I’m sure this is what everybody says, I did too… but I didn’t get any lucky with that. I faced the deluge and survived. Please don’t let this fool you – what I got the other day (rather… days) was a cakewalk compared to what several other Mumbaikars faced. It was that dreadful morning of 26th July in the year 2005 I’m talking about. Another walk down memory lane.
I wasn’t a resident of Mumbai then. I had just come to attend a sales review meeting scheduled on the 25th of July. It was the last one I had to attend… since I had made clear my intention to quit shortly. All went fine and we called it a day by 1800 IST. There were five of us…. 2 from Sales and 3 from Service (Maintenance). The five-some hit a bar and went home after some revelry. We all slept like logs completely oblivious of what the next day had in store for us.
Then the D-day broke… a crisp and clear morning. We had our breakfast and were planning the day ahead of us… coincidentally, that was the day we had to return to Nagpur. My ticket was booked for the evening train… Vidarbha express. The Service trio had their tickets booked for the afternoon Sevagram express. The threesome had plans to shop at Manish Market, Dadar. I, on the other hand, chose to visit my paternal aunt (बूआ) in Thane. We parted ways at Mumbai CST station… I guess it was close to 1000 IST.
Oblivious to the reality, I was in the Thane-bound train, listening to FM radio. It had already started raining and I wasn’t surprised since it was July… perfect month for the rains. I didn’t get a seat though since initially, I preferred to get some wind-in-the-hair and later the train got crowded. Silly me.
As the train rolled into Thane station, it stopped for a red light (???). I’m still fine, not a worry, not even the then heavy rain bothered me. Reality slowly crept in as the train stopped just a few feet from the station and refused to budge… for a good 30 min and still counting. When I finally peeked out… I saw nothing (almost) as visibility was diminished by the torrential rain.
I was getting worried… not about the incessant rain… but the delay. You see, I’m a pauper when it comes to a particular virtue called ‘patience’. Finally, red turned to green and the train finally halted AT the station… visibility still diminished. I stepped out of the train only to get drenched to my undies within no time. Still not quite perturbed with what was happening, I walked on to find a rickshaw to get to my aunt’s place. Although, I had never been in such a situation earlier – I have seen similar stuff – so I kept moving. After getting JILTED by many a rickshaw driver, I finally managed to get one geriatric knight in rusted armour to ‘ferry’ me home. I offered double-pay – he refused.
Now for the scare. It wasn’t until I boarded this 3-wheeler that the reality started stripping itself naked unto my unprepared and definitely uninterested eyes. I got to know what hit me in the face (and everywhere else). It was not just a heavy rain – it was a full-blown inundation. Abou Ben Adhem (for the uninitiated, read https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/44433 … a poem by Leigh Hunt) was ‘powerboat’ing his way through the fast submerging lanes and by-lanes of Thane some familiar, others very unfamiliar, in an honest effort to get me home safe and sound. After a boat ride of about an hour (usually 30 min and just fine) I finally reached my destination and even after insisting and requested, Abou Ben Adhem did not accept a single buck more than what was rightfully his. He just said, ‘ऊपरवाला सब देख रहा हैं’ (He’s watching me) and left.
I squish-squashed my way to my aunt’s flat thinking finally it was all over. She was surprised I could make it to her home safely whilst her own son was stranded in Malad, in his office. Her elder son got away with murder – he had just flown to Bangalore on an official assignment and had clearly missed all the watery excitement in Mumbai. Now cut to scene 2…
The house arrest…
My woes were far from over. Although I was in the comfy confines of my aunt’s place – I was actually stranded. (Auntie… don’t be mad at me… it’s not about you ). All we both could do was eat – watch the news on TV – eat – watch more news on TV – talk – watch some more news on TV – crash. All TV channels gave non-stop coverage of the inundation and made me realise that while I was stranded – I was something many of them were not … SAFE. If it were not her, I’d be stranded at some railway station like several other commuters that day. That evening I proved myself once bitten but too idiotic to be shy. That evening, I took another boat ride to the station to catch my evening train – only to get CAUGHT in a puddle sitting in a rattling old 3-wheeled excuse of a ride. This time, I had asked for it and got it too… in plenty. After a while of pushing and shoving, we finally reached the station only to know the obvious – that all trains were either running eternally late or were cancelled. I could stand in a never-ending queue to get a refund on my ticket but (read earlier paragraphs) I beat a hasty and soggy retreat. Things that should hang low, were now shrivelled. I reached home and joined my aunt for dinner – what else could we do, anyways?
Come day 2 and I had AFTERMATH served piping hot for breakfast. I could choose from:
- Flooded lanes filled with damaged vehicles
- Fallen boundary walls
- Knee deep heavily muddied water
- Dying mobile network
- Downed ATM network (I couldn’t beg for money either … who would be out on the streets in their normal mind to give me alms)
- Screwed-up transport system (nothing new, eh?)
Man… I was full to the neck with such a delicious spread. I had to partake of this ambrosia / manna for the next 48 hours. I had the balls to step out on day 2 to pay the local ATM a casual visit – but the a**hole just wouldn’t entertain me – so I had to return empty-handed. That night, I got a call (I repeat GOT A CALL… after spending hours to no end, without a single network bar on my phone) from the Dadar-bound threesome. Man, those idiots were worried about me – whilst they themselves spent nights on some platform at Dadar station sleeping on newspapers surviving on complimentary food offered by the station caterers. That reassured by of my safety abundantly. Man, I was so lucky to be alive that day. That night we hatched an escape plan and escape we did.
The great escape…
Day 4, July 29th, we all rush from our respective locations to converge at Dadar. We took the first bus (enough of trains getting cancelled due to waterlogging) out of Mumbai. We headed back to Nagpur via Pune. Once the bus escaped the water force-field of Mumbai, everything changed. We saw the SUN, clear skies, nice weather, dry roads… I’m going to cry now. We were just short of yelling our lungs out. After 20+ hours in the bus, we finally kissed the Nagpur soil and heaved a euphoric sigh of relief. The ordeal was finally over. It definitely left me shaken but not stirred (sorry Mr. Bond). I never knew I would be back to this Water World soon – just the next month that is… to become a RESIDENT and well… never look back.
A vote of thanks…
I thank all you brave souls who sat through my ordeal – but I SALUTE those to lived that horrible excuse of a day called 26/7/2005 and still went on and on unfazed and finally put everything that happened that day, behind them. You Sir(s) / Ma’am(s) are really great!!!