Tuesday, July 26th 2005, will be a memorable day not only for the heavy rains and the waste it has caused, but also for demonstrating in a very palpable manner that nature is unpredictable and cannot be made subservient to man.
I, for one, had occasion to observe many aspects of human behaviour. Human beings just as helpful and caring as they can be, could also be opportunistic, greedy and insensitive. But by far and large, the man on the Mumbai streets is restrained and patient. Some, in the face of a calamity even have the temperament to enjoy the moment - whatever it may bring.
As a partner in a small law firm, i have a staff of five, for whose physical well being i feel responsible. Under normal circumstances, being risk averse, i would have sent off home my staff at the first whiff of abnormal weather conditions. However, on 26/7/2005,i was caught unaware. In a short span of 20 minutes, the deluge hit south Mumbai - the sky turned an ominous deep grey, the water came down like sheets of cold steel and the streets became gushing rivers.
Under these conditions, i tried to get a cabbie to take my secretary to her home in Dadar. I was shocked when he asked for Rs. 200/- per head [there being two other passengers going to Kandivali]. Fortunately, she sighted a bus which although bursting at the seams, had space for a person to squeeze into and she got on.
There was not a single taxi vacant. So I walked from Fountain to Churchgate Station in the hope of taking a train to Grant Road, as my residence is at Breach Candy. The situation was disastrous - not only were the trains not functioning, but it seemed as if the entire population of this megapolis was out on the streets desperately trying to find transport and get to their respective homes. The buses were stuffed to capacity and more. It is ironical that at times like these, when technology is most required, it fails. Sure enough, the cellular and the land line phone network was unable to cater to the crisis and networks were busy, with the result, there was a break down of communications, adding to the woes of the public.
I overheard a person describe a short circuit in his office and fire breaking out. I was in a bus next to a girl who hadnt eaten since breakfast and was near fainting since the bus had taken over two hours from Nariman Point to the Aquarium - a distance of five kilometers! In the same bus with an over full bladder, i was thinking of a toilet and consoling myself that there were people who had more serious issues to deal with as they were unable to reach their infants and had no way of communicating their situation to their family.
What was interesting to observe through this period of abnormality spanning four and a half hours, was the attitude of the people. Whilst the younger lot was enjoying the water at Marine Drive and revelling in the downpour; the older lot on the streets; appeared to have resigned themselves to their fate and were trying to make the best out of the catastrophe. Even the cars which were bumper to bumper and inching along at a snail's pace, were disciplined and I did not get to see the usual uncouth behaviour, Mumbai drivers are so notorious for!
As I sit comfortably over my PC to write this piece, I can't help but think of all those who are still wading through chest high waters to reach home; I can't help but think of all those who will not sleep in their own beds - however humble those might be - nor tend to their babies and families or be around to take them to a hospital or a crematorium, as the case may be; nor be there to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary. And yet, despite all of this, we know in our heart of hearts that tomorrow will be a new day; the sun will shine; the roads will be drained; the downpour will abate and life will go on.
-- Sunita J Masani
I was worried for my daughter who has just stepped into college four days back after clearing her SSC. She took 5 hrs walk in knee deep water to reach home at Goregaon from NM College. We were clue less as no phones were working during that period 3pm to
8 pm. I still (its 1.34 am) remain in office just to arrange the diesel for DG set as I am working for a call center which can not afford to have no power.
-- Suresh Gupta
Working from one of the many industrial estates in Lower Parel, our small team did not realise that paani sar se upar aa gaya tha, till we started to get frantic calls from our families, warning us of heavy rains. Tired of the usual rumours of local trains stopping, we continued to work, till 4 pm, when the lights suddenly went out. Total panic broke out when we looked outside and saw a swimming pool of murky water!
Dividing ourselves zonally, 5 of us started to walk towards the Lower Parel station, hoping to get a train to Andheri and further on! It would have been easier to get a helicopter. After wading through water, half falling and half swimming we reached the station to see water logged tracks and a broken voice announcing that the trains wont run.
