26th July 2005

Mumbai was submerged under water four years ago on the very day. It was raining on the this day this year as well. But not as much as it rained that day. I was sitting in my balcony with a cup of coffee in the afternoon, around 4pm, and I remembered what I was doing at the same time 4 years back. Even the memory thrilled me. 🙂

mumbai_26th_julyIt was about a little more than 3pm. I was working on some order forms in my office in BKC when we saw the sky tearing apart. Ours was a complete glass covered building. So we could see that lot of people were on the streets and trying to catch whichever mode of transport they could to rush back home. My company’s boss suddenly realised that it was a panic situation. So we all were advised to go home. But them I was a newly joined employee. So I stayed back with some other dare devils. 🙂  I stayed in Vile Parle then, not too far by Mumbai standards. But I was getting worried, looking at the water logging below. Finally at 4, a colleague offered me to drop till Kala Nagar on his bike. The BKC area was fine, but when we reached Kala Nagar, the junction was already under knee deep water. Lot of people were wading through that mini pond and I joined them as well. By then we all knew we have to walk to our houses, wherever we stayed. Some people stayed as far as Virar. And we didn’t know how long it will rain and what lay ahead of us. It was terrifying!

The mob decided to walk on the middle of the road, each one elevating him/herself as high as possible. The slope of the roads took the water away from the center towards the footpaths, sweeping beneath our legs. We all were trying to be careful not to bump into a pothole or worst, an open manhole. As we crossed the Kherwadi junction, the water level started to rise little above our knees. I could see people trying to ply their cars through the water, and struggling. We all decided to take the Vakola flyover. We could all see the cars, buses and all types of vehicles stranded on the approach. Obviously there was no scope to move ahead. Atop the bridge I saw my boss’s boss with a couple of more colleagues in his car. They asked me to join them. But I knew, stopping was no option. I tried calling few people from my mobile. But to no avail. The mobile too was all wet. So I switched it off and bid it good bye, thinking it was now gone. (But later it rose to the challenge).  The scene below the flyover bridge was absolutely terrifying. I could only see buses parked, flooded till just a little part of the windows and their roof tops visible. That meant the water level was way above my height. Slowly we came to Agripada where the flyover starts descending. We could see the water below, but couldn’t make out the depth. All we needed to do was take a wise decision.

26 JulyWe knew that the area just before and near the domestic airport was on elevated ground. So the water logging could only be for a part, may be a kilometer or two. Some people suggested that we hold hands, make a chain and then move ahead. So this way we can stay together and also pull a person out if the water is too deep. So we started. I had a middle aged short woman behind me and a teenage boy in front me. Slowly we got inside the water. The water level started rising from ankle deep to knee deep to thighs till the time our waists were also submerged. But we all were courageous. I could hear some people shouting religious chants such as ‘Har Har Mahadev’ or ‘Ganpati Bappa Morya’. I joined the chore too. Then a point came when water rose to my chest level. I froze in the middle of the journey. It was getting dark. I could make out that the clock must be past 6. The rain hadn’t stopped and the wind was making it even worse. For the first time in my life I was not sure if I could survive the ordeal. A push broke the stream of my thoughts. The woman behind me shouted, ‘Pray your god and keep walking!’. I turned back to see that she was almost neck deep inside the water. But she was exceptionally brave.

We kept walking very slowly for another hour before we could make out that the water level was going down. We could see the airport now. ‘Yay!’, I thought. My house was now near. I turned back to talk to the woman behind me.  She told me that she stayed in Goregaon. She was tired, but she was determined to make it to her house. There are so many brave people around us, I thought. And we dont know them, unless some thing like this happens. 😐

My maternal aunt stays bang opposite to the domestic airport. So I decided to check in there, to make sure every one was safe. To my surprise, I was the first person to reach home. I checked the clock, it was almost 8 and now dark outside. But thank fully every one was safe and eventually all family members made their way back home. Late in the night we  went out on the streets with packets of biscuit, water and home cooked poha to feed all those who were stranded on the roads.

Sigh! Crores of property was damaged, scores of people died. But Mumbai rose to its feet within days. Between such mayhem, there was not a single case of robbery reported or heard of molestation and theft. The good spirit endured and the   memories are now permanently etched.