Outline: Introduction – some people annoyed at first, later reconciled – anti-social elements – the blackout successful – the co-operation of the citizens.
When the siren wails we are all ears and our nerves are tense. We rush to switch off the lights, and in the twinkling of an eye there is a pall of darkness all over the city. This happens when an air raid by the enemy aircraft is threatened. During the fifteen days of Indo-Pak war there was lot of anxiety and tension, and we had unusual experiences never to be easily forgotten.
There were some who grumbled at the inconvenience caused by the black-out clamped on the city from dusk to dawn. They little thought that it was measure for their own benefit and security. The object of the authorities concerned was to secure the safety of vulnerable targets like the airfield, the harbour, electric installations, oil storage tanks and the Atomic Energy plants. But when an air raid was threatened and the siren sounded as a warning signal, soon followed by the explosion of the guns, the noise and the sight of tracers soaring up the sky like blocks of red fire, they realised the danger and the seriousness of the situation. Willy-nilly, the citizens soon reconciled themselves to the black-out conditions scrupulously observed the Civil Defence regulations. Offices, factories and business concerns stopped work an hour or two earlier than the usual timings to enable the employees to go back to their homes before the black-out set in. such of them as lagged behind groped their way, carrying torches which they flashed now and again in the total darkness. If one watched the scene from the top of a high building, one beheld a scene that could be likened to a fight of glow worms fitting about.
When Mumbai was masked by black-out during the anxious fortnight some crimes did occur. In certain parts of the city the siren was the signal for terror and panic, when anti-social elements took advantage of the situation to harass the peaceful residents. Perhaps one was accosted by miscreants on the footpath and was forced to part with money at the point of the knife. An imposter would pose as warden and torment the pedestrians with threats of arrest, unless his palm was greased.
Thanks to the Civil Defence Authorities, the police and the home guards, the black-out was, on the whole, a complete success. All road lights were switched off. The shops and residences had their lights dimmed with covering of black brown paper, and the window panes were so well covered that not a ray of light was visible from the streets or the sky. The co-operation of the citizens was exemplary. The thought of the men of the Defence Forces patriotically laying down their lives on the war front naturally constrained them to do their little bit for the sake of their country.