Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kindness of Murderers.

*Some parts of this post deal with graphic descriptions of violence, kindly be warned*

First of all, I must apologize to Kate Adie, chief reporter for the BBC, from the title of whose highly readable autobiography 'Kindness of Strangers' I got the idea to name this post.

I write this with reference to an incident that took place here earlier this week. The heir of one among the most well-established business house-holds, a young and upcoming entrepreneur in his own right, was found murdered by the highway in the wee hours of the night. The police sprung into action, forming a task force headed by a senior officer. To their credit, the gang behind what was obviously a 'professional' job were apprehended within 24 to 48 hours.

I learned the story through the Malayalam media, who had a field day over it. Lest we forget, TV channels gave round-the-clock coverage of the latest developments, repeatedly showing shots of the murder site, a damaged mobile phone, the vehicle that the deceased was driving when last seen, and such.

Also highlighted was the increasing goonda menace. Until recently keralites used to take pride in the law and order situation of their society. Using hit-men to settle scores with rivals, or for parents to secure possession of eloped children, for youngsters to get married safe from goons hired by the parents, or for ensuring smooth functioning of business interests without interference from other goonda groups - all this was not only unheard of, but positively inconceivable. Sure we used to have enough and more of our own special breed of murder and violence - of the political and ideological kind - but precisely because such incidents did not involve the common man going about his business, unless he inadvertently got involved with it, I think we may have developed an unhealthy degree of tolerance to a culture of violence over the years.

So here's how the story unfolded over the days in the media:

Day 1:

The media cried hoarse, and with good reason, about how cheap human life had become. How an up-coming entrepreneur was cut-down at the prime of his youth, and how if even the creamy layer of the society was not safe anymore, what did that say for the rest of us?

And we all joined in our prayers for the deceased, his handsome face and gentle features evidencing a refined upbringing that had now come to a tragic end.

Day 2:

It turns out, that the car he was last seen in, did not belong to the deceased. Further, it is learned to be owned by the leader of one of the dreaded criminal gangs of the state: That there had been two co-passengers with him on the fatal night whom his driver, who was asked to follow in another car, had not seen before. The co-passengers are discovered to have had strong links with many criminal gangs. Questions are now raised regarding the pervasive nature of the influence of criminal elements at even the uppermost echelons of society, and how the business class was openly cavorting with them. New conspiracy theories are raised, that suggest that the victim may have been mistaken for the gang leader, as he was driving the latter's car, AND seen with his associates. Could it have been a case of mistaken identity, after all? There have been other instances too, when the wrong person was assaulted by gangs.

I have had opportunity to interact both with police officers, as well as some of the men involved in such occupation, in the course of my daily practice - and if I might say so here, what was unsettling about the ones I knew was not that they were giant brutes as seen in the movies.

What was most terrifying about them was their ordinariness. How they were not as radically different from the average man on the street as we might wish was the case. These were guys who laughed at silly jokes and still cried out when a simple injection was administered. In fact, If there must be one defining trait to be described, then it must have been an inability to put up with pain, physical and otherwise.

I had a patient once too, who had been bedridden for past 8 years, because he happened to match some else's description, and wore the wrong colour shirt. He still lives on, like the way the other (lucky) chap was supposed to have lived the rest of his days - with daily excruciating pains over both legs. Its not for nothing that these gangsters are called professionals. Whereas the amateurs might take it upon them to simply murder or thrash a victim, the 'professionals' do offer tailor-made services. Sometimes I think its a game played between the doctors and the 'quotation' team as they are called, with the victims life as the stakes. For eg, it might be possible to reattach a limb if brought within a certain time. So as to avoid this possibility the more experienced ones actually see to it that not only is a limb severed, but it is also mangled, so that there is no chance of it being re-attached. It would have been fascinating if it weren't so cruel.

Day 3:

It appears that the young industrialist had once been arrested for possession of narcotic drugs. A ladies' bag and dress is known to have been recovered from the car.

Day 4:

There is one final twist to the story, one that prompted me to write this post.

The police says it was a professional job, alright, in the sense that it was done by an armed 'quotation' gang. But it was done with altruistic intention, and not on contract. The deceased was driving the big SUV on the fatal night, when at a relatively sparse stretch of highway he hit a motorcyclist from the behind, toppling him. The biker who was going home was seriously injured, and was saved only because he had a helmet on.

He did not stop. He sped away, like so many car drivers do under similar circumstances, that has caused so many young men to die on the roads. Lives that could've been saved, had, instead of speeding away, the car or truck drivers had done the right thing and taken them to a hospital. He may have wanted to avoid being seen with the particular company he had that night, or may be he was drunk and didnt care, confident of his place in the world.

