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Sarup Singh and his priceless loss

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August 25, 2005 18:02 IST

We bring you the devastation suffered by the forgotten Mumbaikar -- a strata of society which is neither 'rich' nor 'poor;' a people forced into rebuilding their lives all over again after the rains. A special series.

Sixty-one-year-old Sarup Singh has been living in Mumbai long enough to believe he knew the city like the back of his hand. However, the July 26 rains made his notion stand on its head.

Singh's wife Gurmeet Kaur, their four children and mother Charan Kaur, 81, have braved and 'suffered' Mumbai's monsoon all these years. At their Motilal Nagar home in Goregaon West in suburban Mumbai, rains always suggested a foot of water in the ground floor of their two-storied home.

Heavy showers essentially meant, "Things of necessity were to be lifted out of the water's way," says Papinder, the couple's daughter. "Little could we predict the havoc on July 26."

Papinder was putting her son to sleep at her Kandivili home when her sister informed that the water level was rising alarmingly at her parents' place. "Though concerned, I was certain things will be alright once it stops raining."

She was mistaken.

The water level kept rising and the moment it reached the four-foot mark, Singh and his family pressed the panic button.

"My parents scrambled out necessary articles from the water and moved up into the first floor, where my sister-in-law was attending to her three-month-old baby boy. The baby was crying incessantly that afternoon."

Was it aware of the danger, one wonders.

As the old couple struggled to carry their son's precious laptop, important documents and milk powder, they could see their furniture, the 29-inch television, wall units, bedside stands afloat. "Another 10 minutes and everything was submerged. As the water pressure had increased, the door could not be closed. And that meant more water, more muck and more loss," says Papinder.

Terrible Tuesday: Mumbai copes with a calamity

"My parents were too shocked to act quickly. The house was filled with electronic gadgets and they did not know which ones to save first. As they took some time making up their minds, more water gushed in. Soon, all our household items -- refrigerator, CD player, DVD player, washing machine, vacuum cleaner, cupboards, box bed -- were under water," she adds.

The family took shelter upstairs and prayed in the dark (there was no electricity in the area from afternoon). "Everyone went without food that night. The baby was given cold milk. Kitchen being in neck-deep water, no way one could warm it for him."

As the water receded the next afternoon, Papinder's parents entered the 'filthy hole' which used to be their home and were shattered to discover that apart from playing havoc on their furniture and electronic items, the water had also washed away some family photographs, mainly wedding ones.

More than two weeks after the disaster as the family struggles to pick up the threads of life, they have come to terms with their loss, which they estimate to be Rs 250,000. No value could be ascertained for the photographs, they were priceless.

Earlier in the series:

'God can't be so cruel' 
'We are back to zero'


Indrani Roy Mitra