Monthly Archives: November 2008

ToI food writer Sabina Sehgal Saikia is dead: RIP

sans serif records the passing away of Sabina Sehgal Saikia, the resident food writer of The Times of India, in the terror attack on The Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay. She was 45 years old.

Her body was among the 100 recovered on Saturday, almost 60 hours after the hostage drama began, on the sixth floor of the iconic landmark opposite the Gateway of India. Sabina is the only known journalist-casualty so far.

Sabina had been associated with The Times of India for 19 years and had authored “The Times Good Eating Guide, a comprehensive evaluation of 600 restaurants in the City.”

Sabina is survived by her husband Santanu Saikia, the former Financial Express journalist who now runs the petroleum industry vertical petrowatch, and two children.

A brief profile published on the paper’s site two years ago noted:

“She visits restaurants anonymously, picks up the tab at the end of the meal and writes, without hesitation, about the entire dining experience.

Sunil Sethi, the former India Today journalist who is now the books editor of NDTV, wrote in Business Standard:

“At 12.34 past midnight on Wednesday I received the following text message from Sabina: “There is firing going on. My room in darkness. TV off. Phone on silent. They are inside. I’m scared and totally alone.”

“At 12.45 am another: “This is desperate. There are terrorists inside.” After that the messages petered out. There was no further response to my texts asking if she was safe, or if she could possibly make contact with staff or other guests.”

In her last restaurant review, published in the Delhi Times lifestyle supplement of ToI on Friday, Sabina looked at the American diner-style restaurant Route 04 that has come up in the capital’s fashionable Khan Market:

“The American Diner remains an enduring iconic aphorism of popular American culture. Through the various images in celluloid—complete with counters, private booths, jukeboxes easy-going waitresses serving home-style food—the Diner has in many ways come to symbolise the democratisation of taste in the US, both in a subterranean and subaltern sense.

“It’s an idea which was born on the streets of America, based on necessity and utility, in the midst of the industrial revlution—with its first incarnation in the form of carriages, pushcarts and railroad cars making an appearance in the late 1800s… and etymologically too, the Diner is a derivative of the dining car….”

Kishore Singh, a friend and fellow-epicurean of Sabina’s, wrote in Business Standard:

“On any number of occasions, we’d asked what we should eat at the banquets where we met often. And Sabina would tell you what she had liked. Unlike her weekly restaurant review columns where she often said what was awful about the food, at parties she never told you wht wasn’t nice, she only recommended what she thought was good. Invariably, she was right.”


TOI food critic still missing in Taj terror attack

Sabina Sehgal Saikia, the resident food critic of India’s largest selling English newspaper The Times of India, is still missing, 48 hours after the hostage crisis began at The Taj Mahal hotel in Bombay.

Delhi-based Sabina was in Bombay for the wedding reception of fellow Times editor Bachi Karkaria‘s son on Wednesday. She returned to her suite in The Taj early complaining of fatigue, according to a report in the newspaper but has not been heard from since Thursday morning.

“I received the last SMS from her at 0130 hrs IST (Thursday). It her last SMS and she was very worried,” her husband Santanu Saikia said. “The SMS was sent to Taj’s PRO as well.”

About 20 minutes before that, hotel employees had got an SMS from Sabina saying: ”they are in my bathroom”.

Photograph: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: Sabina Sehgal Saikia still missing

Ban ‘live’ reporting of hostage rescue missions?

“Several foreign nationals are trapped in the Taj Hotel Mahal”

“The top management of a multinational corporation was meeting…”

“Terrorists are suspected to be on the 9th floor…”

“NSG troops are about to have arrived in Mumbai…”

“NSG commandos have entered the Hotel…”

Some of the information telecast live by all news channels on yesterday’s terror attack on Bombay.

SHRINIDHI HANDE writes from Madras: News channels have an objective—to fetch the latest news and share them with viewers, much before a competitor channel does that. But I feel this habit of indiscriminate live reporting, while a combat operation is in progress, can be catastrophic for the success of the military operations against terror.

Let us just think for a while. Do we really need to know everything on a ‘as soon as it happens’ basis? I feel not. Whether NSG commandos have just arrived at airport, or have entered the hotel or are on the first floor or second at this moment, is not necessary to be revealed to the general public on a realtime basis.

Showing such news live, will be immensely useful only to terrorists and their supporters outside.

Consider this. The commandos only know that the militants are somewhere inside the hotel, but the militants know everything about the movements and positions of their pursuers through TV.


