Oct 31, 2007

Terrible Tuesday

Tuesday, 26th July 2005. Just another second-day-of-the-week feeling for school children, office-goers et al. The monsoon was almost mid-way in Mumbai. But this Tuesday was different. The rain gods decided to open up on Mumbai, enough only to record India's highest rainfall.
The city experienced incessant rains throughout the afternoon... right through into the evening and through the night as well। I was at office and thanks to modern day buildings with closed windows and neat blinds to add to that cozy comfy air-conditioned feeling, I was not quite aware of how heavy the showers were.

Around 3.00 pm some of my colleaugues started getting messages and calls from friends and relatives about the heavy downpour and its impact on the rail services. If you are a seasoned Mumbaikar, the first thing that'll hurt your sentiments are troubles with the local trains... they ain't called Mumbai's lifeline just like that!!! We casually cracked jokes about the messages and passed them off as rumours that haunt Mumbaikars every monsoon.

Sadly, this time round the 'wolf... wolf...' cry was for real!!! Around 4।00 pm we had an official announcement that due to heavy rains the office would be closed at 4.15 pm so that all employees could try reaching their homes as soon as possible. It was then that all of us got serious and began to look out for options to get home. Frantic calls began... each one jabbing away at the number pads of their cellphones or the landlines trying to reach their folks. A glance at my mobile showed zero network connectivity... Orange was down and out!!! Only my colleagues with Reliance mobile service were able to receive and make calls from their cellphones. Hail Reliance!!!... (not so soon!!!)

With the 4।15pm deadline for closing the office little did we know that we would spend the next 2 days at office. It was one long drawn experience... with all of us stranded at Asian Paints House from Tuesday evening till about noon on Wednesday. I made an attempt to reach my friend who stays just across the station on Santacruz (West). The water logging in the Vakola Bridge and Vakola pipeline areas was just too much for me to cross over from the East to the West. We gave up the idea... back to office. By this time it was almost late evening... power supply was out. Reliance claimed that it had deliberately shut down power supply to avert the chances of short circuits in the nearby areas... point well noted!!! The next 2 days saw us parade aimlessly in office... a lunch and a dinner at the Grand Hyatt (cheers to the big bosses at AP!!!)... general gossips and food for thought... impatience... helplessness... an unwelcome breather from work... unwelcome coz we felt marooned with nothing to do!!!

Anyway, alls well that ends well। Finally, on Wednesday afternoon, all of Asian Paints House decided to walk it out to their homes... relief finally as the rains had stopped for a while after two days of continuous showers. People nicely tucked away their cellphones and cash to avoid them getting wet... wished each other luck and began a marathon walk. Finally, i got my chance to cross over from East to West. *chuckle*

Local train and bus services were totally disrupted। It was impossible to get a means of transport. Walking it out was our only option. I waded through knee deep waters to get to Santacruz station and crossed over to the West. *sigh of relief*

The roads on the West were not as bad। Water had drained away but the traffic was literally bumper to bumper. I was making my way through the traffic to my uncle's place. Upto that point of time, I had only heard of the kind of havoc the rains had created. Loads of stories about how people had to swim or wade through neck deep waters, how people on the roads made human chains to help the women and children find their way safely. I was totally cut off from my friends and family all this while. I wanted to reach them and ask them if they were ok and let them know that I was ok. What impressed me and more importantly touched me during my walk down SV Road on Santacruz (West) was the undying spirit of Mumbaikars. Hundreds of people were stuck in the traffic... many like me were trudging along by road. The local residents of the area were out on the streets distributing drinking water, biscuits, food, tea and coffee to all of us.

Finally, I got to my uncles place। Washed up. Had some grub. Chatted with uncle and aunty. Caught up with all the happenings over the last two days. Called up my folks and chatted a while. Orange was still unable to provide connectivity. Charged my cellphone battery in the hope that it'll be available as soon as Orange is bright and shining!!! Flicked on the TV... scanned for the News Channel and there it was... the rains had had a breathtaking impact on our city during the last two days. Mumbai was brought to a halt. What was more painful was to see how the rains had claimed so many lives - human and cattle as well. People living in the ground floors had to bare the maximum brunt of the rains. Their homes were submerged in water. I heard of lots of people who lost their certificates and other important documents due to the rising water levels within their flats. Sad stories of how people missed a step while wading through the waters and fell into open manholes, were coming in. All in all, the news channels were full of ghastly sights and the toll kept mounting.

Finally, now that the rains had stopped, the blame game began। Disaster Management seemed to be the order of the day. Ironicallly, it hasn't seen the light of the day yet. MPs, Area Corporators and other vote-hungry politicians went into hiding. Those who didnt try hard enough had to face endless questions from news channel and newspaper reporters. A few handled it clumsily... the rest managed to pull it off with the same elan they used to charm their vote banks. Am not anti-Congress... but I sure am anti-politician (and that covers them all!!!). News agencies had enough to spew over the next few days. There were heavy showers again over the weekend. Most people stayed away from office for almost a week. Public transport was heavily affected. The Railways and BEST reported heavy damages to their assets. There was a mounting fear of an epidemic breaking out. Lots of families have been rendered homeless by the wrath of nature.

Mother Nature had her way on 'Terrible Tuesday', but there's always a positive side to everything. The rains may have washed it all out but the time-tested attitude and spirit of the Mumbaikar was right up there. Not a drop of water to dampen it!!! Here's my chance to say thank you. Let's keep that spirit alive, come what may, coz that's what sets Aamchi Mumbai apart.


Padmaja November 28, 2007 at 11:15 AM  

Lived through the moment through your eyes once again - an experience that's unforgettable and worth penning down.

Well written, Priya. Keep writing and posting your works in your blog.

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