Dubai: Like most residents, I had no clue that February 25, 2018, would be such an eventful and tragic day. My wife’s screams woke me up at 5am: “Sridevi died in a Dubai hotel.” I saw her reading an online article in Indian media which broke the news. I was still half asleep but the words “Dubai hotel” rang an alarm and I knew this would not be an ordinary Sunday.
Initial reports of her cardiac failure were sketchy. Still, in the digital world where ‘key words’ are more important than facts, ‘Dubai hotel’, ‘Ras Al Khaimah wedding’, ‘Bollywood star’ had enough ammunition to trigger a media frenzy in India. Condolences poured in from the film fraternity and politicians while the Indian missions said they were working with local authorities to have the body repatriated.
Till this hour, the star’s death, although shocking, was not considered out of the ordinary and we expected her body to be released soon after the autopsy, a standard procedure. A private jet was on standby to take Sridevi back. By evening, however, it was clear that the repatriation would happen only the following day. On Tuesday afternoon, the toxicology report dropped a bombshell — the star died of accidental drowning.
Soon after we reported that alcohol was found in her body, the case was transferred to prosecution, another standard procedure. After the report was out, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. While the authorities in Dubai released information in a timely fashion, Indian TV channels wanted more.
I spent the rest of the day shuttling between my desk and quiet rooms as Indian news channels wanted me go live with updates. I lost count of the ‘lives’ I did, the last one was on Tuesday night when her mortal remains reached Mumbai. I was at home, having my first proper meal in two days but couldn’t say no to the anchor in a Delhi studio. I realised later that the factual coverage by Gulf News team helped calm down the media frenzy to an extent.