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April 13, 2006

We are back in Bangalore today after a long, but reasonably comfortable, 36-hour train ride.  We heard last afternoon on the train that  Dr. Raj Kumar had died in Bangalore.  Expecting trouble we asked family for a pick-up at the railway station.  En route we drove through an uneasily quiet city, stirring tentatively and watchfully to a day on which most commercial  activity will stop. There were no buses on the roads and very few auto-rickshaws at 8am.  We passed three burned-out  shells of vehicles near Century Club in Cubbon Park - a bus, a state government registered white ambassador and an Indica.  We saw red & yellow flags and posters, printouts of Dr. Raj on several vehicles - mostly taxis - perhaps hoping to pre-empt trouble from "mourning" mobs.  In Koramangala we were passed by a motorcycle procession flying the red & yellow.  We also noticed several flags flying at half mast at the street corner  flagpoles that are so common all across Bangalore.  Wordless black banners were strung across

some of the main roads.


The city will remain shut, there will be some stone throwing and tyre burning, perhaps, and we will lose some city buses and public vehicles today and in the next couple of days in Bangalore.  Tamil Nadu buses will not run all the way into city center.  The local cable operators have blanked out all Tamil TV channels.  There may even be some tragic loss of life.

What purpose does "law-enforcement" serve in our city?  The police will shut down the bars at 11pm and will fail to file FIRs in cases of genuine need. They will work hand in glove with local thugs and persecute and harass the innocent.  The traffic police will also continue to mismanage traffic in this choking, crumbling city.  But they will do nothing to prevent this "spontaneous outpouring of grief". How many cities in the world are brought to their knees by this kind of mobsterism on a regular basis ?  And how many, in particular, that may imagine themselves to be globally important centers of business?


Dr. Raj was the most adored popular icon of the state - and he did immensely much by way of bringing to the big screen the lives and aspirations of many Kannadigas.   He was, by all accounts, a great actor and a fine human being.  But we will insist on doing his memory profound disservice by remaining silent and condoning the shameful misbehavior and inhumanity of those who purport to be his fans.


Read Prakash Belawadi's touching portrait of Raj Kumar