Friday 2 March 2012

Of terrace-hopping creatures & child-eating ogres

Daily News & Analysis [India] | 29 February 2012

Of terrace-hopping creatures & child-eating ogres

Manoj R Nair

While the northerly breeze over Mumbai has been giving its denizens, albeit fitfully, some fair weather days, it seems the air is thick with rumours.

As this paper reported on Tuesday, policemen in some parts of the city have been kept busy by people who think the best way to spend a pleasant February afternoon is by indulging in the hobby called "rumour mongering."

Some of the rumours are assuredly bizarre. In the eastern suburbs, there has been talk about 'oil men' who cover their lithe bodies with some slimy stuff so that they can easily slip away from pursuers.

Another part of the city has been so tormented by tales of child-lifting gangs with painted faces that mothers are worried about sending children unescorted to schools and playgrounds. Some stories, like that of bands of Africans picking up children, are offensively racist, at least for people who pretend they are sensitive about such things.

Policemen, who are not bothered about such niceties like racial and cultural sensitisation, told reporters that residents in some areas were worried about 'negroes' trying to kidnap children.

Other fantastical characters in the telltales wear shoes fitted with metal springs that enable them to jump from terraces of one building to another. Some shoemaker should patent this footwear; the invention should be the most revolutionary improvement in our footwear ever since we discarded our grass-and-twine sandals and wooden clogs for leather shoes. Mumbai police chief Arup Patnaik was obviously informed about the existence of these shoes by his men because he told our reporter that his men went around inquiring with shoe dealers whether such 'custom-made' shoes were being sold there.

One cast in this freak theatre wears boots that take away several feet from his height. A ghastly story doing the rounds is that of a man who devours children alive.

According to our reporters, this story whirled about in the northern plains of the country before it was blown into Mumbai by the northerlies. I think I know where the inspiration for the last story came from. A
fortnight ago, policemen in the city came across an amateurish copy of Spanish master Francisco Goya's nightmarish painting 'Saturn devouring his son'. While the policemen's story that they stumbled into a 19th century masterpiece in a ramshackle warehouse in Oshiwara was incredible, they nevertheless managed to convince some reporters that the master work could have been stolen and smuggled into Mumbai where art collectors were negotiating to buy it for Rs20 crores!

The story of a possible art heist with its epicentre in Mumbai was printed in local newspapers. The report must have been picked up by some four-page newsletter in the north and then woven into a fantasmagorical story of the kind that some news channels specialise in. From there, the regurgitated story found its way into Mumbai's slums and housing colonies. But, unlike the humorous vein that this article feigns to assume, the rumours are no laughing matter. Driven to delirium by stories of child-eating ogres and spring-footed creatures, some people have been beating up unfortunate passers-by.

West too rocked by rumours

Times of India | 29 February 2012

West too rocked by rumours


MUMBAI: Rumours have travelled west in Mumbai. The buzz about men robbing homes and abducting children in the eastern suburbs has now reached the western suburbs creating panic among residents.

The western suburbs are now agog with talk of the "monkey man" abducting children since the last one week. Fortunately, no crimes seem to have been reported in the area and police are on the lookout for rumour-mongers . "We want to contain elements who take advantage of the situation to settle scores. One such incident was reported in the eastern suburbs," said a senior police officer.

"We will deal sternly with rumour-mongers since it is the only way to  tackle the issue," he added. However, experts suggested that the police should rope in community leaders to deal with the situation.

Additional police commissioner ( crime) Deven Bharti said, "People should confront the person who spread such stories after directly asking about the victim's detail and informing the police about it." "We received
several calls about the "monkey man" , however, we didn't find anything to substantiate its existence. People claim to have heard about a supernatural being, but no victim has come forward," added a police

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