Lost siblings in the Kumbh Mela were once a recurrent theme in Hindi films, but in these modern times, mobile phones are coming to the rescue of many who get separated from friends or families in the world's largest religious gathering.
Almost 10 times a minute, the public address system at Hardiwar sets cracking about Raj from Jammu or Koki from Haryana, who are lost or have lost someone close in the sea of humanity.
The announcements remind one of Dilip Kumar-starrer 'Ram Aur Shyam' or Hema Malini's 'Seeta aur Geeta', films on lost siblings, besides innumerable anecdotes of people getting separated in the Kumbh. But in modern times, technology helps pilgrims keep track of each other.
For many, mobile phones are a blessing. "From children, men and women, we receive nearly 10 such people every other minute at our posts, telling us that someone in their group is missing. We immediately make the announcement giving the location and the name. We keep repeating the message at regular intervals till we find the person," an officer manning the police control room at the main bathing ghat 'Har Ki Pauri' said. He said mobile phones are helping locate people.
"Though most of the time people who drift away from their relatives or friends might not carry mobile phones, someone in their group will definitely have a phone. All we do is call them and ask them to come to a particular point," he said.
The official said mobile penetration, which was minuscule when the last Kumbh was held in 1998, has eased things out. Police personnel have also been given strict instructions to ensure that they keep an eye out for any child who might seem to be alone at the ghats or anywhere near the mela.
"On spotting such a child, the policeman or official will go to him or her and enquire about the parents. If no one is found, they will wait there even as announcements are made," said Chief Mela Officer Anand Bardhan.
From a wailing wife, who got separated from her family, to an anxious family waiting to be united to one of their relatives, the control room throws up a new story of sorrow and happiness every other moment. The administration has set up public address systems at all nooks and corners of the city which are connected to the Central Control Room.
"In the 70s and 80s, a number of films had been about siblings or children getting lost in the Kumbh. At that time, there was neither a public announcement system nor landlines. As technology improves, there are fewer problems," an official said.