Rains stopped play for a day in Mumbai yesterday. And some excellent human behaviour was at display.
Everyone went to work. It was just drizzling a bit. When the drizzle became heavier and consistent, memories of 2005 returned. Elaborate plans to car pool and leave early were made. The rains hadn’t gotten too bad yet, so people waited to attend that one last call and send that one last mail before leaving.
And then came the high tide warning. Mumbai Police said “Stay where you are”. Mumbai Corporation said “Go home right now.”
Those who were old enough to remember 12 years back said, “I stay”. The new immigrants and youngsters said, “I go”.
The rain got heavier. Water levels on the roads started rising.
And earlier set plans started changing. Everyone wanted to go.
While all one had to do to stay alive was stay indoors, many thought they would die of hunger. Even those safe at home wanted to buy milk and bread. What if supplies ran out? Let’s hoard. And those who were too dry, wanted some action. So everyone headed out.
Trains were stopped and traffic came to a standstill. Panic broke out.
People safely tucked in at home but dangerously watching television started giving expert suggestions. “Stay where you are”, “Take this route”, “There are potholes” and more well -meaning but irrelevant ideas poured in to confuse those tired souls stuck on the road with bladders bursting and stomachs growling.
Some trekked 15 kms, some stayed in nearby hotels, some spent the night on the couch at work. But most of us survived. Mumbaikars got back home the next morning, at a time they would usually head out to work.
And the next day turned out to be a bright and sunny day. The bosses were upset about a lost working day close to month end, the kids were a happy lot and the ladies worried about what to do with all the extra milk and bread!
And strangely, all I can see is how this is an exact representation of our investment behaviour during crisis. When markets dip, plans are made. When markets further dip plans are changed. Fear, greed and crankiness takes over. When the situation worsens, the crowd mentality sets in. When panic breaks out everyone has an opinion.
But when the trauma is over, if you had held your nerves and not done anything really stupid, you turned out just alright. Maybe a tad wiser and more patient for the next time around.
Read about what makes Warren Buffett a great investor here. It’s was his birthday yesterday (30th Aug)!