Saturday, August 14, 2004

Of Murder, Pictures and Autorickshaws

Two deaths in two weeks have evoked a sense of the macabre in me. It all started last week when someone forwarded a link from The Hindu that reported that a student from my own alma mater had stabbed his childhood friend over a spurned marriage proposal. And then someone even managed to find morbid before and after pictures of the girl and that has become a much forwarded/discussed email among some of my acquaintances.

The Hindu did not (and neither did a lot of other news sources) publish these photographs which seem to be the work of the Tamil rags that aim at sensationalizing everything. It just seems that the editors of the Tamil mags and newspapers lack the mental maturity and the sense of respect to the departed and their kin. Morbid pictures are almost always splashed on the first page. This apparently is the case with the Tamil TV channels as well, as some fellow bloggers reported after watching graphic images of the recent Kumbakonam fire and its aftermath.

When I was seeing those pictures that were forwarded to me, another image was soon jostling its way into my mind from deep storage - an image (another such post-death picture) of the in-famous Auto Shankar - he of the Thiruvanmiyur serial killings from the late 80s and the supposed inspiration behind some of the sequences in R.K.Selvamani's whodunit Pulan Visaranai. Auto Shankar was executed in Salem Prison in 1995 with a large number of his kith and kin (not to mention the bystanders) milling outside the gates. When his body was brought out of the prison, strangely or not, his face was perfectly visible and one of the press photographers managed to get a clear shot of his face as his body was being carried through the milling throng to a van which was to carry it to Chennai. This picture was splashed on the cover of Junior Vikatan (or was it Nakeeran, the mag that got into trouble by serializing Auto Shankar's "autobiography" that he wrote while in prison, detailing the police-politician nexus and the "real" circumstances behind the killings?). That picture stayed in my mind for a long time and for a week after I saw it, I kept getting mental images of the dopey eyed Shankar's face with a large namam on the forehead. I don't exactly remember whether the namam was due to my own imagination or not, but I did have nightmares for atleast a week thence.

These mental images have kinda returned over the last week after I saw the crime scene pics that were forwarded to me. One fellow blogger actually mentioned that it was "funny" when he forward the pictures to me, but the gory pictures coupled with the picture of the gal when she was alive actually made me retch. And today, reading about the execution of Dhananjay Chatterjee in Alipore on the CNN website, I found that "India's last execution was in 1995, when an auto-rickshaw driver convicted in the serial murders of prostitutes was hanged in southern Tamil Nadu state" - none other than Auto Shankar. Weird huh?

I was probably 12 or 13 when the Auto Shankar serial killings happened and now that I have about a week's waiting period before I defend my thesis on August 20/23, I thought I'd re-read about what had happened and when I Googled for "Auto Shankar", I found that most web encyclopedias that refered to Autorickshaws refered to the Auto Shankar case too and a Wikipedia profile of his is being quoted everywhere where a reference to Autorickshaws is made. Sadly I could find just one site which refered to Thalaivar's Autokaran role - this!

On a completely un-related note, the last link that I have mentioned is from this completely wierd website. Please leave me a message if you figure out what the hell does "quantum spectroscopy techiniques in psycho-acoustic suggestion" means!

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