“Yo! see, my street vendor’s shed sized umby could sustain that once in a ‘lifetime’ rainfall I’ve ‘ever’ witnessed in Mumbai, Be safe guys, Armageddon is around…It flipped twice, but the new age metal mesh that prevent’s a complete haul-over was ‘not’ the scene — Try this brand ‘Kadak Umbrellas’, they’ll protect you from meteor showers as well. Be home guys, be in your bedroom. Don’t just watch the rains, click poker faced selfies and water droplet close-ups reflecting from your window pane… Be safe guys, Armageddon is around…And don’t forget to socially post that public invitation of your safe haven (read ‘Rain refugee camps’) to everyone on the road accessing 1.5 GB/day free data on their phones scouting multiple options around posh locations. Be safe guys, Armageddon is around… #Hashtag #ManagedAnotherPaidLeave #SocialMediaRains #OldMonk #UberPriceHike #SettleWithPakora #OnDietButPakora #NextPostChaiWithPakora
Caption cut-copy-paste to at least 5 WhatsApp contacts, Instagram and snapchat friends - I know a couple of my close ones who are addicted to the above phenomenon where they’d be sure I (and everybody) know what they do, where they are, what’s happening with them - every 2–3 hours…
Flashback : 26 July, 2005
I was walking home back from school, the sky had dark clouds but they didn’t roar the deluge that it planned. 1.30pm, I remember the time, I was hogging ‘Bhindi & Rotis’ when I could see nothing outside my window, it started pouring.Now, back then, the only accessible media we had were newspapers and 2–3 news channels. On this day, I absolutely remember the bottom right corner of the front page on my Hindi daily’s weather prediction. It said,
“Aaj Madhyam baarish hone ke aasar hai. Kuch hisson mein bhaari varsha hone kii sambhavna hai”, (Moderate rainfall across the city with a possibility of few spells of heavy rainfall in some parts)…
While I could see nothing across my window, the prediction settled in my head that I lived in those “Kuch Hisson…” (Some parts). In an hour or so, the electricity said ‘Bye-Bye’ and didn’t return for the next 36 hours and what followed was a nightmare Mumbai had never witnessed before. It was the highest rainfall ever recorded in the city’s 100 year history. The damage caused within the civilisation was immense, from infrastructure to human lives, we were at an unexpected heavy loss. Following the deluge, a lot was written about the island cities waste management system, the loop-holes, the things that were necessary. And trust me the development which followed this crisis was commendable. The state government took every action that was critical and could help them face a similar situation in future. And as we know Mumbai, the city that fights every minute, every second — normal routine returned in just months.
But personally, this deluge implanted within me a medical condition: ‘Rain-o-phobia’ or if there’s any fancy complex synonym to it. My folks, my siblings, my friends were all stuck in different parts of the city and those 36 hours had a decent effect on my neurones worrying about their well-being. In the coming years, I started fearing the dark clouds, the moment I saw them or witnessed a heavy downpour when you could see nothing — I’d freeze, start sweating, heart beats up. So much so that I also consulted a doctor. Ofcourse he laughed at my condition and asked me to get drenched a couple of times as a possible medication. Technically, nobody took me seriously when I had my balls in my mouth hearing the rains. I’d shiver, there are times I’ve cried. But, eventually with time, I had better options to implant bigger phobias within me (thank you teenage!) and this fear of rain faded away.
Point being that one deluge, those 36 hours kept my brain occupied for the next 3–4 years and definitely not in a productive way. And all this was what I experienced myself, personally within that time-frame, my spectrum of understanding the deluge, looking at the criticality of the situation around me, the fear of never seeing your closed ones, again. There were no mobile phones, the news channels weren’t that spiced up and access to internet was still a luxury.
Now, think about today! (read ‘Now!’)
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. I am sure you’re reading this on your mobile phone with five other application tabs open or on your laptop with your browser signed into at least one social media platform. It’s an open world, they say. Ease of information flow within the planet is miraculous. We literally have access to anything and everything happening around the corners of the globe. And the options are not only to access information, but also to be a source of this information. Like here I am, trying to put forth a point-of-view. Even you have an equal level of access as compared to anyone around.
