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Has the fun ended for flash mobs?

It happened in a flash, and it may soon be gone in one

Bijoy Venugopal | October 08, 2003 18:05 IST

Rohit Tikmany, 25, who organised Mumbai's first flash mob on October 4, told Rediff Guide to the Net, that he was suspending the flash mob project run from his Web site

On October 8, Tikmany received a telephone call from Amitabh Gupta at the Mumbai Police Commissioner's office, who explained that prohibitory orders were still in place in Mumbai after the twin blasts of August 25.

Gupta informed him that police permission was required to accumulate a group of five or more people. "Obviously," Tikmany says, "Such a project would never get police permission."

Gupta said he thought the project was fun and that he understood Tikmany was a law-abiding citizen with harmless intentions. But he also said flash mobs had the potential of being misused for violent or even terrorist activities such as rioting and bombing.

Tikmany, who lost his father the 1993 serial bomb blasts, said he partly agreed with this view and would do what was needed in keeping with the law.

 "One of the major inherent disadvantages this project has is that it's called a flash mob," he said, emphasising mob. "That dreaded mob word makes the police and other agencies stand up and notice this project. While it feels good to bring smiles to so many people's faces and it feels good to see the growing popularity of this concept, we were not hoping for that kind of attention from the legal authorities."

"Flash mobs emphasise the fact that communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation," Tikmany said. "Flash mobs take social behaviour to the next level. They are a peek at the future of crowds."

When people ask him what the point of a flash mob is, he says there is none. "I ask them why not? Some people find it nothing but fun to gather and delight in pointlessness. Personally I find it a form of inexplicable art. For some, it's just a reason to leave home. Flash mobs breathe fire and vibrancy into the dull corners of modern life."

"I do admit that flash mobs present a quiet challenge to those in authority," he continued. "The challenge being, 'Look, we ordinary folks are going to organise something and we're not going to ask your permission. Please don't worry; there's really no need because what we're going to do is perfectly legitimate and just for fun. So, if you wouldn't mind awfully, do let us get on with our lives.' "

"I am an average Joe who was intrigued by flash mobs, much the same as thousands of other people are now intrigued by them," said Tikmany. "I have a job and a life and I do not see myself as the head of the group. I am simply the one who noticed a growing interest in 'flashmobbing' and took it upon myself to organise a few."

Tikmany has pulled down the Web site and decided to suspend the project.

"I want to thank the volunteers and participants of Flash Mob#1 and also the 1,400 other people who signed up on the project site to show their appreciation and interest in participating in future flash mobs," he said.

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