This New Year's Eve was different. In sharp contrast to the shivering cold in North India, the weather, though slightly warm, was pleasant in Sydney. I have attended a number of New Year celebrations, but joining the sea of humanity on Sydney roads on this eve was altogether a different and unique experience.
Hundreds of people were marching on the city roads. They had one mission, to reach a convenient vantage point from where they could view the splendid fireworks at the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. And for reaching a suitable location, just imagine, they were all walking down. There was no vehicular traffic to disrupt the movement of the people. I was surprised that there were no VIP vehicles with red beacons and the accompanying siren plying on the roads, very much a part of the VIP culture in India.
After getting down at the local railway station; we followed the crowd in its march towards the landmark. What an amazing organisation and management there was! All along the way at different points, there were help desks to guide the visitors. When a location was filled, barricades were put up and no more people were allowed to enter that area as the surging crowd was directed to an alternative vantage point.
Elaborate arrangements had been made for close to 15 lakh people who came to watch the show at the harbour. It is incredible how so many people could be managed without the lathi-wielding cops. Police personnel were there, but their presence instilled confidence and discipline in the public. While I was proud to be part of the orderly crowd which kept walking to reach the landmark, my mind kept going back to tragedies back home in India resulting from incidents of stampede in crowded places. How often we hear about the unruly mob and crowd mismanagement leading to loss of lives in our country.
An exciting pre-show entertainment programme commenced at the harbour bridge in the evening, culminating with the spectacular mid-night fireworks display. After watching the stunning extravaganza, began the reverse journey which must have been a 2-3 km walk to the nearby local railway station. A number of local trains had been pressed into service from nearby railway stations at midnight. To prevent overcrowding and stampede-like situation, the crowd was regulated at the entry of the railway station itself. As the people approached the station, they filed themselves in multiple queues formed at the entrance. We were standing in our queue in an orderly manner when there was a commotion. There was jostling and pushing. Three rowdy boys were trying to sneak in by breaking the queue. Guess what? They were from the Indian subcontinent!