Mumbai aapko jeena sikhati hai... -Manoj Bajpai (An excerpt from an interview)
I hated travelling to college..Its a long 2 hour travel one-way(subject of another post). It starts with finding a rickshaw to Mulund station and ends with you getting all sweaty and covered with grime and dirt as you reach Andheri. And your day hasnt even started yet...
Now that I have cribbed enough, let me start on my story. This story is dated 26 July 2005
9:44am-I enter the classroom. 44 mins late for the 9 am lecture.
9:47-Imran enters the classroom. Of all the days I have come late, this man has always topped my record. Btw, Imran stays in Lokhandwala and it takes him 10mins to reach college
10:05- There's been a light drizzle all morning. By now it has started raining as it does in July..
12:00-Its been raining in the true Mumbaiya style for the past 2 hrs... Some guys in the class are thinking of cancelling the practicals at 2:00pm
12:05-Calls are made to the lecturer concerned, he turns down all requests of a cancellation.
1:00- Lunch break. Some guys get down to the ground floor to the canteen and find water gushing in slowly.
1:15- Word spreads. Franctic calls all around. Calls made to the lecturer. It seems he hasnt made it to college yet. Hes out sumwhere in Andheri W running errands in office time ofcourse. Welcome to the only Govt Engineering college in Mumbai.
2:10-No sign of the lecturer. Some guys start leaving. More calls made.
2:30- Lecturer calls some guys cell, only to say tht he wont be coming today. Precious 20 mins lost.
2:35-Koli, Chetan and I start what will be the most unforgetable journey of our lives.
We wade through knee deep water outside college, but tth is normal in the month of July. Its not raining now, just a light drizzle. We dont really understand the gravity of the situation.
3:07- We take the train to dadar.
3:27- The train moves smoothly. We reach dadar. No one has the slightest idea that the journey from here will make us change our outlook towards life. This journey will test our will to fight. This journey will show us whether we are strong enough.
3:33- Dadar central. Trains are running awfully late. A train arrives ever so slowly. You could see ppl hanging out from the doors.Its raining cats and dogs now, and the ones hanging out are wet to the bone... Trains dont run this full at 3 pm in the afternoon. Something was wrong here..
Chetan got into the train, me and koli tried gettin in, but couldnt make it in..
3:35- Call Chetan - "Abbe tu ghus gaya kya?" "Haan.. chod next train se aa ja.." "thik hai..chal bye"
3:44- We get into the next train. As it turns out, this will be the last train to move out of dadar station tht day. The train moves ever so slowly through Matunga, Sion.. you could actually hear the train cutting through 1 feet of water on the tracks. Then it comes to a halt at Kurla station.
4:20- Its been 15 mins since the local has been standing there. Locals dont stand for more than 15 secs at any station. Something was definitely wrong. Call Chetan- No network available. All networks down.
4:30- Koli and I discuss the chances of this train moving. Ofcourse the downpour has to stop, and once it does the train will get out of here and we will reach home. We were cursing ourselves for waiting for the lecturers call. We shud hav left by 12 noon itself.
5:30- we are still inside the train, we are wet and hungry and tired. I go out to the station to take a leak, when I come back, I see tht the water level is only a feet below the level of the platform. Its still raining and doesnt look like its gonna stop anytime soon. Then it dawns on me, this train aint going nowhere... There is no way I m gonna spend the night in the train.
We decide tht we will get out from the west side of Kurla to the bus depot. From there we will take a Bus to mulund. We got out of the station only to find water everywhere. Almost 3 feet deep. Change of plan, we will get out from Kurla E and then walk to the Eastern express highway. "Highway nahi doobega! Wahan se bus sure milega" Koli reasoned..
The situation aint too good on east side of the station either. But we aint left no choice.
We walk through the 3 feet deep gutter water, wading through plastic, pieces of cloth, chappal, polythene bags.. You could see many other ppl wading through the muddy waters. We formed a Human chain when the force of the waters was too much to navigate through.
We could see half submerged Hondas and Santros along the sidelines.
Most shops were shut down except a few grocery store where some locals were buying loaves of bread.
Guys in our human chain, were exchanging numbers, so that if anything happens to any of us, atleast our folks at home could be informed.
That sent shivers down my spine.I realised that something bad could actually happen to one of us...sumthing bad could happen to me..
We reached the highway. It was relatively empty.. there were more ppl than cars on the highway and there was no sign of a best bus.
We walked through Ghatkopar, Vikhroli to Kanjurmarg. Thats 20kms for you. All along you could see ppl walking. Some who were as old as 50 walking. Some one asked a uncle who seemed really tired as to where he was walking from. "Lower parel"..That did it for me, if he can walk, so can I.
Sumwhere in between I lost Umesh. I was all alone now. The street light were not working, at it was around 9pm now. Out of the three lanes, 2 were completely submerged. I could only see water everywhere. It was not easy to makeout where the highway ended and the side trenches began. I kept walking, I could sense I was nearing Mulund. I kept walking till I was within 5 kms of my home, but I had lost the will to walk... Just then a God sent Best bus came through, i jumped in.. The bus left me at Mulund station. Mulund, which I can safely say is one of the best planned suburbs in mumbai was underwater too.. It was impossible to differentitate between the tracks and the platform. But thankfully the lights were on! It felt good to see the yellow of sodium lamps.. I got a bus from the station to my home. I reached home at 11:30. I came in and lied down on the floor in the living room with the wet clothes still on!! I had been walking for the past 6hrs. I had covered more than 30kms on foot.. I was tired, hungry and angry. Angry at the BMC, the college, the lecturer, at myself..
It could have been worse though.
Chetan spent the night on the Vidyavihar platform.
Navin and Prasad slept in the corridors of a call centre near Ghatkopar
Some guys spent the night in the college.
Some slept in Best buses, some others in local trains...
944mm of rainfall in one day.
Rs. 450 crores worth of property damaged.
Atleast 1000 dead. Hundreds missing.
Dedicated to everyone who witnessed the mayhem. Dedicated to the people who put up a fight against nature to come out victorious. Dedicated to the 1000 mothers whose sons didnt return home that day... It rained that night:26 July
Editor in chief arshat chaudharyCurrent Issues: 26 july 2005, 26/7, floods, mulund, mumbai, SPCE