip.)
Fourth of all, the walk. (I’m sorry, fellas. We do plan to get cable cars and limos very soon, but right now, you’ll have to do it all on foot.) It’s very, very important how you walk through the…shall we call it “terror sanctuary”? What you need is a measured slow amble, all the while sticking out your well-toned, six-paunch, spelling out a pleasant post-beer-‘n-biryani perambulation with wifey on Marine Drive. This will serve two purposes. It will make your bowels move. And it will terrify the terrorists. How, we can’t say exactly as yet, but it will.
(We are thinking of asking future terror tourists to whistle as they walk to make the terrorists even more terrified, but that will be only allowed in a more advanced version.)
I could go on, but for the moment this much will suffice for you to go off and practice your terror tourist moves.
Which leaves two things
First the tricky question that’s trembling on everybody’s lips.
Will one get to see live dead bodies? Or at least a few body parts? After all, after a point, how terrifying can a few mounds of blackened rubble and a few tons of broken glass be?
Lemme put it this way. Terror tourism is taking its first baby steps. (Though with the kind of patronage it already getting, that baby is gonna grow up very fast into a full-blown adult.) So, for the moment, I’m afraid you’ll have to make to with bloodstains. Not much, I’ll admit, but it’s a start.
Finally, terror tourism is the sport of the future and for two reasons. We’ve already covered one - the strike-terror-in-the-hearts-of-those-naughty-terrorists bit. The other reason is that it’s a great stress buster, especially for high-powered folk like chief ministers. This was obvious when our beloved Deshmukhji faced the press the day after that epoch-making terror tour. Fresh as a daisy, not a furrow on brow or a bag under eye, unfazed by all those pesky journos bombarding him with silly questions like, “Do you take moral responsibility for these attacks?”
I mean, for crying out aloud.
Moral responsibility? (Or any other kind for that matter.)
Duh. Wot dat?

(After watching the footage of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s terror tour, I thought that in terms of sheer shamelessness, callousness and crass insensitivity, nothing could beat it. But I was wrong. I underestimated our politicians. This morning’s newspaper said that according the said Chief Minister, the television footage of his visit was provided to the news channels by the government. Meaning him. Of course it was.
Did we not tell you how terrifying that walk was?)

(Published in the December 2008 issue of Man's World magazine

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