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Kajal Iyer
Saturday , August 24, 2013

Mumbai gangrape: It could've been any of us


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The minute I reached my apartment on Friday night after covering the aftermath of the horrific incident at Shakti Mills, my neighbor came running out from her kitchen to first warn me not to go alone anywhere and then to inquire about the survivor's condition. My neighbor was especially concerned because I belong to the same profession as the survivor. She needn't have underlined that because that was the first thing that came to the mind of every female journalist working in Mumbai that day. Many of us grew up outside Mumbai, live alone in this city and our parents lived in the assurance that it is Mumbai after all. A lot of us travel alone or with just one video/photojournalist accompanying us during shoots. And in all recent cases of sexual assault in the country, the traditional argument of having a male escorting you in such situations has....


Thursday , July 25, 2013

12 rupee meal anyone?


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Raj Babbar, in defense of the poverty figures, said that a full meal is available in Mumbai for 12 rupees. My colleague Shawan went out to find out if this is really possible. By a full meal, I hope Mr Babbar meant, main course - dal/sabzi, chapati and rice, because sadly we found out that the cheapest such full meal comes for Rs 30, which is a little less than the minimum the UPA thinks is enough for survival in a city. While my colleague went out to figure the current rates, I decided to draw from my own experiences of living in penury during the initial days of my journalistic career (dear HR, pls ignore the description :-P). Being a perpetual bargain hunter, here I shall list out the cheapest way of spending a day in Mumbai. But of course, you can't live on cheap rent in Mumbai, everything....


Monday , May 13, 2013

Mumbai - evolution of a muse


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Six years ago, as a newcomer to Mumbai, the greatest thrill in discovering the city was spotting places I had already seen in the movies, be it the Hiranandani towers that had been the backdrop of countless songs including Shah Rukh's "Gumshuda", the Vashi station that had been used in "Rangeela re" or the iconic Marine drive, the backdrop for songs all the way from "Ae dil, hai mushkil" to the ones being shot right now. In the movies of yore, Mumbai was a backdrop just because movies were shot here. The character of the city rarely came alive. That has changed a bit in the recent years. "Ae dil hai mushkil" lyrically explained Mumbai (then Bombay) to the unitiated, painting beautiful pictures of its mills, buildings and trams. In the black and white era and most of the 60's, Mumbai was a wallflower in the movie motif.....


Saturday , April 06, 2013

A pack of cards


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A recent print commercial by the home loan arm of an Indian multinational highlights why we all buy homes - to build memories, to have a sense of stability. On Thursday, this sense of stability literally came crashing down for several residents in a Mumbra building. The collapse of the months old building is the biggest building collapse tragedy in recent times in the state. The visuals of the collapse took me back however to one of the first such tragedies that I ever covered as a rookie reporter - the Laxmichaya building collapse in Borivali. 30 people had died then. A jeweller on the ground floor had undertaken illegal renovations which weakened pillars of that building. We had done several reports on how if you have the moolah and the necessary influence, you can bend building construction rules to your advantage. Almost 6 years later, nothing has changed....


Tuesday , December 18, 2012

Rapists and the men who take them on


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An NGO has been conducting surveys on the reasons why families in eastern UP and Bihar marry their girls off early. The predominant fear these families had was that if the girl was unmarried for long - kuch ho jayega uske saath. Khap panchayats may want us to believe that the kuch ho jayega is all about love marriages and losing virginity but the NGO found out that the fear is mostly about the girls being raped. A marriage will give the girl the 'protection' of male company. For long, girls have been blamed for stepping out alone late. Every family has a strict deadline by which their girls need to be home. And if they do have to go out late, then a male escort would provide some security. Some families insist on a male escort at all times. Perhaps the reason why we are now feeling....


