CISF’s Daring Rescue in Bangalore

Yours Truly with CISF Officer Ravindra Pratap
The Absent-Minded Professor with CISF Officer Ravindra Pratap.

This week I left Kolkata to spend a week in Bangalore working with the highly acclaimed Bangalore Little Theatre  (affectionately known as BLT) where I will catch some of their new plays, accompany them to a rural area where they do theatre education outreach to economically disadvantaged schools, and where I will teach a one-day playwriting workshop to BLT members.

My Indigo Airlines flight was on time, and finally during my flight I got to have one of my much anticipated Indian delicacies, the Indigo Airlines chicken junglee sandwich and a cup of Darjeeling tea. If you haven’t tried one, you haven’t lived. You think I’m kidding.

The trouble began after I landed at KIA (Kempegowda International Airport).  I grabbed a luggage trolley (always free in India; a lesson for US airports) and dropped my shoulder bag into the topmost rack of the trolley near the handlebar.  My two pieces of checked luggage arrived on the belt in no time. I tossed them onto the trolley and made for the exit while opening the Uber app on my phone.

Along the way I stopped at a small shop in the airport lobby, left my trolley near the shop entrance and took two steps to the counter to buy a bottle of water, all of which took less than 60 seconds.   I was soon outside pushing my trolley up and down the sidewalk, past the Subway, the Krispy Kreme, and a host of other colorful eateries that were primarily a mix of South Indian and US cuisines, looking for the blasted Uber pickup spot. I had already requested the car so I needed to hustle.

Only when I reached the Uber stand and started to load my luggage into the car did I realize my shoulder bag was missing.  I whipped the trolley around and walk-ran back toward the terminal.  Some wiseguy had lifted my bag right off my cart while I was buying water, I  fumed.   Where am I, Philadelphia?

I flagged down a security guard. “Excuse me, my bag has been stolen.”  After the struggle of going through the particulars in English (my broken Bangla is worthless here in the state of Karnataka where the native language is Kannada), he sent me to the airport’s Central Industrial Security Force control center.  The CISF is a branch of India’s armed police force and is tasked with guarding industrial and infrastructure sites, including airports.

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The Work Begins

Soumya Sankar Bose and Shyamal Dihidar

Yesterday the work began in earnest with my  interview of actor-director Shyamal Dihidar who’s been doing Jatra theatre since age 10. I met him through his nephew (also pictured) Soumya Sankar Bose, a Kolkata-based art photographer.  His uncle was kind enough to take a train 150km into the city for the interview which I held upstairs at a corner table of the cafe at the Oxford Bookstore.

Shyamal Dihidar and Yours Truly

The Canon EOS Rebel T6 video camera and tripod that I brought with me paid off. And many thanks to Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design for lending me a Zoom sound recorder for 3 months.   Also many thanks to Oxford staff for taking it upon themselves to turn off the store music while I was recording.

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