Saturday, February 1, 2014

A very close encounter, too close for comfort

The concept of a crowd. When does a crowd turn into a mob? Is it a mob when you cannot move forward or backward but you are just pushed in this direction and that by this tightly compacted mass of highly irritated humanity? So tightly packed, you had no worries of falling down and being stamped upon? I was in one such entity a couple of evenings ago. 

'Twas the football final of the Lusofonia Games, Goa 2014. And what do you know! Goa's team of young boys, expected to do seasoned players jobs, actually landed up in the Final. Goa was delighted. Fun and feni maybe Goa's pastimes, but football is Goa's religion. And Goa turned up in full strength to cheer her boys on. 

But the stadium could hold only 22,000 people and there were many many more than 22K in that teeming, writhing mass of human bodies outside the gates of the stadium. 

Now we in the media, pretend to be all humility etc, but we have a huge sense of entitlement. We also hold passes and our media passes ensured safe passage into the stadium. 

Or so we thought. 

There was no pathway left for passholders to swan into the stadium. Oh no. We got off our fancy airconditioned bus and walked to the venue down the narrow road and we saw the huge crowd. No path for pass holders. There were no guides to lead us in. We could wait outside or dive in. The match had already begun. We dove in.

The photographers were wearing their florescent green jackets, so I cunningly sidled behind them and a male media guy much larger than I, sidled behind me, cunningly thinking, hey the sea of humanity will part for a woman. Oh no. It did not. 

The police had put up metal barricades and were steadfastly blocking everyone, pass holders and loudly swearing non-pass holders. I tried to move to the right, but the human current was bearing to the left, so like Ruth, where the crowd went, I meekly followed. Suddenly, I felt my pass which was supposed to be hanging from its lanyard round my neck, being lifted away from me.  I could not feel the tug of the lanyard on my neck, which meant whoever was making off with it had already slipped it over my neck in the crowd. I panicked. 

As it is I was already highly distraught. I had to dislodge someone's elbow from inside my ear, someone's thumb had scraped my left nostril, my hair was all over the place and my spectacles had slid up diagonally to the top of my head. My teeth were bared, and yes, I must have been gnashing them, because some scurrilous thief had slipped my lanyard over my head and was making off with my media pass. 

It was a big laminated media pass, with an unfortunate photograph of mine on it. It was 6 inches by 4 inches and really tough to hang on to, because someone three deep in the crowd was making off with it. He was pulling the lanyard, but I held on to the pass, like my ruddy life depended on it. I pulled and I pulled, now concentrating more on keeping possession of my media pass, than figuring out how to get to the barricades and the cops. 

I knew the cops would not have a chance to scrutinize the photograph and match it to the thief's face and he would be inside the stadium cheering our boys and I would be out, fulminating. But I have what my hockey team mates used to refer to in college, as "Brute Force". Using every ounce of aforementioned BF, I yanked the card and tore it off the lanyard. I also cut the skin of my palm. 

My face would have stood out, because there was not mere indignation writ large on it. There was rage and choler and pain. The cops saw me and announced to each other, that there was a woman there. "Media!" I yowled at them and they shoved people away from me, opened the barricade and I erupted like pea from a pea-shooter into an open area beyond the barricades. 

Everything was out of focus and I realized my specs were not where they should have been. One lens was popping out. I still had a death grip on my media pass. But I felt this deep satisfaction that the thief had only a lanyard to show for his effort. I popped the lens back into the frame, panting heavily and looked around at the other media people and said in tones of loud indignation, "Blurry hell, someone was trying to rob my pass!" "Shut up! Really?!" one of them said. They all began checking to see if their wallets and phones were okay. I looked down at my pass and saw a strange phenomenon.

It was still hanging round my neck on its lanyard. I was holding a second pass in my hand. Turns out, I had actually torn off some other mediaperson's pass from his lanyard. 

There should be a word - horrimbarassment That's what I felt. Horrified and embarrassed. I shoved it at another press guy and told him, "Hee hee, I don't know how it happened, but I have someone's media pass in my hand. Just give it to the owner." He called some photographers and asked them if they knew the pass owner. They said, yes and went bounding after him. 

The press guy asked me how I managed to get someone else's card and that too separate from the lanyard. Really strange, I said. I have NO idea, how it landed up in my hand, I said. That crowd was real crazy, I said. We passed into the media box, seven minutes late for the game. 

Our Goa boys won. They beat Mozambique 3-2. Two passes for me, one gold medal for Goa-India. Not a bad day's work.

1 comment:

Werner Egipsy Souza said...

Wow... what a lovely post.
You should write the novel now.