Last weekend of mine was kinda out-of-the-world with the live concert of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Sunidhi Chouhan here in Doha. The venue was Lusail stadium, the largest one where the World cup FIFA 2022 is to be held this November-December. So that was a double dhamaka again for me: to look up the grand stadium closeup and to listen to my favourite musical sensations. Needless to say, the event drew thousands and thousands of excited fans, 80% of who were naturally Indians and the rest were perhaps a mix of Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Nepalis. It looked the entire subcontinent had turned up at Lusail for the show. The evening saw us taking the metro that was unusually overcrowded for that time of the day. Lusail is closed to vehicular traffic because of the ensuing world cup football matches, so metro became obvious choice with everyone. Right in the metro station I could see the crowds thronging and without saying I knew everyone was headed only in one direction: Lusail. For the first time, in my life I watched and attended an event so huge, huge, mammoth in my living memory in Qatar that saw thousands of residents queue up and gather at a single site. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But I thought I must get used to the idea. This was a sample. More is yet to come with the world cup commending on November 19th. From the metro, we walked to the stadium in Lusail where there were already lines roped off. The entry to the stadium was through different gates from the nearest vantage point as per your seat number. We had started at least two hours earlier from home. We joined a circuitous queue that took us through security protocols and FIFA event app/ticket checking before we were let into the stadium. Omg, what an architectural marvel is the stadium. I clicked (as expected!) numerous pix and selfies both in and outside the stadium and shot some videos of the musical nite as well. The Bollywood music was befitting gala opening to be organized in the stadium where the screens went up perhaps for the first time. I have never been to a football stadium before and I was more interested about the lightings, the seatings, the rows of seats, the walking corridors, the roof (that was partially open, to be closed fully in event of weather change like rain in a moment’s notice). I could see the hundreds and hundreds of fans in beeline reaching their assigned seats. There was a light snack available in the corridor. The musical was a grand success. Once the screens came down, we were back on our way to the metro station on foot. While we had walked almost 2 km to get into the stadium, we walked over 4 km to reach the metro after the concert got over by 10 pm. It took us one hour or more to wind through the maze of queues and reach the metro rail finally. The crowds had swelled the long and endless lines seemed but kept moving forward all the while in an orderly fashion. But I was really impressed by the way things were handled by Qatar. I am used to crowds in India. But here in this part of the world, this kind of gathering of crowds is something unheard of and unseen. The discipline of the masses bowled me over. And the organization and the methodology were simply impressive. Foolproof security and ID checks at various levels initially had gone very neat. I liked the way the crowds were allowed in batches to the metro station after the show to avoid stampedes. After all, we have just had a stampeding tragedy news coming in from South Korea. Whether it came to security checks or crowd management or the metro rail efficiency, Qatar proved the best in my opinion. I am giving the state the credit because I know, they are new to this unlike us in India. It takes enormous and skilled manpower, patience, meticulous planning, training, dryruns and diligence to manage this so well and keep things flowing smoothly. The execution part is vital. The evening proved that the little peninsula nation is so well run and capable. I became very proud of Qatar where I enjoy residency status. It was a moving experience for me. But why should I be surprised. I have seen how the country fared during the gulf crises a few years back. Overnight the milk and the groceries ran out in the supermarkets but the government imported 4000 jersey cows from Australia in matter of days and started the dairy farm right away in the middle of the desert, milking the cattle in aircon environments. In no time, the groceries and provisions reached the tiny country by sea and none of us ever suffered or lacked for anything. I have to make mention that, the difference in costs was NEVER PASSED ON to us residents. This is such a dear and sensitive thing to do, you know: not passing on the extra burden to the public most of who were expats. For that one gesture I shall remain eternally grateful to Qatar. We continued to live safely and securely the normal life and we never footed extra penny. Through the crisis, there was never a loose canon shot by way of careless talks by officials concerned as they stoically maintained the fragile peace which was their motive. Those in power remained extremely responsible. Hats off Qatar. There is a lesson here for all of us. I do lose my cool so easily and I take out my ire on all and sundry if I have to! Its that easy to provoke me and each trigger sends me trailing further backward. That tight self control and wisdom we saw in Qatar was rare and precious. That maturity is rare. Qatar proved to me once again at Lusail why this tiny dot of nation is respected worldwide and is doing so very well. The unprecedented or perhaps expected crowds were handled professionally without the history or advantage of experience, late that evening by the volunteers who deserve a pat on their backs.
