Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Deluge, Bombay Style

The first I heard of it was from my niece -- I am currently in Madras, and she lives down the road from where my Mother and sister live -- around 10 pm, by SMS. About her brother (my neph) being stranded at the Bombay Gym because of the rain. It's not entirely unusual for the rains to flood the streets in B/bay during the monsoon but this sounded like some sort of catastrophe. I immediately SMSed Govind Nihalani (a long-time bud and also well-known film-maker) -- and he radioed back that he'd been stuck in his car at the top of a flyover seven minutes from home -- for SIX HOURS!!! Not long after, an SMS came in from Zig (of ZIGZACKLY -- see blog-list on the right) to say that the living-room of his home was ankle-deep with water. And I heard from another friend who trekked 10 Km home, in mostly waist-high water, but in one place CHIN-HIGH!! But he got home and SMSed when he was dry and safe.

No power, no transport. Hundreds of thousands of commuters stranded miles from home.

That was Tuesday night. Today, a day and a half later, reports have been trickling in of how people coped. Zig will probably post his account at his blog. Amar sent me a long account of his 10 Km trek and if he allows me, I'll upload it here. Govind got home at one a.m., after wading in waist high water. No power or food at home. Reports have come in of good Samaritans who have been active all day, feeding and assisting hungry, tired and thirsty commuters -- the lack of food and potable water in the city have been part of the crisis. Another report from a friend of my niece is an indication of the range and level of horrors: because of the power outage, a death in the friend's family could not be accommodated at the electric crematorium and the morgue had no storage facilities -- so they had to cart the body home with them in their car!

To all the brave, hard-working and indomitable people of Bombay -- a big, heartfelt hug.

And here, with the inimitable Amrobilia's permission, is his account of his ordeal (very lightly edited Amro, for your asides to P!)

I was shooting in Powai that day (day b'fore) when the deluge started at 2pm. The studio started flooding at 3pm and the shoot was packed up (cancelled). I tore towards home in the Tavera, encountering rivers of water over the road, and four kms. later, came to a grinding halt. Over the next four hours, the car moved about half a KM. I was surrounded by sheets of rain, a deluge of humanity under umbrellas and otherwise and bumber-to-bumper traffic. I was preparing myself for a night in the car, when the intensity and "immensity" of the rainfall (more like a continuous cloudburst) convinced me to abandon the car and head home. I reasoned I could be stuck in the car for more than just 24 hours (that turned out to be correct)...no food, little water, sleeplessness...

Unwilling to abandon my loved new car 'just like that' I somehow managed a U-turn, found a parking space on the side of the road on a slight rise, waterproofed my iPod, cellfone, audiodeck and wallet stuffed them in my beltpouch and headed home on foot with a bottle of water and a coke I'd purchased a little earlier at the roadside.Home, I knew, was exactly 10 kms away. I use this route regularly and knew the 10km mark 'by heart' - I was right there. It was 8pm so I thought I'd be home by 10, doing 5km/hour. I was told there was waist-high water up ahead for a stretch, but after that I thought it'd be pretty flood-less.

After dismissing a young fellow at the start of the flooded area who told me "yeh aapke bus ka nahin hai - aap ki umar bahut jyaada hai*"(*roughly translated: you won't make it, you're too old), and handing him one of the half-dozen bananas I'd just picked up to fortify myself - off I went. It was a cinch, really...walked and walked and walked till I got to Juhu gulli - 4+km from home, when I saw a sea ahead of me...I'd have to walk waist deep in water till the Juhu circle, I was told - about 1+ km ahead - and then it's 'fine'. As it turned out, it was waist deep all the way to 4 bungalows crossing, and then calf deep all the way home from there. A particular stretch in the four bung area, that everyone else was avoiding (there were tens of people wading away) but thriough which I decided to wade, becuz it was a short cut, had water coming up to my collar-bones! It was an effort to keep the pouch above my head and the bottle of water which still had a bit left, in the other hand. There was also my umbrella!!!...the coke I'd consumed.

Well, got home at midnight and awarded myself the Gold Medal!!! Drove the car home today - it was all on its own all of yesterday and 2 nights. Started first up...now we're stocked up with food...no milk, bread, sugar, veg available since ystrday afternoon...cars still littered on the roads...abandoned for now, being pushed, mechanics n owners peering into their hoods... That's it!

Except for a little back trouble, I'm fit as a fiddle!

[Thanks Amro, for letting me post this]

6 comments:

Amrobilia said...

You know, coming to think of it, when I was going down that lonely stretch at 4 Bungalows where I was collar-bone (I'd said chin) deep in water, I was probably and unwittingly partly instrumental in sparing 3 girls further outrage by a molester. The power was off there n there was just me along that entire lane (I thought) when I heard a couple of young female voices ahead of me hurling the choicest ma-behn abuse very fiercely at some one...there was a fellow who had offered help to these girls with the intention of 'feeling them up'. The water level was receding slowly (or I was climbing up a gradual gradient) and I started making splashy noises trying to move faster towards these girls when I was joined by many voices shouting "Oi! Oi! Oi!" from windows several stories up various buildings to scare the fellow away...it worked, the guy "fled" and I had a nice reassuring chat with the girls, offering to escort them home - which they very sweetly declined (they were headed in the opposite direction). They apologised for their language, but I told them it's what was required...so there are negatives to the Mumbai spirit, but very few.

Anonymous said...

oi! oi!
bombay!
the li'l negative spirits that exist are drastically overpowered by the amrobilias. well done! we often hear that the first thing that any victim confronted on the streets should do is to shout loudly- and ma & behan are ofcourse the most generic!hi mp - gt this side. i am getting into mumbai this tuesday (- i hope??) -and will be around 4 a month. est tu? coordin8s willing perhaps we intersect? send me an e mail... gt

Marginalien said...

Hi gt! Guten-whatever to you -- and of COURSE you are planning your trip just as I'm planning one to your hemisphere!! I'll send you e-mail, yes -- but for a quick ref., let's just say I'm expecting to head to the west coast around end-October. Till then I'll be East-ish, starting late Aug.

Amro! Thnx for that insight! As you can see, I have now posted the opus ... May you live long and prosper.

Amrobilia said...

Thanks gt, welcome mammalien(!!!)

I was back at work today and was kind of shocked at how reticent everyone was about the whole thing - the deluge and their resulting travails. It was as if it was all part of the day's work, no big deal, and, funnily, I had begun to see it the same way which is why I had agreed to step out for the shoot so readily in the first place!!!

The worst in a 100 years? Bring out the 500!!!

No, no! Please!!! It was QUITE a mouthful!!!

Amrobilia said...

And thanks, too, Mammalian!!!

Toe Knee said...

At least one good thing happened due to the Mumbai floods - a new species of eel was found.

Visit http://crazyjourno.blogspot.com for further info. People who suffered due to last week's unprecedented rains - Please, Please don't be offended.