Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Reliving 26/7

For once the forecasts have been accurate. I stayed at home after reading the weather forecast in yesterday’s paper (torrential rain accompanied with heavy wind) and I am glad that I did. It’s the same even today and I am once again at home, in the warmth and safety of my 1 bhk. Sitting in front of my computer with a large and steaming cup of coffee, I am trying to relive 26/7 in my mind. Shivers…

Yesterday morning I had gone on the terrace to clear the garbage & debris blocking the drains. I plucked out tonnes of (it seemed like) hair, empty toothpaste tubes, toothpaste tube caps, leaves, paper, plastic bags, cigarette stubs and whole lot of such stuff. While climbing the stairs I fantasized about letting myself drenched in the rain water. Getting wet on the secluded roof is not a bad idea. One can hop and jump and do whatever they want to. With all these fantasies brewing in my head, I reached the top of the stairs and stepped out on the terrace. The moment the first few drops touched my body I let out a subdued shriek and immediately got to work on opening the umbrella with fumbling hands. It was cold. Chilled actually. The job of cleaning the drains which seemed like a joyful act in the warmth of my room became a daunting task. I somehow finished it and rushed to safety.

Both of us have been at home since yesterday morning. Having a break during the week is always welcome. We have been watching movies and catching up with our reading. Casanova, In her shoes, Fun with Dick & Jane – all nice and funny movies. Casanova is a period comedy, reminds you of Shakespearian comedies. In her shoes is a very cute and warm movie; loved every part of it – a must watch. Fun with Dick & Jane is also funny and cute, hilarious at times. The producers – badly done, boring (except for a few fleeting moments here and there). The last emperor – depressing.

I started this post to talk about our experiences during the deluge in 2005. Last year on 26th July, it rained a damning 944 mm on Mumbai. Statistically, the amount of water that poured on Mumbai during that single day was more than enough to cater to Mumbai’s 12 million plus population for a year (subjectivity to this statistical rendition due to highly emotional quotient of the render when thinking about the fateful day).

I was staying at my partner’s parents place in Andheri west. They had gone to Canada for a few months and we had the place to ourselves, along with A’s sister M. When we woke up that day it was raining heavily and none of us paid much attention to it. We went about our daily chores. The only discount to the daily affairs that we made owing to the rains was that none of us reported for work. By ten, it started getting an occasional mention, like, “wow! Do you realize it has not stopped raining even for a second since we woke up this morning?” We made bhajiya (onion rings and other seasonal vegetables coated in gram-flour and deep fried; usually taken with tomato ketchup on the side or chilly-coriander-garlic-ginger-tomato chutney) and hot tea and sat on the ledge watching the rain falling on the Mumbai skyline. The view from the 14th storey window was breathtaking for sure.

By eleven M started feeling an itch to do something and decided to go out in the rain on the pretense of paying some bill or the other. We got her ready to face the rains and send her off.

By two we had not heard from M and her mobile was not reachable. It had not stopped raining yet and we were beginning to worry about M.

At three we received a call from M, who was using someone else’s mobile (all GSM networks had either died or were in the process; at least my Hutch was not working; CDMA phones were alive and kicking. Luckily, A had a Reliance mobile)to tell us that she was stuck at Meethibai junction in waist deep water. The first thought that came to my mind was – eeoow! Meethibai Junction is so full of garbage! Then realized the plight of sis stuck in waist deep water and hit the panic button as expected.

Both of us got ready and left the house immediately. Asked her to stay put and be brave. While going down the stairs (power cut made sure I do what even an year long gym membership had not been able to do to me – sweat; as no elevators work without power) I was thinking of the shortest route to the Link road, where was going to hail a cab and be at the Meethibai junction within a matter of few minutes.

When we reached the Fun Republic/Balaji lane, the specter in front of our eyes made no sense. The lane that connects the Veera Desai extension to the Link road had turned into a mountain river roaring down the valley. We took the plunge and moved forward towards Link road, at the same time my plans for taxis came crumbling down beside me. The water level was around our thighs but the flow was so heavy that we were finding it hard to stay on our foot.

Wading through this mini-mountain river had not prepared us for the scene that was waiting for us on the Link road. All of a sudden we were standing on the sets of ‘The day after tomorrow’. There was an endless train of vehicles stalled and left on their own on both sides of the road. People making it on foot, wading through almost waist deep water. At some places the water was as deep as upper abdomen and that is some height considering the fact that both of us are 6 ft tall.

We started towards Indian Oil Nagar and were going to take a left turn from Saurashtra Circle. We continued walking towards our destination (Juhu Gali Junction, where M was sitting in a bus, waiting for us). While we were crossing Indian Oil junction we saw a guy walking on his own, huddled into himself, totally drenched from top to bottom. Everyone was in a group of 2 or more people, as it was not really possible to move without help. We went up to him and offered him our hands which he took gladly. This was probably the only good thing that happened to us that day. After both of us took his hands from both the sides I noticed our catch – a really nice looking fellow and was immediately a little thankful to god for giving us such a perfect reason to hold hands with a straight stud. We started talking and came to know that the guy was a Pakistani from Karachi, on a visit to his aunt’s place. Poor thing had to go to Mahim; found him guys who were on their way to Bandra and he accompanied them after thanking us duly, with a firm shake of hands and a hug.

By the time we reached the Juhu Gali junction it was eight thirty in the night (it took us four and half hours to travel a distance that usually takes just about 15-20 minutes under ordinary circumstances. We found her bus and got into it. M was almost hysterical in a subdued sort of way. She kept telling us about her experiences over and again, as if she was not able to believe what had happened. I perfectly understand – being born and brought up in Canada, she has had a very secure life and that day’s experience shook her from within.

The other people sitting in the bus gave a loud cheer and clapped for us when they heard that we had come all the way from Veera Desai looking for our sister. It was a bit embarrassing.

We spend the night in the bus. The good residents of the housing societies on the Gulmohar road send water, tea & snacks to all the buses (there were more than 20-25 buses stuck on that road and all brimming with people seeking shelter.

Throughout the night people kept moving through the water and I was stunned when I heard that someone had walked all the way from Churchgate. I was not able to sleep and kept looking outside from the window at an Indica car, almost submerged in water. It worked for me like a sand clock; I kept feeling better everytime I looked at it and found that the water was receding.

Next morning at about 5:30, the three of us started towards home and by 8 we were climbing stairs to our 14 storey apartment.


Anonymous anurag24x7 said...

i guess the last emperor is anything but depressing...the movie has been so beautifully directed... its a classic!!!

4:13 PM, July 10, 2006  
Blogger Prasann said...

I didn't mean that the movie is just managed to depress me...

6:03 PM, July 10, 2006  
Anonymous sridhar said...

your 26/7 story is really well written... Cheers, Sridhar...

9:20 PM, October 27, 2006  
Blogger Prasann said...

thanks Sridhar...

9:37 AM, October 28, 2006  

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