It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
By now you've heard about the Mumbai CST flash mob--India's first citizen flash mob--that took place in the city's busiest transport hub this past Sunday. A lot of people are wondering who--or rather, what team--was responsible for this first-of-its-kind event. Well, it wasn't a team, but really just one person who was the driving force behind the initiative. GuyLife spoke to the woman behind the Mumbai CST flash mob, Shonan Kothari
Shonan is a 23-year-old Corporate Social Responsibility consultant from South Mumbai who has an MSc degree in developmental studies from SOAS, University of London. However, she's now best-known for organizing India's first--and might we add, successful--citizen-lead flash mob.
Guylife - When did you first come into contact with the concept of a flash mob? What are some of your favorite flash mobs you've seen online?
Shonan Kothari: I witnessed my first flash mob in a grocery store in London in 2009, when five people came in and just started singing. Back then, I had no clue as to what was going on.
Someone mentioned that it was a flash mob, so I looked it up online as I was curious. I looked at flash mobs on the Internet, including those of the legendary Improv Everywhere.
My favorite flash mob (other than ours!) is the one at Antwerp Central Station, where a big group sang and danced to the 'Sound Of Music.' That was my inspiration for the Mumbai CST flash mob.
Guylife - Have you participated in a flash mob previously?
Shonan Kothari: No. The only reason why I organized this flash mob was because I wanted to take part in one. I figured the only way that was going to happen was if I did it myself!
Guylife - What made you come up with the idea of doing a flash mob in India?
Shonan Kothari: When I was in London, I made a bucket list of sorts. This list included 'being part of a flash mob.' That may sound simplistic, but that's really how it was!
Guylife - How did you go about this? Who funded the practice space and everything else?
Shonan Kothari: I had talked to my friends about it. I emailed about 20 people and asked them to enroll 10 to 20 people more each. Within two days, we had 325 people on board. However, we decided to avoid using social media to keep it relatively quiet so that no one got wind of what was going on.
The maximum capacity for a flash mob at CST as well as in our practice space was about 200. We reached this number after we took issues like crowd management and space constraints into account. But we still had about 250 to 280 people out of the 325 coming in for practices.
We managed these people by scheduling four practice batches, with three practices per batch. We also had to cut the number of participants down to our capacity, which is about the number that showed up to all the scheduled practices.
We practiced our moves at a yoga hall in Priyadarshini Park at Napean Sea Road. I paid for the practice space. But we were lucky enough to get a professional choreographer and some videographers on board. These professionals either worked for free or gave us heavy discounts on their fees.
Guylife - How did you get permission from the Railways?
Shonan Kothari: For me, CST was always a dream location. I had even set aside 27/11 as the date of the mob. This had nothing to do with the fact that it was close to 26/11. But it's just a big coincidence that the dates coincided. There was no overt intention on our part to hold it on that day for any particular reason.
I made a presentation to the CST authorities, and ended up talking a lot about flash mobs in general. They probably gave me permission just to shut me up! But the truth is they were very nice and cooperative.
I didn't know anyone in the CST office and just showed up and pitched my idea to them. Perhaps the only reason they were so receptive to this idea was because this was a completely non-commercial endeavor.
Guylife - What was the actual experience like? Any last-minute glitches?
Shonan Kothari: On the day itself, there was lots of last-minute chaos. We had planned really cool entries and exits. But on the day, we had to make an announcement to scrap it all, as there were too many commuters at the station.
Initially, it was very stressful, as we had to stop dancing once. We had planned for our group members to trickle into the mob. However, this became practically impossible as a crowd surrounded the initial dancers and we had no clue how the remaining 198 people were going to be able to join in!
So, on our second attempt, we made a human chain and guarded our space. We had to sacrifice a lot of our choreography for crowd control, but it worked out OK in the end.
To add to this, random people joined in and started dancing with us. We simply loved the crowd's reactions. People were amused and confused, but no one really questioned what we were doing. Some even thought this was a film shooting!
We simply dispersed as soon as it was over--in true flash mob style.
Guylife - Any advice for someone planning a citizen flash mob in India?
Shonan Kothari: Make sure you have all your permissions beforehand. Crowd control is one aspect that we didn't get right. We simply didn't expect such a big crowd to assemble so quickly! So get that covered, and most importantly, be well-organized and have lots of fun.
Guylife - Any plans to do another?
Shonan Kothari: A lot of people want to do another flash mob now. But I don't plan to do one in the near future.
I even got some offers from some businesses that were interested in buying the rights to this flash mob. But we didn't want an agenda of selling anything that would be associated with this mob--we wanted to keep it pure and fun!
While there's nothing wrong with a commercial flash mob--and even I was quite tempted to take up one of the lucrative offers--in this case it would have been like selling my soul!
Here's what happened at the Mumbai CST flash mob:
-Pictures courtesy Shonan Kothari-
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