Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Mumbai Deluge

Got up this morning and realized that it is July 26 once again. My thoughts immediately drifted to the events this day, last year in Mumbai thanks to the unprecedented floods. Not that I could have escaped thinking about it given that the Television channels are once again going on and on about the Deluge.

I must, of course, also salute the much hyped (and of late much abused) “spirit and resilience” of Mumbai. Having been through all the madness of last year, I realize that it does take some spirit on the part of the citizenry to carry on even in such adverse conditions.

The Call
At around 1.30 pm, Sameer called to say that the trains had stopped running because of the heavy rains and that it made sense to leave work a "bit" early. I ignored the advice completely as I had a meeting and wanted to keep that appointment. Apart from that, heavy rains and trains stopping due to water logging on the tracks are not exactly a new phenomenon in Mumbai.

The meeting was scheduled at 5.00 pm. At Tardeo!!! This was probably the only place in south Mumbai that was water logged that day. Of course the meeting never happened but it ensured that I was in office till 4.20 pm.

On the Road
By the time we cancelled the meeting the situation was already chaotic. No trains and apparently no BEST buses. Everyone in the office had already left and I lost no time in rushing immediately to the bus stop hoping to hop onto some stray bus. Once on the street, however, I found that buses were plying. The moment I saw a bus at a distance I began wondering how much of the problem it really was. But the way I looked at it was, I have got off a couple of hours early so why complain. And I went my merry way to the Century Bazar bus stop at Worli.

However when one of the buses arrived at my stop I realised that forget getting in I would not be able to place a toe in it. The enormity of the situation was yet to sink in, but I kind of realised that this was not just another manic monsoon day in Mumbai.

My immediate concern was, as usual, What About FOOD? I decided to have some grub immediately because I noticed that most restaurants were filling up with people (I once experienced the situation where due to a similar kind of emergency restaurants had run out of food). Had a quick dosa and went back to office thinking that I would make another attempt at around 7.00 pm. By then I figured the crowd would have dispersed.

Back in Office
Ha! Little did I realize the chaos that I would get to witness at 7.00 pm. The arterial Annie Besant road was choc a bloc with traffic and not one of the vehicles was moving an inch. That was when I decided to stay back in office.

My office overlooked the Annie Besant Road and I was peeping out of the window every 20 minutes to figure out if it was time to get going. And in the meantime, to add to the fun and games, water started seeping in through a crack that opened up near the window frame. I spent the next hour or so shifting all the books and VCDs that were liberally strewn (in cardboard cartons of course) on the floor to some place safer.

That done and with my back complaining quite a bit I decided to stay back in office. I informed Uncle Pai and then settled in for the night.

Of course I asked the HOT secy to stay back too. Just Kidding dudes no such post exists. The only female in the office is Mrs. Pai.

Luckily the office had both electricity and Net connections. That enabled me to chat with my friends. I had a longish chat with my school friends who happen to be in the US. So it was convenient for all of us.

July 27, 4.00 am
At 4.00 am I decided that I would leave because I wanted to catch the "First" bus and head home.

I was back at the Century Bazar Bus stop by 4.15 am and waited for a bus till 5.00 am. Got a bus and was zooming home. The bus zoomed homewards for about 10 minutes and I was already thinking in terms of a nice hot bath etc. Just as the bus approached Dadar I noticed that there was this huge crowd milling around on the road.

The alarm bells started to ring.

The problems started from here with the bus remaining stationary for an hour or so because of a major traffic jam. At 5.00 am.!!! The reason was that a lot of people had abandoned their cars the previous evening on the roads and had left. This left very little space to move.

July 27, 8.00 am
At 8.00 am the bus finally reached a place called Sion Hospital. This is about 5 km from my office. (At this point I still had another 20 km to reach home) There I got off the bus as I just could not take sitting in cooped up in the bus anymore. I then walked a bit and found Route No. 521 and that too empty. (This is the Route no. that runs up to Navi Mumbai where I stayed.) Such things don’t normally happen. I quickly ran and got into the bus. And felt mighty relieved that I got the bus.

I asked a co-passenger at what time he had got the bus because I felt I had missed it because of the stupid traffic jam that the other bus was in. This chap glared at me and then said, "Kal shaam ko 5.30 pm ko. Bharaah ghanton say issi bus mein hain."

After a while, I kind of realised that something was wrong. For one, the bus was not moving and then I noticed that both the Driver and the Conductor were missing. They were having chai in a stall outside.

I quickly got off that bus and walked for about 25 minutes to get to Everard Nagar, the place where this Photograph was taken. I just did not feel like going into the water. Especially because I know what happens on the sidewalk and the open areas next to it.


July 27, 10.00 am
Well! I hung on for about almost a couple of hours mulling on where, if at all, any toilet facilities existed close by and other such interesting thoughts. In the meanwhile I asked the driver of a bus that was stuck there if the water was receding. He pointed out to a half submerged truck and said, "Kal raat ko woh bus dikh nahin rahi thi." He seemed majorly happy at his keen sense of observation. Anyway still hung on and watched people struggling through this waist deep water.

What I found interesting was that all of them were half submerged in dirty water and yet ALL of them chose to use their umbrellas to shield themselves from the drizzle. To each his own, I guess.

And then suddenly out of nowhere along came a cop and tried to clear the path for the bigger vehicles to go through.

July 27, 11.00 am
At last a truck carrying LPG cylinders started to move. I quickly clambered on to its side (along with about 15 others) and clung on. This truck then ploughed gleefully through the water. There was a Maruti car half submerged and because of the waves that this truck created that car went completely underwater for a second or two. Was a sight to behold.

At Kurla junction I thought the water level was quite low and jumped off. I was wrong. As usual. The water level was not too low. I waded through that water taking care to not look at the sides of the road and reached Chembur Naka.

Trust me there was no water logging at all. Absolutely clear roads.

I bumped into a couple of former students and then walked with them for about 20 minutes. Luckily the brother of one of the students had come looking for her. And more importantly he had got his car. We walked to the car which also had the mother sitting in there.

This student on being polite offered a lift. I usually do not accept a lift from students but this time around I changed my policy got into the car immediately. The next 10-12 km was covered in 15 minutes. Got dropped off at Vashi (in Navi Mumbai) and then walked to a restaurant and got my self lunch and then got home at 1.00 pm.


Not bad.

25 km done in 9 hours flat
.

1 comment:

nroy said...

Was just checking on net for Mumbai deluge and chanced on your so very captivating account of the eventful day... reading it after 4 years, your blog was so realistic it took me back right to those days...no Mumbaite is ever going to forget that day..thanks for the very easy to read impressive write up...

Nitha