Carefully careless | india | Hindustan Times
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Carefully careless

Two mobs went ‘flash’ in two parts of India this week. What we got was two cultural snapshots.

india Updated: Nov 30, 2011 21:23 IST
flash mob

The fundamental difference between Mumbai and Delhi finally came to the fore in two separate incidents this week. On November 27, a large group of disparate people broke into a jig to the tune of Rang De Basanti being played over the public address system at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. The idea behind it was, we suppose, to commemorate the third anniversary of the 26/11 terrorist attacks in Mumbai with a bit of fun. While the gathered folks were pitched as a ‘flash mob’ — signifying a group of people who suddenly assemble in a public place and start behaving, well, as if they’ve had a few too many drinks — we could see that the event was a quite ‘carefully careless’ display. The act, even as it baffled and amused onlookers, was a choreographed piece of performance art and not the kind of display we, in India, usually associate with ‘flash mobs’ involving acts of disruption and violence.

Up in the north in Delhi — well, actually in the town of Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh across the Delhi border — we have been experiencing a different kind of flash mob in the form of ‘Operation Majnu’ launched by the Ghaziabad Police. Since November 28, a crack team led by station officer Alka Pandey has been swooping down on young couples in public places, telling them to get lost, but not before making the ‘errant’ man do a round of squats as punishment. As Ms Pandey says into the TV cameras that follow her as she keeps Ghaziabad parks snuggle-n-snog-free, her job is to “stop innocent girls being trapped by boys with evil motives”. This drive, too, is a display of performance art that is radical by being more inane than Mumbai’s flash mob dance.

Our in-house social scientists have noticed that these two disparate cases of media-magnified activities provide a neat snapshot of the two cultures. The Mumbai flash mob dance radiated a youthful charm one associates with wide-eyed youngsters. The Ghaziabad one-woman-led flash mob swoops are more akin to the actions of a vigilante cop gang — more Dirty Harry than Mama Mia. What we plan to do now is to send across the inimitable Alka ‘Do I feel lucky? Do ya, punk?’ across to Mumbai and see how she deals with the cheery-eyed lads and gals of that city.