“Social networking” got a new meaning on Wednesday evening as blasts ripped through Mumbai. With phone lines jammed, Internet turned lifeline.
Twitter was converted into a message board as thousands of Mumbaikars posted appeals and offers for help. Blood donors met receivers, the stranded got lifts and the lost got found.
Dina Mehta, 44, was one of the first to put up her phone number on Twitter. Within minutes, she was flooded with calls.
“Most of the callers were confused and bewildered. I helped out as best as I could,” said Mehta, a researcher with a private firm. The call she remembered most came a little after seven. “I’m stuck near Kabutarkhana and I can’t get through to my family,” said a shaky voice. “I don’t know what to do. Is it safe to take a local train?”
“The boy sounded no older than 16 or 17,” said Mehta, “and he was scared out of his wits.”
She tried to call his parents, but the networks were congested. Then she had a brainwave. “I used Skype and his parents arranged to have him picked up.”
A young software engineer was about to leave her office at Hiranandani as the first blast ripped through Zaveri Bazaar.
“I am new to Mumbai and I panicked,” she said. Not very far away, Joy Das, a 32 year-old advertising professional chanced upon her tweet. “I picked her up from office and dropped her home,” said Das.
Dhruv Tikka, English teacher at Mumbai’s Billabong High School, got stuck in Bandra.
“I stay in Andheri West, far from Bandra. I didn’t want to risk taking public transport,” he said. Tikka’s call for help was retweeted repeatedly. “Twenty minutes later, I got a reply from someone called Nikhil,” says Tikka. “He asked if I wanted a ride. I thanked my lucky stars.”