The Grip of Infamy, Episode 4. Serialised story by R. Sittamparam
Thana’s press secretary Aloysius Theeban was not much to rely on, Thana had found out after hiring him more than a year ago. He had made a mistake thinking the glamourous looking Aloysius with his good looks and American accent would boost his image within the media circle. He realised only too late that swanky looking media personnel like Aloysius were in the media line thinking it a glamourous vocation. They were seeking to soak in the attention given them by media savvy leaders of government and corporations. And basking in the media exposure via by-lines and television appearances in broadcasts of press conferences.
Thana now knew that these scourge of the fraternity were only good at parroting their media bosses’ instructions and regurgitating prepared statements from politicians and government leaders. And best of all for them, was the partying lifestyle they could immerse themselves in, thanks to obliging public relations personnel of hotels, giant corporations and politicians.
In this way the social life of the Aloysius types took prominence over the honing of professional skills. This caused them to hop from one media organisation to another. And use their network of contacts to jump on the bandwagon of public relations or land a plump job as press secretary to politicians from component parties of the government ruling the country for the past 58 years.
Thana was left in a dilemma as sacking Aloysius would send a wrong signal to the media fraternity as the latter was popular among the younger crowd in the media circle. He was especially active at wooing the junior journalists – forming the bulk of the burgeoning intake of fresh media studies postgraduates in the fraternity – using his glamorous social media presence.
When it came to facing the more serious media personnel including senior journalists and editors, Aloysius lacked confidence and generally shied away from them putting Thana at a great disadvantage. He was well aware that the media circle on the whole was totally convinced of his underworld links and held little respect for him as an upcoming leader.
Recently, to counter his negative media image he had cast his villainous feelers of seduction. Banking on the trending fervour among Kollywood and Bollywood diehards of the bad boy icons – the very image of him that he chose to erase among the fraternity – he had ensnared a couple of impressionable senior women journalists and two gay men journalists.
Thana had wooed them using his NoteMe social media account profile page – created and managed for him by Aloysius – the only real satisfactory work the latter had put in as a press secretary. With regular postings of his studio created profile pictures he won over these lovelorn journalists’ allegiance. To keep them succinctly in his confidence to spread news of his apparent goodness and openness. But still progress was slow and he yet could not reach out to the higher level decision makers in the media organisations, to effectively repair his battered image.
The social media was also constantly abuzz with mobile phone shot images of him and his underworld front men including Thiagu in dubious situations. These overzealous shutterbugs were everywhere and there was no way Thana and his men could avoid them. Thana now worried whether his outburst at the shooting scene – in angrily kicking the body of his dead outrider – had been photographed by any of the residents in the area.
Thana also deliberated over his rash decision in hiring his trusted lieutenant Thiagu as his personal secretary. Thana lamented that Thiagu could be a liability to his political aspirations as the latter was still very much an underworld creature out of habit. Given to outbursts of anger – when dealing with uncomely party people showing little diplomacy -and overzealous in safeguarding the safety of Thana and his family. He had also noticed the overprotective stance of Thiagu towards Asha’s sister, Nisha.
Thana valued Thiagu’s loyalty towards him and his family. He even regarded the tall and fair skinned Form Five dropout who was five years his junior, a suitable groom for his sister-in-law. But Thana could not help notice especially recently just how alike himself, Thiagu was. And he felt threatened by this fact.
Transferred from the stretcher to a wheelchair, Thana was wheeled into the emergency ward where a doctor checked his wound. After several tests he was taken into the operating theatre where the wound was stitched up and bandaged.
As he was wheeled out of the operating theatre, Thana had whispered brief instructions to Thiagu. “Quick! Do an immediate survey of residents living around the shooting scene. Find out if anyone had recorded the incident.” Thiagu had relayed the instructions to Sippu Anthony who was still at the crime scene as Guru’s corpse had still not been removed by police. The latter led a small team of five youths to casually collect information about the neighbourhood. As it so happens, one of the youths knew a friend of a friend who lived in the neighbourhood.