Today Muslims are honouring Muharram- the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is a sacred month and depending on how one celebrates- it could be with mourning or celebrations. So today, many people spilled on to the streets as part of signifying the event. Pockets of the city I imagine will have large crowds.
Apparently to take over the street for any sort of celebration-and there are tons in India :), you don’t need a permit. It was at this time of the evening that I was in a carpool on my way home. Crowds naturally make the rush hour commute even more challenging.
So during the drive home an ambulance- sirens on, was ‘driving’ by. What was interesting about this episode is the fact we were stuck in traffic…and if you know anything about traffic jams in Mumbai it’s never a good situation. Especially worse during an emergency. So the ambulance was also stuck in traffic. This wasn’t just rush hour traffic, there was an increase in traffic because the huge crowd took over a portion of the road in this particular area.
During this drive home learned a couple things about the emergency response system in India that made the sound of sirens more disheartening than they already are.
The emergency response system in India is seriously underdeveloped. While it may not be surprising to some, when you think about the population of India, this makes it even more alarming. And being stuck in the middle of this kind of episode turns what may not be a surprising reality into a deafening experience. The longer you hear the siren, the more you don’t want to hear it because you know what it could mean in an emergency situation when seconds matter.
We heard the sound of that siren for too long!
There is no centraliized 911-type, number that people can call that will get them fire, police and ambulance. People pay money to private systems that they can call directly during an emergency and get timely care from ‘more’ qualified paramedics. That’s what I was told. What I witnessed is that cars don’t really pull over. They do…eventually, but in an emergency every second counts.
Why is the response of pulling over from drivers so apathetic? Where are the cars supposed to go on roads that are over crowded?
This makes me think about what I saw a few days ago while on my way home…the guy I saw lying at the side of the road surrounded by a small crowd and a parked car nearby. He was frothing at the mouth and it was clear that he had been hit by the car. My first thought at the sight of any accident is always, God help that person!
I wondered, how long will it take the police to get there…and now I also wonder, if he got medical attention quick enough.
Being stuck in traffic and hearing the sound of an ambulance longer than a few seconds is something I can definitely do without!