Monday , November 19, 2012

On death vigil


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Mumbaikars waited this past week with bated breath, fearing the backlash the death of an ailing octogenarian would cause. And giving them a blow by blow account of the entire final week of Balasaheb's life were around 200 of us, print and television reporters. Waiting outside Matoshree for almost a week, there were times when even we wondered if we were being insensitive by what some described as waiting for a death. But for every such question we got, there were at least 10 others who asked us if Saheb was well out of 50 per cent concern for Saheb and 50 per cent for their own safety if there was a backlash. And as each day passed, we realised, we were waiting outside for the people who had asked us these questions. With the disclaimer out of the way, we can now talk of what all went....


Monday , October 29, 2012

Lonely in the metro


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She was walking just a few feet ahead of me in the deserted bylane near the Parsi colony across from our colony. Her gait was slow and I could hear some moans and some words that sounded like self loathing. The sniffles I heard soon became body-wracking sobs, loud enough for anyone in the vicinity to hear. But there was no one other than me around and it seemed she didn't know I was there. When the sobs grew louder and louder, I decided to intervene. Quickening my pace, I reached out and asked her if I could be of any help. As she discovered she wasn't alone in her sorrow, a look of shame and helplessness crossed her face. She just nodded her head and ran away. This was my first encounter with what I now call the public display of despair in Mumbai. Look carefully around....


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vasant Dhoble: The cop with the hockey stick


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On first sight, ACP Vasant Dhoble looks like that observant uncle from your colony who always seems to know anything and everything about the people residing there. The kind that kids are slightly careful around. At the high court, while appearing for a defamation case, filed by two sisters who have been detained on charges of alleged prostitution, Dhoble carried with him tomes on the PITA (Prevention of Immoral Trafficking) Act. Once the case was adjourned for a later date, an unperturbed Dhoble interacted with journalists outside, cracking jokes on the twitter outrage against him and defending his position. Just a day before this hearing, this man had been the top trend on twitter across the country for raiding a popular Café in South Mumbai and videographing the patrons present. When we spoke to Dhoble, he came across as someone who genuinely believed he was following....


Thursday , April 19, 2012

Mumbai on the death trail


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Mumbai as a city has various surprises. It is the city of dreams, it is where people come to live the life of their dreams. But it could also be called the city, where people come to die. Death comes here in many forms. Sometimes you just die by sheer exhaustion (the least of all evils), sometimes you are victim to the bombs that keep going off every other year. Sometimes you fall into manholes, sometimes a tree falls on you, sometimes even a hoarding falls on you. But if you have a death wish, your best bet is the daily commute, especially the lifeline of the city - the locals. An RTI query last year showed how 36000 people died on the tracks in 10 years, that's close to 10 people a day. Some might say that for a network that ferries over 7 million people daily,....


Thursday , December 29, 2011

Anna: What went wrong at MMRDA


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Things had been looking difficult for Team Anna ever since the Bombay High Court rapped them for demanding a free venue. Many anguished supporters had then questioned why the court had to question the cause of the agitation if it had no jurisdiction over what charges to be levied. What these supporters forget is that Team Anna had asked for an exemption citing the cause of the protest, namely national interest. Hence, it was legitimate that the court had to examine the validity of such a cause before even considering if an exemption was valid or not. The verdict was the first time the fault lines within the movement became visible. Some of the younger activists had started distancing themselves from the decisions. They claimed that a number of decisions had been taken by the senior members without considering their inputs. That was not all, Anna himself said....


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More about Kajal Iyer

Kajal Iyer is a Principal Correspondent with CNN-IBN and currently handles the Tamil Nadu bureau for CNN IBN. She previously worked for 6 years at CNN-IBN’s Mumbai bureau where she handled courts and civic issues. Here she covered many major assignments including 26/11 terror attacks, 13/7 blasts and also regularly did business features. Her major court assignments include the Keenan Reuben trial, the Adarsh case, the IPL spot fixing controversy and an exclusive story on a MHADA officials links to a prominent realty major. She also covered routine crime and city infrastructure stories in Mumbai. Prior to CNN-IBN, Kajal has freelanced for newspapers like Times of India, Midday in Pune and the Gujarati eveninger Sanj Samachar in Rajkot.
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