afaqs!

Airwaves to the rescue

By Justin Thomas , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media Publishing | December 01, 2008
During the past week's incidents in Mumbai, radio stations reached out to callers

Initially, the & #BANNER1 & # fire at the Taj seemed unreal. Then, almost immediately, flying bullets and explosions jolted everyone back to reality. The latest attacks have driven home the fact that terrorism has entered in our country riding on a wave, and if curative measures are not taken, it would engulf us.

In the midst of the mayhem that ensued, the airwaves in Mumbai became a source of help for the needy, a counselor for the lost, a GPS for those caught at crossroads and a mouthpiece for those who wanted to release their emotions.

Jayant, an engineer working with Radio Meow, was packing up for his journey back home at 10 pm on Wednesday night. Since the studio is barely 50 metres from Hotel Trident, he heard gunshots. He was advised against moving out, as there was a possibility of a gang war on the streets.

When the realization dawned that it was something more horrific, he had no option other than to stay put. Since it became clear that no one could enter or exit the building, responsibility fell on him to facilitate broadcasts. A person with no experience of handling consoles, Jayant held fort till around 6.30 pm on Thursday evening. He connected RJs via phone lines, coordinated with their Delhi studio and forwarded callers' messages to RJs.

Having missed out on dinner the previous night, Jayant continued working on an empty stomach until support came, and even further, till Friday afternoon. One of their callers was a British national, who was at the Taj lobby when the firing started. Luckily, she was rescued. She told the station that the Mumbai police was very cooperative and she appreciated it.

"I was frightened initially", says Jayant, "but it's a great feeling that I played a part in helping this city." He also recounts a young boy telling the RJ that he wanted to fight the terrorists, as he was unable to go to school.

RJ Suren of Radio Mirchi got to the studio for his usual stint, little realizing what was in store. He recounts a caller weeping and explaining that his sister was stuck at Hotel Trident's parking lot and he was helpless in getting her out. Suren consoled him, and by Thursday morning, she was home.

There was a traffic pileup on the Western Express Highway and Suren got lots of calls asking for directions. "There were queries such as should we enter the city and from where could that be done," he informs. Since he was following the incidents, he asked his listeners to avoid specific areas and to limit their movements.

On his way to Radio City's studios, RJ Praveen was at CST station. Rushing to his console, he started taking calls from relatives, who were clearly disturbed by the situation and wanted to locate their loved ones. "We even had cops calling in from the place they were posted and giving on the spot accounts of the condition prevailing in their areas," says Praveen.

Since the cellular network was jammed on Wednesday night, callers were leaving messages with the station for their dear ones. Praveen also received calls from employees of both Taj and Trident hotels with updates on the situation.

Though most of these people on air were more than willing and happy to help the distressed souls, they also hoped that a scenario of this kind never arises again, and they never have to relive those unbelievable hours.