In my previous post, I wrote about the palpable fear that most Bombayites feel today when stepping out, the shudder that accompanies every sighting of a waterlogged road. Reading some of the posts that followed and the references to media, I am a little confused.
What are people fearing here ? Is it the feeling of being caught inside a car with the water level rising (I came close yesterday and on 26/7) or falling into a manhole whilst crossing the road OR is it television/news reports of the possibility of this happening ?
I admit, you do experience a sense of alarm watching television or seeing the large pictures on the front pages of newspapers. But are you scared into submission ? I really wonder. Before TV came in, the newspapers were putting the same pictures on page one. As they should. TV turned much of this into real time dissemination.
So are we saying we are quaking in fear because of what we see on TV ? I think that's a ridiculous proposition. I don't know (maybe there are some of you out there who do) of one Bombay (Mumbai) resident who is shivering in fright only because he or she watched TV in the last few days or read the newspapers. Its very simple. People are scared because of what they experienced. First hand. On the night of 26/7. Do note am not saying everyone is equally affected.
I accept that the images do cause apprehension amongst those who do not live in the city. So, someone living outside India and watching an Indian TV channel or reading a news website report would be worried about his or her family members and friends. Images, reports may sound overblown. Or for that matter, family and friends living in other parts of India. But that's the nature of the news business.
I am obviously a little biased here. But to my mind the thing that media has done is to put tremendous pressure on the civic authorities (albeit with little results). Its highlighted the collective incompetence that passes for civic administration. It does so in a manner that is relentless. Opinions may vary about the treatment but the net impact in my mind is positive. The citizenry would feel better having an active media than not.
Raw, Cold Fear
To conclude, there is no substitute for the raw, cold fear that you've experienced whilst wading through 5 feet plus of water and the waves licking your chin. I know some who have, am sure you do too. Or the memory of someone who lived on the ground floor of your building and was trapped by the rising waters. And died. Someone you saw every other morning on your way to work.
That is true fear. No amount of breathless media reporting can substitute or make up for it. And thank god for that ! That's what's keeping people in their houses and wary of stepping out. Its as clear as that.
PS It rained again in Bombay (Mumbai) today and it was yet another day of deserted streets. Thanks to which I reached my place of work in less than half the usual time it takes