Monday, August 6, 2007

No Riot Today

From Miscellaneous...
Since I can't upload pictures until I figure out what I did with my USB connector cable, here's an interesting story. So in April 2006... well, no, in 2000, well...

Okay, start at the beginning. People in India are big on movie stars. And not in the Mel Gibson/Paris Hilton sense - at least when compared to the United States, movie stars are heroes and champions and role models. Assuming I'm not the most intense West Wing fan you know, think about what that person thinks of Martin Sheen, and then keep going in that direction for a good long distance and I think you're getting there.

Anyway, Dr. Rajkumar was one of these people, and that Wikipedia entry gives a lot of background on the rest of this story. He was a Kannada movie star - Kannada being the state langauge of Karnataka, of which Bangalore/Bengaluru/that place I'm at is the capital. By some descriptions Rajkumar was the Kannada movie industry, which is different from Bollywood, which is Hindi, or the lesser-known but quite large Tamil movie industry...

I digress. Rajkumar was a star, hero, and a champion of the Kannada language in general. He was kidnapped in 2000, and Wikipedia says the event "threw the Karnataka government into crisis" and boy do I believe it. Either Kentaro or Prasad said that there were riots at this point because the government was not doing enough to get them back. So that's 2000.

Like a number of movie stars, he had a house in Bangalore in the pleasant-yet-accessible neighborhood Sadashivanagar near Sankey Tank, which is to say right behind the office of Microsoft Research, India. And so when he died in April 2006, that is where his body was taken. Most of the employees at that time went home, but the few that stayed got some awesome pictures of the riots, which resulted in most of the (very strong, two layer) windows of our building getting destroyed.

This leads us to last night, right after we had boarded the train back from Hubli to return to Bangalore on the overnight train. We got a flurry of text messages from Sriram and Prasad telling us not to go to work tomorrow until we'd checked our Microsoft email at our apartments. Apparently money for a memorial to Rajkumar was not being released, and so the same people that planned the aforementioned charming memorial service were planning to march from a movie studio through Sadashivanagar to the Chief Minister's house, which is about two blocks north of where I live. Microsoft was pretty well prepared for this occasion - the insurance companies made them buy a number of bright blue Battle of Seattle-esque riot curtains to protect the building from rocks, but even so we all went home until we found out at about 10:30 that the Chief Minister had skipped town (I believe the official line is "previous arrangements in Delhi"), taking most of the wind out the sails of the protesters - someone said something about them trying to convert the march to a hunger strike, but I don't know if that got anywhere.

And that's the story of how there was no riot at Microsoft today.

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