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Voices from Mumbai

Husain Husaini | 10:01 UK time, Friday, 14 July 2006

As head of news at the Asian Network, I work out of three offices, in Leicester, London and Birmingham. Of course I wasn't in any of them when news came through about the bombs in Mumbai. The first I heard of it was when I idly looked at my mobile phone - which was on silent during the meeting I was in. "Four missed calls". There was also a text from a colleague at BBC World Service asking if I was "sending" to Mumbai. "Sending" is the journalist jargon for getting a reporter to a location.

BBC Asian Network logoSo I phone the office, find out what we know so far and start telling people to do things. But it becomes clear that the team writing our news bulletins in Leicester and the one making the Adil Ray Drive programme in Birmingham are way ahead of me. They are doing a textbook job in breaking news. Adil himself is relatively new to this kind of story but I think anyone listening would agree he performed superbly: always calm, always trying to find out more and always clear about what we really know and what only think has happened.

That leaves me with the problem of whether to "send". My instinct is of course "yes". But the Asian Network is not a huge station and doesn't have that much money for big trips. We have already spent a fair amount this month sending a reporter to Pakistan to cover the case of Mirza Tahir Hussain - a Leeds man on death row in Islamabad. A "send" to Mumbai will also mean that I have less to spend on what I think is our core business: covering the lives and concerns of British Asians. The Asian Network can also use all the other BBC reporters who are rushing to the scene too. Even so, I take the view that for the Asian network to cover this story as well as our listeners will expect, we need to be there.

It was a bit of a scramble. We decide to send Dil Neiyyar (our London reporter) and Rifat Jawaid (our languages editor). Dil spends the afternoon getting a visa from the Indian High Commission and his equipment together. Rifat rushes to Heathrow from Birmingham. We start compiling the appropriate hazard assessment forms. Safety is crucial. As well as the possibility of more bombs, there is the fear of communal violence and more mundanely the intense heat. Both Rifat and Dil have done the BBC's "hostile environment" course. Mumbai isn't a war zone, but this intense training really helps reporters assess the risks on the ground.

Eight thirty in the evening and a nightmare call comes. Visa delays mean they've missed the flight. More money needed for another one. Got to do it now, just hope we get a refund for the first flight.

They arrive early the next day and are on air almost immediately. Between them they work for our morning programmes, our lunchtime news programme "The Wrap" and for Adil's show again. Rifat appears on our languages shows through the evening. They head off around Mumbai and get some terrific material: voices of real Mumbai citizens responding to this terrifying attack. I'm left with a strong impression of a defiant city refusing to stop living their lives and refusing to blame the many Muslims in their city. And the good news is we did get our first flights refunded. So more money in the pot for next time.


I wanted to congradulate BBC Asian Network on its reports from Mumbai.

Even though I am a US Latin living in Miami Florida, BBC Asian Network does a superb job with its reports from South Asia and the World.

I also like the music as well as some of the personalities [Anita Rani, Nikki Bedi, Sonia Deol, and Adil Ray].

I also wanted to add a personal anecdote. During the chaos that followed Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma, I was able to listen to BBC Asian Network [as well as other BBC Stations] [on the few internet cafes that were operating].

BBC Asian Network and Sonia Deol [as well as family and friends] helped me survive the chaos of [Hurricane] Katrina and Wilma. I am forever grateful to the BBC and BBC Asian Network.

Best Wishes

Dr. Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso
Listener since 1997.

  • 2.
  • At 09:32 PM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • himanshu sharma wrote:

I had also written this to BBC hindi and I am doing the same to you too. Please don't show too much of sad events real-time. It doesn't help anybody except media. You might add few clips of real people of Mumbai talking brave things, but over-all it sends a singal of sadness, scare and troubles many minds. The worst part is people watching such news feel helpless as they can't do anything about it other than watching (read living) it every minuteas as it is shown on TV. This gives further frustration and depression. I have seen people disturbed, sad and even crying. 1-2 minutes of news every hour is MORE than enough. I know it is not easy when you are fighting to survive among other media sharks, but think about it.

  • 3.
  • At 11:35 PM on 17 Jul 2006,
  • Mumbaiite wrote:

Dear Terrorist,

Even if you are not reading this we don't care. Time
and again you tried to disturb us and disrupt our life
- killing innocent civilians by planting bombs in
trains, buses and cars. You have tried hard to bring
death and destruction, cause panic and fear and create
communal disharmony but everytime you were
disgustingly unsuccessful. Do you know how we pass our
life in Mumbai? How much it takes for us to earn that
single rupee? If you wanted to give us a shock then we
are sorry to say that you failed miserably in your
ulterior motives. Better look elsewere, not here.

We are not Hindus and Muslims or Gujaratis and
Marathis or Punjabis and Bengaliies. Nor do we
distinguish ourselves as owners or workers, govt.
employees or private employees. WE ARE MUMBAIKERS (Mumbaiites)
(Bombay-ites, if you like). We will not allow you to
disrupt our life like this. On the last few occassions
when you struck (including the 7 deadly blasts in a
single day killing over 250 people and injuring 500+
in 1993), we went to work next day in full strength.
This time we cleared everything within a few hours and
were back to normal - the vendors placing their next
order, businessmen finalizing the next deals and the
office workers rushing to catch the next train. (Yes
the same train you targetted)

Fathom this: Within 3 hours of the blasts, long queues
of blood donating volunteers were seen outside various
hospital, where most of the injured were admitted. By
12 midnight, the hospital had to issue a notification
that blood banks were full and they didn't require any
more blood. The next day, attendance at schools and
office was close to 100%, trains & buses were packed
to the brim, the crowds were back. The city has simply
dusted itself off and moved one - perhaps with greater
vigour. Plus, unlike other countries, other people
don’t go on the rampage plundering, looting, stealing
and raping at such times.

We are Mumbaikers and we live like brothers in times
like this. So, do not dare to threaten us with your
crackers. The spirit of Mumbai is very strong and can
not be harmed.

Please forward this to others. U never know, by chance
it may come to hands of a terrorist in Afghanistan,
Pakistan or Iraq and he can then read this message
which is specially meant for him!!!

With Love,
From the people of Mumbai (Bombay)

  • 4.
  • At 03:21 AM on 18 Jul 2006,
  • Andy wrote:

I find it disappointing that the BBC can afford to pay certain entertainers enormous sums of money, and yet valuable services such as The Asian Network are given such small budgets.


  • 5.
  • At 06:21 AM on 18 Jul 2006,
  • hodgetts wrote:

to Husain Husaini from Chennai.

BBC news on India as received in India is rather unbalanced (BBC World TV and Radio). You dash in and out of subjects without any apparent pattern or policy. The ensemble ressembles CNN-iBN or Les Guignols on Canal Plus.
Where was the report on Nathu La Pass? or the rantings of Mr Modi or other RSS activities? why nothing on the reported crisis at RAW?, or on Sharoor for UN ? or drug taking in political houses, such as Rahul Mahajan, going unpunished? or Dayanidhi Maran's media monopoly? or Indian's wind power?
Your dossier looks like a report from Warren Hastings back to London giving the worst possible picture of India and the sub-continent.

I was teaching here and students were shocked. Since digital broadcasting came in your sends have been monitored in detail and reports will be published.
I mention this in me present book, but will go into the BBC's role more lengthily later. The report is not encouraging.

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