‘Hear what?’ I asked.
‘Farooq Sattar has been shot!’ said the colleague, going almost pale in the face.
He was taken aback when I let out a cynical chuckle: ‘Where?’
‘I don’t know. But he was shot a few minutes ago,’ he explained, still going pale and at the same time intrigued by my cynical posture.
‘I mean, where was he shot – on Facebook or Twitter?’ I asked.
It was on Twitter that the news of the MQM leader being shot was proudly broken.
I knew it was nonsense the moment I heard Sattar’s name. Because this was at least the third time he had been ‘shot’ in the last five years and each time the ‘news’ left shops and offices closing and people scampering home.
Yes, there was commotion and some ‘unknown miscreants’ resorted to aerial firing in many areas and forced many shops in the city to close down, but louder still was the nonsense that arrived in the shape of tweets on Twitter.
By mid-afternoon (on Twitter), Sattar had gone on from succumbing to gun shot wounds to simply dying from a heart attack!
It was amazing to note that men and women tweeting this simply refused to bother switching on the local news channels that were saying absolutely nothing of the sort.
Then, very conveniently, Sattar’s name vanished from the animated ‘OMG’ tweets about the ‘deteriorating situation’ and replaced with that of MQM chief, Altaf Hussain.
Now it was him who had died of a heart attack. No, said another tweet. He hadn’t died but was arrested by the Scotland Yard for the murder of Imran Farooq.
I kept checking the TV channels and all they were reporting were shops being closed due to aerial firing.
Things finally settled down when some MQM leaders appeared on TV and announced that they would be holding an indefinite strike in Karachi against the killing of Shias in the Abbas Town bombing.
There was Sattar talking to some media men and I saw no bullet holes on his body and nor was he clutching his chest, gasping for air.
As the city settled back to normality when the MQM finally took back its decision to strike, it seems many on Twitter were somewhat disappointed.
What an anti-climax to what seemed to be such an exciting day to Tweet and Facebook.
Not quite. Because some time near midnight a little fire broke out in the kitchen of one of Karachi’s most popular restaurants, ‘Bar B. Q. Tonight.’
Dozens of such fires erupt in kitchens of restaurants and are almost immediately taken care of. The same happened at Bar B. Q. Tonight as well.
But since the restaurant is in close proximity to President Zardari’s personal resident, the Bilawal House, in the Clifton area of Karachi, TV channels began to run a ticker about a fire in the restaurant.
True to our TV channels more-than-sensational form, the ticker began with the words, ‘Aag lag gai!’ (Fire erupts!).
One immediately followed the rest of the ticker that went on to say a fire had erupted at a famous restaurant near Bilawal House and that the customers were being escorted out.
The ticker ran for about 10 minutes but no video report of the incident appeared.
Since I am a regular take-out customer of the mentioned eatery, I decided to call and find out.
But before I could even start dialling the restaurant’s number on my cell phone, the ticker changed. It now said ‘Aag bujj gai!’ (Fire extinguished!).
That was it.
But I did call. The guy on the other end was as calm and courteous as ever: ‘Hello, Bar. B. Q. Tonight, how may I help you?’
He was all set to take my order when I asked him about the fire. He didn’t know.
I told him who I was and he recognised me as one of their regular customers: ‘Jee, jee Paracha Sahib, konsi aag?’ (Yes, Mr. Paracha, but what fire?’).
I told him about the TV ticker and he asked me to hold on. A minute later he returned to the phone to tell me that a small fire did erupt in one of the kitchens of the restaurant and a few people were moved away from that area.
The fire was extinguished within 10 minutes. He was surprised that the incident had become news: ‘These sorts of fires are common in the kitchens of restaurants all over the world!’ He laughed. ‘So, what would you like to order tonight?’
Of course, on Twitter the ‘fire incident’ had taken a life of its own.
‘OMG! BBQ Tonight set on fire!’ screamed one tweet.
Retweet, retweet, retweet. OMG! OMG! OMG!
‘Was Bilawal House the real target?’ asked one.
‘No,’ another clarified. ‘BBQ Tonight is owned by a PML-N guy. The fire was set off by MQM.’
And all this was going on even an hour after the supposedly devastating fire had been extinguished.