Those like Saudi are used to hosting nations and millions of visitors for Haj like events.
To those who are not well informed on crowd management, even India is a great lesson. In every mandir/temple we have queues. Hindu temple festivals draw crowds in hundreds of thousands. In Tirumala Tirupathi, everyday darshan headcount could be anywhere between 60000 to 120000 devotees. So I am used to chugging it out in serpentine queues for hours. Every single Hindu pilgrimage place round the year records millions of footfalls. After all India hosts Kumbhamela, the largest congregation of human race on planet Earth every 12 years from very ancient times. Even the pandemic did not prove to be a dampener to the Kumbh attendees from across the world. To close the festival eventfree, without the scourge of an epidemic and without or bare minimal casualty is a tremendous feat. Kumbh is not a single day event. It goes on for 12 days. I have always thought that crowd management in India needs applause. Unlike the systematic crowd management that I witnessed in Doha last week, India’s masses cannot be controlled so easily. Our masses are semi literate or totally illiterate which makes matters worse. It takes a lot of voluntary discipline to make any rallying event a grand success in my country. There is the official presence and security network no doubt – by way of para military and police forces apart from health facilities and travel arrangements and lodgings, yet the mammoth crowd managements that is so regular in India is unseen in any other part of the world. Kumbh is on for millennia – from time immemorial.
There are ways to control crowds within limited spaces which is why we have ‘paid darshan’ in temples. Okay, it may not be exactly ethical but sometimes screenings such as these are absolutely necessary to filter masses and regulate crowds. Mob violence is very easy to spark in a nation as diverse and volatile and socially sensitive like India. I felt better to notice that a similar crowd management is practised in the Vatican to regulate crowds with charges introduced at every stage including to the tour of the cupola. The methods devised may always not be desirable but the results are worth sharing.
I did mingle in the crowds at the Disneyland in Florida in the US.
Crowd management is an important lesson in governance. Mostly the third world countries are good at it in my opinion! May be this has got to do with the masses having the practice of queuing up for rations and awaiting their turn with patience! Whatever. In case of India, the queueing, the waiting, the stalling is happening for years, centuries now. Unless there is this inbuilt discipline in the masses, this is just not realizable. Remember the crowds in our trains and buses. The mobs in our festivities. Through all that chaos, something still seems to be working!
When a flight lands, we Indians always would want to disembark first, throwing patience and discipline to wind. Whereas you can see those from the first world nations rooted to their seats waiting for the rest of the air passengers to ease out. I always would wonder why should we Indians be so impatient. But the airplane is a very negligent sample really that cannot be projected on a huge population of one billion plus on a vast subcontinent like ours. I would rather, the inflight psychology is kind of standard deviation or variation to our general crowd management statistical history. Which is why stampedes are more common in more civilized parts of the world than ours. A little more numbers, these foreigners start feeling claustrophobic losing their mind. It doesn’t take much for them to panic and start the pandemonium ending in a typical disaster. Its almost as if such a tragedy would be waiting to strike.
Of the wide range of immunities we Indians develop, survival in crowds is priceless. We are so used to bodies pressed to bodies, sweating, with our hot breaths on each other’s nostrils that not even the pandemic could ravage us the way it did across the globe. We were warned of a catastrophe but we got out lightly barring for a few episodes during the second wave which took a terrible among the world countries.