Welcome to my blog. I may write copy here that I would not present elsewhere. This blog allows me to comment while reporting for clients which can include subscription-only platforms. I use it to take a sideways look at running stories, and all views presented here are my own.

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Thursday, 15 January 2009

Mumbai Diary in the Spectator after a BBC All-Nighter

As soon as news of the Mumbai explosions broke that fateful night, November 26th 2008, I was asked to dash into the BBC newsroom at White City, West London, for what I thought would be just a couple of hours of studio analysis. When I got there, the editor asked if I would be prepared to stay all night. It was surreal, watching the footage coming in via NDTV and others, and reacting to it while trying to deliver coherent comment. My friend Karin Giannone and I sat through the horrifying hours at the desk, talking over the pictures. Karin and I were like two guards holding a fort, there was so much happening so fast, we had no opportunity to leave the newsroom even for a few minutes, if you know what I mean. At the end of our stint, when I finally had to go to another broadcaster and Karin was finishing her shift, Karin turned to me and told me how relieved she was that I had been there and that we had been able to go through the night reporting together.

Such adrenalin-filled experiences create memorable bonds between media workers.

I was told by my sources that certain notable people, known names, were holed up in the Taj Palace Hotel, but after announcing one of them on air, I was asked not to identify any others. I thought that this was auntie's super - bureaucracy at work, until I found out, chillingly , that the attackers were watching us reporting on the BBC, News 24 having combined with BBC World, and were roving the hotel, using any information about guests that might come out from us.

After that night, there was a hectic week of visiting different stations which I recorded in a Diary piece for the Spectator, perhaps the only place I could actually report a little of what was actually going on in my mind while I was trying to stay cool, calm and collected. Never has a story so resonated with me, as did the Mumbai bombings, since the areas of the attacks were places important to me from time I've spent in the sprawling Bombay of my earlier life.

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