Mob mentality


It was years ago, I was flying from Pune to Calcutta (now Kolkata). It was a stormy weather and the flight encountered turbulence after turbulence. It came as no surprise when the pilot announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am sorry to report that we can’t land in Calcutta due to heavy rain. Therefore, we hope to land in Varanasi and resume our flight tomorrow morning.”

This was greeted, predictably, by the passengers with a loud, “Oh, no! My god!” Some of them cried in desperation but  couldn’t do much about it.

It was utter chaos and confusion as we landed at the small airport at Varanasi. Due to the sudden diversion, the inadequate infrastructure was exposed. “Please wait for your turn. We have only one bus at present but hope to get more in another hour. Please have patience,” announced the harassed station manager.

He should have known better — whether it is air passengers or rail passengers, the instinct of self before others would dominate. As a result, everyone tried to rush in and occupy the seats in the bus. This created more confusion and the bus driver was a silent spectator to the mad rush to get in.

As we were getting nowhere, one of my co-passengers and I decided to step in and bring some order. “Please wait in a line so that the bus can depart soon. Everyone will be taken to the city, don’t worry,” we pleaded with the crowd. Surprisingly, there was a positive response. They saw that both of us had gone back and stood last in the queue.

Thus, our honourable intention was accepted. It was smooth boarding from then.

The same mob mentality, however, returned when we reached the hotel reception counter. Everyone wanted to be the first to check in and grab the best rooms. My co-passenger, Raman with whom I had struck acquaintance, merely smiled. We shook our heads in disbelief. “What’s wrong with these people? They are behaving as if they are the chosen few and want to grab the best every time!”

We stood at a distance watching with interest the haggling and the way some of them behaved throwing their weight around at the harassed counter clerks. It was late in the night as Raman and I checked into the same room, as the passengers were to share rooms. I was glad I had the good company of someone who shared some of my values.

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