As things would have it, the armed gang was resting after a job elsewhere, just out of sight, and they were drawn by the commotion. They rushed the victim to a hospital in one of their vehicles, while in a bout of self-righteousness some of them followed the SUV in another vehicle. They overtook it after only a few kms, and in the ensuing scuffle, drunk to the bone as they were, ended up doing a professional job upon a man whom the law might not have touched for all its long arms. Only one person delivered the fatal wounds, and he was relatively a new member to the gang, with no history of violent crime.

There you have it, the entire incident, as it came to be revealed over the days in the media. I shall not venture to draw lessons or morals out of it, instead, presently I shall stop simply by remembering the immortal words of Alexander Sholtzhenitsyn:

"The line that divides good and evil runs not between nations, but cuts right across every man's heart."


  1. The news channels have been bugging us with this news story over the last few days. That you didn't arrive at conclusion is a pleasant change.:) After all, we might never get to know the truth. The media is blowing up the whole thing. The blast at the bio gas plant was not even covered! Can you imagine?
    And yes, the handsome face of the young, rich heir isn't all that innocent it seems....

  2. Isn't there a moral lurking somewhere here? About greed? about amassing wealth in whatever possible way one can imagine? About the present culture that glorifies accumulation of all kinds of material wealth, f--- the morals? Evil lurks in the hearts of the most, yes. That is seen reflected in every aspect of our life. We have made our choice, haven't we?

  3. Blue Bird.I liked your writing style. You indeed right well :)

  4. @Destiny: Yes, its quite unfortunate that news that really has a bearing on the way we run our society is usually not given the importance it deserves.
    Which city are u based in?

    @Bala: I think we have. Only, some people are better at it than the rest of us.

    @Nu: Thanks and welcome here.

  5. A sad incident, and even when the dailies print day by day account of such incidents, i doubt weather its unbiased, or weather there are any pressures? so many things remain unanswered

  6. Thanks a lot for your lovely comment. I have done MBA from Cochin.
    I liked your post very much. You have narrated very beautifully and your presentation is appreciable.

  7. @Sujatha: you should take a holiday in kerala. Its a beautiful place. Ask Babli below.

    @Babli: Thanks ma'm. I was telling Sujatha above she should visit us sometime.

  8. Beautifully written. Very perceptive too. Your punchline said it all. Good craft.

  9. hi gopu..nice to find ur blog here...and sure u does present everything so beautifully.
    The matter of fact is that we the common man is never going to know what happened. We will only know whats written by the media.. but media is also making hay when the sun shines...:)

  10. well story ...........written/read ...on such line almost everyday.....but still found a fresh ,intriguing style of presenting entire report , quite engrossing......

    good..liked..ur work

  11. Yea the media (news channles) these days are only and only interested in sensational stories...

    Your word to word description is very intriguing. Ending lines are too good.

  12. @Venu: I consider you a formidable master of the word, and when u give a compliment, I do value it as it deserves. Thank you.

    Hi Subu. Good to see you here. I went to your blog on road-trips, and Hey thank you so very much for that chronicle of our ooty trip. I have been wanting to do that for so long, but lazybones never got round to doing it.

    @ Anju - Thanks and welcome here. Life is all about the song, yes, and not answers to everything. I know, because I wish to think of myself as a bird too

    Hi Im! How's life?

  13. I'm appalled at this whole episode and how such a heinous crime could occur in Kerala. The Kerala of my dreams is a heavenly place with scenic unparallel beauty, coconut palms, pristine acres of rice cultivations, little streams running across them and a lot lot more....... maybe I still live in the long lost yesteryears of time.....but for someone who has such an opinion of this God's own country, all this comes as a shocker!

    Must I say, God's own country and devil's own people?

  14. It was indeed sad to read about the story. Even in Mumbai media the story was splashed pretty often. Very often we do not come to know what exactly happened in these high profile crimes.
    But it is very sad to see such crimes happening in Kerala. I always had an image of tranquility whenever I thought of the state,.

  15. Hi Rakesh,
    Belated 30th birthday wishes. May be we should go trekking next time you are here.

    Hi Aparna, good to see you back. Things have changed in kerala over past decade esp last 5 years, right before our eyes. There are complex factors at play, loss of cultural identity being one among them.

  16. Where are you ?? Long time no post ?

  17. Hi Nu!,

    Consider my next post as dedicated to you.



Thanks for giving me this moment of your life.