A quick about turn, and our pentagonal group started to walk towards Dadar. En route our march, plastic bags lovingly wrapped themself around our legs, while exasparated car drivers swam their cars through the waist-deep water.
Of course Mumbai isn't known as THE city for anything. I was pleasantly swurprised to see a person stopping to divert people away from an open manhole. We jumped into a truck and catching on for dear life drove ahead and later, swapped with a tow truck! Finally after a relentless 5 hours we reached Mahim, where we broke journey.
Not sure when I will reach, but definitely, this is an experience, I am not going to wring out of my memory easily, or any Mumbaikar.
-- Bijal Vachharajani
We tried to take the office bus which was scheduled to leave 2 hours early. But got drenched waiting for the bus. The bus could not reach on time. We decided to go back to office. Luckily I had a extra pair of clothes.
Dried myself got back to work. Got the message that my friends somehow made it to home. Some even reached at 10.30 pm. Was trying to SMS all my friends whether they reached. It's 1.15 am on Wednesday morning and am trying to get information on the clogged areas.
Will try to get some sleep.
-- Jubin Gosar
We are in Vile Parle. Almost 300 people who worked in the air conditioned office did not realize force of rain. It was almost 430 in the evening when few calls came in from outside informing the onslaught of the rain. But till then only road which leads to Western Express highway and station was flooded with waist height water and all the people were trapped in the office as it was the ONLY safe place.
When we wanted to order snacks from the nearby hotel, hotel decided to exploit the situation and pocket of the hungry people. Normal sandwich which does not cost more than Rs 15 was sold at Rs 85 without bill. Same rate was there for other snacks but soon they closed the kitchen as most of the food was sold out.
As the power went at 730 pm it was a group of 300 people waiting for the rains to stop so that everyone can go home safely.
By far the worst rains Mumbai has seen in recent times.
-- Shail C
We are stuck up in our offices (Fort, Churchgate etc) with NO PROPER INFORMATION either on the TV, Telephone (which is down most of the time) about the traffic situation, trains etc. Sad state of affairs. I am sending this from our office as there is no other means of communication.
-- Joseph Pereira
I work with a leading advertising firm in the city.
While leaving home in the morning, my wife told me "Carry the umbrella, it looks like it's going to rain." I told her, "It's not," and left.
My wife's prediction came true. I believe she is more accurate than our government departments.
It's been a nightmare since evening. My wife works at Andheri, East and our son goes to a playgroup. I had great difficulty in getting through to her or the playgroup.
I finally got through to the playgroup at around 6 pm and informed them about my situation. They were kind enough to have proposed that my son stay with them and that I should not worry about his well-being.
As for my wife, she would be spending the rest of the night in the office like many of her colleagues.
It's a plight, as I am stuck at my workplace, my wife at hers and my son at the playgroup.
Just praying for the well-being of my family and the family of so many that would have been stranded like us.
It reminds me of the old classic film Waqt, 'Waqt ke aage kisi ki nahin chalti'.
-- Rajiv Wadhwa
My sister Nainita is stuck in Goregaon in Siddharth Hospital. She had a renal transplant. I would be glad if someone could provide her food or tell me the situation in Goregaon.
We at Hewlett Packard India Sales, Vile Parle, are stranded at the office for many hours with no electricity. We are currently in the office and have just managed to get access to the net. A never before sight, near the Sahar domestic airport signal, what I witnessed was a river flowing with heavy currents. All vehicles are stranded, not moving an inch. People are offering help to passersby to cross the river from the main highway towards Nehru Road. What a sight!
Many of my colleagues' children are in school, imagine the parents plight, the kids plight.
All this is not exciting, a few of us have been lucky and are somehow indoors, but for people who are drenching outside, stuck in cars, buses, pregnant women, hope help reaches everyone and everyone reaches home safely.
Thanks to the reclamation, greedy takeover of salt pans, garbage (thanks BMC). But who cares in Mumbai. Politicians, government officials all want their pockets to be filled, make as much money as possible. Thanks to that that the situation in Mumbai is this and we will blame it on the weather and high tide tomorrow, isn't it?
-- Sangeeta Verma