I was watching Delhi Belly at the cinema when my phone started flashing with texts from strangers asking if I was alright. It was like I was the last man on the planet that hadn’t been immunized against polio and they were all Amitabh Bachchan. Something was wrong. Either Sikhs had turned into hated minority number 1 again and I was to run for my life or the city was under attack - again. Sadly, as Twitter quickly told me, the latter. If you don’t sense sadness in this opening paragraph, it is because I’m not. I’m not even angry. Numb is only a Linkin Park song and helplessness is what I’d ascribe to a South Block staffer being forced to write a thank you note to South Sudan for condemning the bombings. All I am right now – is indifferent. Not to the plight of the families that suffered, the under-equipped cops trying to gather whatever evidence they could in the downpour or the thousands struck down by fear – but to our state of being. To who we are. To noise. It felt like I wasn’t the only one.
I’ve never seen people on Twitter collectively hunker down and focus on just getting the facts out about people who were missing, were stuck and needed help, willing to offer a place to stay, donate blood or support whichever way they could with such composure ever before. All one could do, it seemed, was sit down, shut up, parse information as best as one could and get the information out to as many people as possible. And yet, despite how noble, creative and positive Twitter was last night – it seemed to mask a sense of despair. Of the knowledge that beyond this perhaps one could not really do anything. Of being in auto-pilot simply because it had become all too familiar. A digital safety drill, if you please, being directed by a few instructors who would gently tap incase you veered too far off the line. A habit. And for all the great work everyone was doing, I’d wonder about people who weren’t online – whether anyone was being able to reach out to them – if they knew that such help was at hand. Whether it did not just become a circular game of tweets with us patting ourselves on the back for a job well has done while assuaging the socially responsible citizens within us.
For all that we talk about politicians hijacking the air-waves to push their own agendas at times like these – how different are we really? The journalist will use the event to craft a story for the morning paper hailing a Twitter revolution. The right winger will get another chance to demonise a community. The left liberal will hit out at
call the right winger crazy. The comedian will use dark humor, get clobbered
for being insensitive, claim the right to free speech and humors role as being
cathartic. The celebrity will express outrage and sympathy (and in some cases
propose conversion to Pakistan ).
For all that we blame our politicians and media moguls for sticking to the same
roles and talking points after every tragedy – we all seem to do the exact same
thing. We all have our roles based on our Twitter hierarchies and we all cater
to our audiences. Why do we expect others to do any better? Israel
Don’t you love it when at times like these strangers send text messages to show as if they’re concerned but you know they’re faking it? Or when people who care about you message saying they’re not calling because they don’t want to jam the lines – and right then you get a call offering you a home loan at extremely low interest rates? Tragedies bring a lot of people closer, but they also bring a lot of people to talk about how they bring people closer so they can show off their bleeding hearts. There is no need.
As of now, the machine has restarted. Twitter is back to jokes and normal life. Political pundits will analyse and dissect the event and hopefully contribute to policies that will inflict positive change. Journalists will try and draw connections based on their political leanings to bring us a bigger perspective. Manmohan Singh will say things like “terrorists have the element of surprise” while we stay surprised that he is still Prime Minister. Raj Thackeray will blame immigrants while his detractors pound him for never coming forward in times of crisis. Youth groups will urge young people to vote and be responsible. Rahul Gandhi will, I’m 99% sure, stay more stupid shit in the coming months while using his kurta and sneakers as a metaphor for an India that it at once traditional and modern.
The Mumbai Police will do the best it can.
Me? I’m going to buy a faster internet connection – because there’d be a lot more people to try and help incase it happens again - and log on the next day to see people wish each other a Happy Birthday on Facebook with a "Hope you had a blast".
And Delhi Belly is way too overrated.