Daily Archives: February 11, 2008

Where’s India Improv?

I should probably write a few words about the Grammy’s but it’s not like any of you care and watching Improv Everywhere’s latest (above) made me wonder yet again – why don’t we have these things in India? If ever a country was made for staging a flash mob event, it’s India.

Think about it – there are so many places in India that are just made for framing a flash mob event. Raisina Hill in the morning; India Gate at night; Victoria Terminus just before rush hour; Marina beach in the evening; a Calcutta tram; a million temples, churches and mosques; festivals… so many opportunities and so many people who’d love to participate.

And then I remembered Rohit Tikmany who actually did organize something of the kind in Mumbai, way back in 2003 I believe. So what happened? Well, this happened:

On October 8, Tikmany received a telephone call from Amitabh Gupta at the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office, who explained that prohibitory orders were still in place in Mumbai after the twin blasts of August 25.

Gupta informed him that police permission was required to accumulate a group of five or more people. “Obviously,” Tikmany says, “Such a project would never get police permission.” Gupta said he thought the project was fun and that he understood Tikmany was a law-abiding citizen with harmless intentions. But he also said flash mobs had the potential of being misused for violent or even terrorist activities such as rioting and bombing.

Tikmany, who lost his father the 1993 serial bomb blasts, said he partly agreed with this view and would do what was needed in keeping with the law.

This is what I call a fifty-fifty situation. On the one hand, police doing their job – always good. On the other hand – why is it always the law abiding citizens that get policed rather than the lawbreakers who need policing?

Case in point: political “activists”. Just a few days ago, break away Thackeray heir, Raj Thackeray sent his goons activists to beat up a bunch of poor people for the ultimate crime of (gasp!) trying to earn a living and having a movie theater that plays movies in their language (how dare they?! A movie theater! The gall!). When asked about it, he passed it off as standing up for Marathi pride – something that apparently cannot exist unless you express it violently. And the government says, “Oh yes, we heard about it. Very interesting. Caught the footage on TV. Ain’t modern technology wunnerful? What’s that? Steps? Oh, right. Well, we’re currently mulling whether or not any crime has been committed. But we’ll keep you informed.”

And isn’t it funny how political rallies haven’t been outlawed even though Rajiv Gandhi definitively got blown up at one, while surrounded by policemen? But flash mobs? Let’s ban those double quick just in case some suicide bomber signs up for an event, then comes to one and detonates him/herself. I don’t remember when was the last time we got attacked by a mob of terrorists (would the attack on Parliament count as an example?) but if I were a terrorist trying to inflict the maximum damage, the very last thing I would do is sign up with a bunch of loud, garba dancing stockbrokers.

The idea behind a terrorist act is to unobtrusively create conditions that would ultimately end in chaos – a flash mob on the other hand is anything but unobtrusive. If any of those 9/11 hijackers had staged a flash mob event prior to getting on the plane, we’d be talking about that crazy attempted hijacking instead of the tragedy that was September 11th.

Anyway, I don’t know where all this leaves Mamata Bannerjee. This writer seems to think her rallies are flash mob events more than anything else – so I guess we should ban Mamata Bannerjee? Oh wait, didn’t the friendly neighborhood Communist cadre in West Bengal do that already? Hmm, I feel more equal now.

Here’s my personal favorite from Improv Everywhere: the Cell Phone Symphony. This is the one my roommate and I almost went to but didn’t because it was so fucking cold that day. If I’d known they were going to hit the Strand, one of my favorite places to hang but stocked with at least one annoying employee, I’d have definitely gone, freezing weather or not. I don’t know if it makes much sense when you see it in the video but reading the report should give you an idea of just how awesome it must have been.

More here.


Posted by on February 11, 2008 in Entertainment, Life, Newsmakers, Video