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'God cannot be so cruel'

By Archana Masih in Mumbai
Last updated on: August 01, 2005 21:40 IST
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The deluge in Mumbai last week washed away human beings, homes and cattle. Slums were submerged and many middle class homes lost all their belongings when water invaded their homes.

While promises are being to slumdwellers who lost their homes, the loss of the middle class Mumbaikar is being ignored.

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, all by themselves -- in a special series.

When water flooded Dr Malati Agneswaran's house in Kalina last Tuesday, she lost something far more precious than her television, fridge, clothes and mixer.

The dance teacher lost 10 years of research work -- over 200 audio cassettes with rare interviews that were submerged under 7 feet of water, printouts reduced to pulp and photographs that are now all stuck together.

Dr Agneswaran, head of the department of Bharata Natyam at the Nalanda Dance Academy in Juhu, had spent the last ten years researching iconography and temple architecture. Last year, she received a scholarship from the Sangeet Natak Akademi to research a book on the representation of Vaishanvite images in dance.

Now she fears having lost it all.

"I am just praying that I can retrieve those cassettes, I can only think of reworking if those tapes are not lost," says Dr Agneswaran, who had to move out of her house for a second time when heavy rains threatened another onslaught of flooding in the city on Monday.

Get angry, dammit and stay so

In her house in Kalina, one of the worst affected areas in Mumbai, hardly anything remains. On July 27, when she reached home after spending the night in a building staircase, there was seven feet of water inside.

"People who have lived in that area for 30 years said there was never any flooding problem, I don't know what happened, whether the water wall broke -- I don't know what was the reason but I almost got washed away myself trying to reach home," she says.

Dr Agneswaran waded through chest deep water to reach her building gate. No sooner that she got there the gate collapsed and she almost drowned. Four strangers on the road pulled her out and brought her to safety.

Nothing much remains of her belongings and she spent the last two days cleaning up. When heavy rains lashed Mumbai for a second time on Sunday, she moved to a relative's house. "I do not know if it will flood again, there's nothing more left that I can lose anymore," says Dr Agneswaran with palpable sadness.

Like many others from the urban middle class, she doesn't have housing insurance and does not expect any assistance from the government. Caught in a peculiar situation where their situation is better off than those living in shanty towns, it is the lower and middle class of Mumbai's citizens that seem to be find themselves between the proverbial devil and the deep sea.

There is a chunk of people that have suffered huge damage to household property -- things like televisions, computers, refrigerators, music systems, DVD players, beds, furniture etc -- articles that have been painstakingly bought over the years after measured budgeting.

"We save and buy, we are not rich enough to buy it all together. We think and buy that a television will last us 10 years, so even though we are better off than those who don't have a roof over their heads, at the same time we can't recover our losses easily," says Dr Agneswaran who has not received her salary since April.

"People like us are in a very indifferent position," she adds in response to what Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said on NDTV 24x7 about providing free rations to those whose ground floor flats were flooded.

"Food is the last of our concerns. The most precious thing I have lost is ten years of hard work. If God wants I will be able to retrieve my tapes and my book will get published. God cannot be so cruel."

If your home has been devastated by Terrible Tuesday, please write to us at

Terrible Tuesday: How Mumbai copes with a a calamity
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Archana Masih in Mumbai