# Who is on their trail (Army/ NSG/ local police, etc)

# What is their ETA (estimated time of arrival), which tells them, how much time they have before a gun battle would begin)

# Where they are right now, at the main entrance/ just entered their floor

# How is the world responding? Is there pressure mounting on the government to succumb to the demands of terrorists to get the hostages freed (so that they can act tough during negotiation)?

# How many of their friends are alive or dead (so that they can assess their strength)?

# What has been the impact of their strike-how many police and civilian dead, the current morale of police, who all as been detained/suspected?

# Live visuals of the street-to assess a possible escape strategy

# What information about them the outside world has (which floor they are in, their head count etc. And much more…

In my view, all this information, while useful to viewers and relatives of victims, also helps the terrorists/ militants to consolidate their position and pose a greater challenge to commandos trying to hunt them down and/ or rescue the hostages.

Why is our media helping them by airing live all the sensitive information about the anti terror operations?

The common man does not need to know them on a live basis.

Can’t the information & broadcasting ministry think of banning live reporting during a hostage crisis? Let the channels air the news with a delay of few hours, so that the police and security agencies will have a lead time of few hours, wherein terrorists would be as equally uninformed as they are.

Please note that I am not advocating censorship. I am all for free speech and expression. What I am proposing, is that security agencies should have the power to impose a delay of say three to six hours w.r.t live reporting of anti terror operations.

Let the TV channels record whatever they want, but they should be aired only after a gap of few hours. I do not think anyone loses anything with this.

The movie A Wednesday also shares same opinion. I feel the good old days of oncein a day news bulletin was far better.

What do you think?

(This post is dedicated to all the brave police officials and innocent civilians who lost their lives in yesterday’s terror attack in Bombay)

Behind a very successful face there is a woman

Prannoy Roy‘s NDTV (New Delhi Television) turned 20 years old yesterday, and the channel’s best known face used the occasion to pay a rich and heart-warming tribute to its least known one: co-founder and life partner, Radhika Roy, with a clip from The World This Week, which made its debut as a half-hour show on November 25, 1988, on India’s national broadcaster, Doordarshan.

India’s northeast is a graveyard for journalists

Over two dozen journalists have been killed in India’s northeastern states by separatist militants, and coal and timber mafia, since 1992. The worsening situation this week which saw two journos in Assam and Manipur meet their end, resulted in India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh call for added protection. But local observers feel that this is going to do nothing to improve working conditions for journalists in the region.

Ted Turner on the future of papers, magazines

Is the relentless torrent of breaking news—on television, through the internet, on the mobile phone, etc—making newspapers and magazines irrelevant?

Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, answers the age-old question from reader Kristina Popski in Sofia, Bulgaria, in the latest issue of Time magazine:

“No. I think it has made people more interested in news in general. And breaking news doesn’t give you depth or perspective. You need magazines and newspapers because regular television news doesn’t do it either, usually. People, if they’re interested in news, they’ll get the headlines on television and then go to print for depth and perspective.”

Read the other questions here: 10 questions for Ted Turner

Link via Innovations in Newspapers

American professor killed in Indian road accident

sans serif announces with regret the passing away of Brent Hurd, a Fulbright scholar and visiting professor at the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM) in a road accident on the outskirts of Bangalore, on Sunday. He was 38 years old.

Prof Hurd, who was riding a bicycle back to the institute campus after a swim at a nearby club was knocked down by a local bus on the busy Bangalore-Mysore road. He was rushed to a hospital down the road, where he was pronounced dead.

The Delware-born Texan is survived by his parents, a brother, and two sisters.

A much-travelled film documentary maker, who had earlier worked at the American University in Washington DC and in Baku State University in Azerbaijan, Prof. Hurd had joined IIJNM in July 2008 to teach video journalism and documentary film making.

In a decade-long career in journalism starting as a writer at the Voice of America, Prof Hurd had reported from four continente. He was part of a team that won a CINE Golden Eagle award for the 1999 travelogue, “Surprising Bulgaria”, and his print articles and photography had been published in The New York Times, among other publications.

He had previously served as a peace corps volunteer in Bulgaria; a tour guide in Europe; and helped negotiate contracts for construction of the International Space Station.

“I have walked the streets of southern Thailand covering religious conflict, canvassed the Medina of Tunis assessing women’s rights and studied geysers to understand geothermal technology in Iceland,” Hurd had written on his website.

A memorial service was held at the IIJNM on Monday and his body will be flown to the United States.

Photograph: courtesy IIJNM

Visit Brent Hurd’s website: Border-free world

Also read: ToI headline on Hurd death irks Fulbright scholar