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No panic on Mumbai's first day of restrictions

india Updated: Aug 13, 2009 15:37 IST

IANS
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The first day of restrictions in Mumbai on account of swine flu started on Thursday with the usual crowds of office-goers, the familiar rush in suburban trains and traffic jams on roads. Only school buses and school children were conspicuously absent.

In the monsoon season, students have got a weeklong break from school and college, thanks to swine flu that has claimed 14 lives in Maharashtra so far, two of them in Mumbai. Theatres and multiplexes here have been closed for four days.

On Thursday, very few people exercised precaution like wearing ordinary but colourful face masks. Some tied handkerchiefs on their faces, some women used dupattas or scarves.

The majority merely gave them curious glances and nothing more.

"Getting a mask is a major problem in Mumbai. I prefer to tie my dupatta, it's multi-layered and colourful and I am confident it can keep swine flu germs and even pollution at bay," said Mubaraka Kinariwala, a working woman who commutes by local trains.

Seema Thakar, a web-designer from Borivali, said: "Mumbaikars are tough and hardy. They have been through so my crises in the past, swine flu is just one more. They take everything in their stride and go about their routine."

Gloom, however, pervades the 100 multiplexes and around 90 single-screen cinema halls, which have been shut down till Sunday.

The cinema halls wore a deserted look, barring people who turned up to get a refund on their bookings during the four-day period of the ban.

"In view of the long, festive weekend and also since the mid-term examinations are over in schools, we had done very good bookings for 'Kaminey' and 'Life Partner'. Now that's gone down the drain," said M.A. Padhye, manager of Jaya cinema, Borivali.

Now, the two new movies shall hit the screens only Aug 20, but Padhye doesn't expect good bookings in view of the Ramadan month and Ganesh festival that begin next week.

Ajit Singh, box-office head of Sona Gold cinema in the western suburbs, said apart from giving refunds on bookings, the theatre managements would re-issue tickets to those patrons wanting to come at a later date.

"Since the two new releases have been postponed, we will continue with the ongoing 'Agyaat' and 'Love Aaj Kal' for the second consecutive week," Singh said.

With the restricted closure in the city - schools, colleges and cinema halls - most students have decided to take it easy for a week, though they don't plan outings or picnics in view of the flu.

"I plan to do some revision work and concentrate on my coaching classes as I shall be deprived of college," said Lata Sangame, a final year science student of Patkar College, Goregaon.

Medicos have reported a spurt in anxious patients who suspect they have symptoms of swine flu.

"I get many people with ordinary symptoms of common cold, cough, fever etc which can be treated with normal medicines. It needs a lot of counselling to convince them that they may not be afflicted with swine flu," said Himanshu Modi, a harried medico from Kandivli.

A non-resident Indian, Jaimini Oza, and his wife have been sporting masks as a matter of routine for the past six months or so. "See, precaution is better. We travel abroad frequently, especially to the US. Initially, people gave us strange looks, but now nobody bothers," Oza pointed out.

Incidentally, at Mumbai Aiport's domestic and international terminals, a majority of staffers and passengers wear masks, said frequent flyer, R. Marketwala, who has made a mask a compulsory personally accessory along with her laptop and other effects.

Despite the scare in Pune, where the maximum casualties have been reported, public taxis and buses to Mumbai have not seen a drop in traffic.

However, private taxi operators have noticed up to 25 percent drop in passengers, especially on the Mumbai-Goa sector and other seaside destinations on the Konkan coast.

"We operate a point-to-point service, with no diversions and just one mandatory halt for passenger convenience. Our taxis are plying as usual round-the-clock between Mumbai-Pune and Mumbai-Nashik," said A.L. Quadros, the Bombay Taximen's Union head.