1 Jul 2007

memories of the 2005 flood

on saturday mumbai was under water again
i remembered
the city in 2005 when THAT cloudburst happened

i was shooting for a BBC series on Bollywood
we broke for lunch at about 3
my friend with whom i was staying
called me
it had been raining non stop in andheri
(no one had heard the word cloud burst till them
we only became experts two days later)
i decided to leave early

when we got back to our office in worli
people were fleeing in droves
of course there were the hard core monsoon experts
who said that the rains will stop soon
others argued that we should stay in the office

am glad i never took that advice
i thought
how bad can it be?
the first signs - a jam at the flyover beside the mahalaskhmi flyover
water extending till the next flyover
we waited for a while
after half an hour the driver decided to turn back
we got off and walked
me and a girl from the office

then started the long trek
initially trying to keep on dry ground
then the water reached ankle length
finally it was up to our waist

like two amateurs
we just followed the others
since they told us that they did this every year
(no one knew yet how bad it was)
stopping once to drink some juice
then our sumptuous dinner
really bad noodles at a restaurant that was full of boys
who were cracking jokes and planning to stay till the rains stopped

back on the road
i recognized hoardings I would pass
on the way to office in the morning

at santa cruz
the water flow was so strong
that buses were floating aimlessly
i thought maybe it was the sea coming in

we were directed to the station
some of the people just collapsed
at the platform
trains were standing
a rare sight in Mumbai
we started following the tracks

there comes a time
in any such effort that
each step is an effort
your left leg lifts up
the water drips down from your clothes
slowing you down
the leg comes down
you pull
then the right leg comes up
it is an effort
each time
but your body knows
stopping is not an option
(later i heard of stories of people who stopped off at station or in their cars
and had to wait for 24 hours before they got home or worse)

at andheri
finally land
we climbed onto the station
we crawled out of the jam packed platform
on the road
buses still had passengers waiting for the water to subside
my colleague
was staying at a hostel near the station
i had a longer walk

by this time
i was blabbering
talking loudly to strangers
who were walking along side
the rains stopped
when i reached the adlabs cinema in andheri
buses stood with their lights still switched on
some of them were tied to poles
so that they would not float away
unlike the tables at the barista
balancing upside down awkwardly on the water

as i neared my friend's house
had to take a couple of detours
after i escaped falling into a gutter
just by a whisker
a streetlight was the only witness
to my embarrassment
when my left leg was swallowed
by the drain

at 3 in the night/morning
legs reduced to pulp
i almost fell onto the bed
before i realized
that someone else had already taken shelter there

i washed up
and crashed out on the floor
images of water engulfing me
i felt like i had reached land
after a shipwreck

but it was only a one BHK in andheri

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