The important point here is how do we channelise this information. Forget that this is for the good or for the bad. With ease of internet, we literally can portray/showcase/shout/explain/embrace/act/react to anything and everything around the world. Everyone’s so powerful, right?
‘With power comes responsibility’, I remember writing this on blackboard of my high school class with a monitor’s KRA called ‘thought for the day’, I just hoped more people understood this today to what it actually means.
Let’s just take an example to the most hot-shot topic during monsoons in India — the Mumbai rains. During July to September every year, a dedicated second full-page coverage to every newspaper, the breaking news and prime-time slots to every news channels, internet flooded with articles in no time, like faster than the Milan subway floods itself. And this was still fine until WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram etc. created humbled reporters around this concrete jungle. It rains for a few minutes and I have at least 5 WhatsApp notifications — 3 of them would be on a social group — family group (with a weird name), friends group (with a nostalgic name), work group (with a no-nonsense name, at times).
I feel so lucky and privileged that I am updated all the time about anything that I need to be cautious about for my physical well-being. But come on! Keep tracking this for months and they’d loose credibility. Most of it is ‘forwarded message’, which means somebody felt something, analysed things and drafted a piece. At times I wonder who supplies them with such credible intel. And if it’s a spiced up message, it does ’n’ shares and that ’n’ can’t be even estimated! There is still a whole-lot of people within my circle who are aware of these spam messages and would avoid/refrain from circulating the same. But, the most vulnerable ones are the family WhatsApp groups. If you are a part of one, I am sure you get what I mean! From those ‘Good Mornings’ with a weirdly photoshopped landscape pic that doesn’t reflect the ideal specie it is, to even some blunt point of views shared that’d make you think.
What I really fear is the increasing influx of this medium as a routine in their lives. Since it’s an open forum, pretty much a lot of things keep circulating within this space, the validation to what is right or what is obnoxiously wrong has a very thin line.
Example: A simple message that says, “Water flooded in X region” — may be this is true or just a rumour! I call it rumour because flooding is water accumulated in an area, and with the intensity of rain it might go up & down, it’s a complete variable. Because some random person had a reason to mention it, this would reach out to this chat universe like a fireball, almost a snow ball effect. Since, it’s considered a matter of an emergency to be shared with their loved ones, it creates that sort of a bubble. Now, imagine the amount of messages that gets circulated when it rains for an hour. Imagine the information bubble that we create during this very time. May be the situation is as grave as we see, or may be it stops raining. Whatever be the case, for this very moment, you’d have your attention crossed over to this situation. The kind of attention you invest remains different for different people but this flow of information is creating an impact within the routine you follow.
I DO NOT mean that this information shouldn’t be shared, but an added level of responsible thinking before you share can really help the cause. Of course it’s a sign of vigilant citizens trying to keep themselves at safety and also caring about their loved ones, but not letting your loved ones with a sense of panic is also equally caring about their safety. Call it - mental safety.
What you share, remember, is a chain reaction that reaches innumerable souls and there is no accountability to when and where it’d end. I sometimes think if there was this ease of information when I was going through my rain-o-phobia. I can’t even predict the kind of reaction I’d give to such information about panic & uncertainty. Imagine the amount of people who are/might face rain-o-phobia just like me. Trust me, it ain’t helping their cause.
Forget just this situation of Mumbai rains, imagine any sort of information that flows across the world, literally just think the quantum of these messages that is spreading every second, every minute and the way it’s affecting people and their lives. Imagine the people who already have xxxxxx-o-phobia or would develop one by seeking such knowledge. The level of perception it builds within minutes, the way a civilisation thinks / acts / reacts / perceives / retaliates is absolutely dependent on this personal flow of information which is getting vulnerable day by day. There is this virtual drama that literally has each one of us with a role play. Notably, all of us are in lead roles. Just that, this is an unplanned script which might run for an ambiguous duration.
The level of ease empowered by internet in this free world might be a boon but the drama that follows with this ease can equally be a legit curse, if not used in the right sense.