Maximum Reaction in a Maximum City

When did we all become like this? Jittery, unsure, scared, afraid?
On Wednesday, the weather guys said that there could be a possible problem with cyclone Phyan. The BMC immediately went into overdrive with their advisory. Consequently, schools were let off early. Offices shut down in the mid-afternoon. By evening, literally and figuratively, parts of Mumbai looked like ghost-towns; dull, dreary, wet, grey and empty.
During the just-ended Monsoons, such knee-jerk reactions were not uncommon. The moment there was some extra rain and flooding, panic-buttons would be pressed and schools and colleges would shut down and people at work would want to rush home immediately. Television channels would start shouting and talk of how “Mumbai has again gone down-under” and show stock-shots of swirling water in one of the flood-prone areas of the city.
Is this what one July 26th has done to us? We have forgotten that for decades, parts of Mumbai have always flooded, depending on the rains and the tide situation? That once every Monsoon, the city will shut down, irrespective of whatever precautions we have taken and our level of preparedness? That getting stuck and having plan Bs in place to deal with the situation has always been a part of life during the rainy season?
And now? We see 1 cm of rain on the streets and everyone wants to run home!
In the olden days, when there was a “flu” epidemic, people fell sick. They tucked into bed, took leave for a week or two, went to their GPs and life went on. They didn’t go around looking ridiculous, wearing masks that were of no use at all, avoiding anyone who had the slightest fever and jumping away the moment someone sneezed. Authorities didn’t en masse shut shopping centres and schools and create ridiculous questionnaires at airports, which in any case you could bluff your way through.
When did all of our responses become knee-jerk and asinine?
Like after one person puts a bomb in his shoe, countries like the US penalize millions and millions of passengers by making them remove their shoes each time they have to get onto a plane!
Like after some people try to create bombs from liquids, we suddenly stop everyone from carrying anything more than 100ml of fluid and mothers with infants are made to pour away all their milk!
Like after one November 26th, all our hotels start looking like fortresses! As if, this would seriously stop someone who was really determined to go after one of these hotels!
All around us we see this! Over-reaction to everything! Someone cuts in front of us, we fly into a rage and want to bludgeon the person to death. Someone blocks our building gate and we deflate his tyres or scratch his car doors. Someone uses the word “Bombay” instead of “Mumbai” and some sections of the city start raging. Someone’s strap breaks during a fashion show and all hell breaks loose!
The fabric of the city has changed. We used to be more balanced and reasonable with far more common sense. We were much less flappable. Today, it doesn’t take much to unbalance us, to scare us and to stress us out. We no longer seem to be in control of our lives; everything now seems to be about reacting to events, rather than taking control of the events themselves. And it is from here that the intolerance, the rage and the maximum insecurity that is now tearing the city apart, starts!
The worst part? I don’t think this process is stoppable.

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