A city artificially created by the oppressors for their own commercial good, the city squeezed beyond its limits by greedy politicians, inept planners and selfish business community, a city that was gasping for breath did react… and it react in such a ghastly manner that day. That day was very different from the moment i woke up. Everything i guess was happening at a very slow pace, the sun was nowhere to be seen even beyond the dark cover of clouds. Those were monsoon days, and it was drizzling all its heart out. Somehow reached the office by eleven totally drenched in water. Water contaminated with human, industrial and chemical waste. That day was different, after all it was 26th of July 2005…
My Office Cabin where i used to work, was then totally closed and was almost sound and light proof, and i rarely move out of my room, so i was not aware of the scene that was happening outside. Intermittently i was getting frantic calls from my friends and colleagues that the trains were not plying the water was getting logged, but, i was enjoying it, it requires some kind of different thrill in your life to spice it up, in city lives, rain provides you exactly that.. But I never knew that this day was not meant for that.
At around 4 pm in the evening my colleague called me nearly giving me an ultimatum that he would leave alone if i did not pack up things. I took his ultimatum as he was the last amongst the friends staying on central line. As I packed things, and switched off the server and other e-equipments, i opened the door… and whoa man…. akin to Titanic, water came rushing inside and within seconds before I could rush back to my room and place my electronics equipments on safer heights water had already reached knee height. I was scared down to my spine.. and i could see my entire room submerged. For records, the much dreaded Mithi River flows just next to the compound wall of my Office. And my cabin was at the ground floor.
Soon Fearing for life and limbs as there was high powered stabilizer installed in my room, i and my colleague scampered for safety and rushed to go out of Office. By the time we could walk around 100 meters from my room to my office, the water reached my chest height and we were perspiring in that rain. To mark the irony to the entire things, someone from my office took my umbrella and i was not having one. I took refuge of my friends umbrella. The road where we were supposed to reach was full jam packed with traffic jam. The road anyways is one of the most chronic traffic infested road in Mumbai. Soon we realized that the day was not an unusual one. It was our mistake, perhaps we noted that we ventured out. But then it was too late to return, as only boats might have taken us back to my office building, the water level had touched nearly first floor. We decided to walk down the road towards our destination, but sakinaka and dombivli were world apart as far as distance between them was considered. But still we stayed put, we kept on marching through that never ending queue of buses, cars, autos, trucks and lorries and what not. On the left hand side we could see the Powai Lake fully filled with water nearly touching the road, the children at their impish best, the youths celebrating the season of love, the office goers scampering their way out, everything was unique that day. We kept on walking and walking and we just kept on doing so. We crossed Kanjur station, waded through Bhandup and reached Mulund. By that time it was around 7.15 in the evening, and we thought of cooling our heels a bit and we entered Chennai Hotel somewhere near Mulund on LBS Road, had a cuppa tea and some South Indian delicacy. That day the tea tasted so sweet…
Again our walk began, and we were not the only ones to do so, that day it seemed as if whole of the Mumbaikars had started posing their belief in Gandhian way and adopted padayatra. But then, there was no other visible mode of transport, the trains halted where they were, for hours, the buses and other vehicles stood lifelessly still. Only your legs were walking that day. We reached Mulund at around 08.30 pm and then the real test began. My colleague asked me to come to his place for the night, but i profusely refused, told him that i would walk till thane from where i can get trains. He hopelessly gave his umbrella to me and i kept my way walking towards thane station on eastern express highway. It was me and myself alone for company in that unknown world for me the road was new as i had never been there before by road, i was feeling thrilled, but a tinge of fear was starting to overcome me. I paved my way cautiously, my cell had gone off due to weak battery and i was disconnected with my home and my family. I reached somewhere in thane, even today i dont know the name of the place, all i could see was high rise buildings all over and waist high water people were wading their way out, the crowd was now very little and far. The lights were not there and as we walked the water levels only rosed. Then i realized that i was near Vaishali Talkies Bus Depot. I felt relieved, by the thought that I would get some bus to reach atleast to thane station, if not kalyan. I waited there till around 10 only to be told that a bus had left borivli at 2.00 in the noon and had not reached thane till then. All the services were canceled for the day. Again the solo journey began, i inquired the way towards station and somehow at 11.20 reached thane station.
What a scene it was at Thane that night, the station was full lit, crowded to the hilt there was no place to stand even at the far end of the platform and i thought my chance of getting a train was fairly dim. I waited and waited, hopelessly i went to platform no 5, to get respite from the crowd, one empty train was standing still there, the platform too was relatively less crowded, and what a magic it was… like god’s voice the announcer seemed that night, the announcement told that the stationary train was a special train to Kalyan. And Guess what i was just near the door of the compartment. I jumped in and for the first time perhaps got a window seat that way. I saw at my watch and it showed 11.45, i calculated and thought that by 01.00 in the midnight i would reach my place, fair enough i said, given the gravity of the situation.
I was tired enough, and i quickly felt asleep, after around 20 minutes i heard the train pull, i was happy inertly thanking god that the train finally made the move.
Someone shouted loudly, Utho sabera ho gaya… and my eyes were opened, i realised that I was still inside the train!!! the train had moved only around 100 metres and the signals failed miserably. But, i had no regrets, I had completed a good night sleep, i again slept leaning to the corner of the seat and woke up finally at 6 in the morning, it was still drizzling outside, the force was less by now though.
Again i got out of the station, it was nice chilly morning, and i thought now enough was enough. I thought i should now findout some way to reach dombivli. I then reached Kalwa Naka by an auto, the waters had receded comparatively and the autos were plying in most of the areas. My plan was to reach Kalwa or Mumbra and wade my way through to dombivli. The Autowallah told me that he would take me till Shilfata via Mumbra, he asked Rs.100/- i agreed, as the auto reached kalwa naka, the water logging was seen and the auto driver retreated and asked me to alight saying his auto wont go. I had again to fend myself and I cross that cesspool of water and waved my hand vociferously to each and every vehicle, finally another auto stopped again same promise of dropping me at Shilfata. Shilfata was somewhere 5 kilometres near Dombivli station and it was area familiar to me. I got into that auto and the driver kept his word. His wheels and his tongue were rolling out well and in about an hour’s time, he dropped me at shilfata. There again i saw the entire procession of people walking their way back home. By now my shoes were torn, their sole were lost and i took them in my hands and walked back home. I must have walked about a kilometre and one tempo stopped and people boarded it like animals cramped in vehicles on their way to slaughterhouse. The Tempo driver did not charge though, and it was a free ride till Dombivli naka, again walking for about 20 minutes i got an auto which finally brought me near my building.
I made it finally at 2 pm in the afternoon next day. But what a journey it was, i thanked the heavens for sparing me, for the scenes that i saw on my television, the number of people that lost their limbs & lives & their belongings, my journey back home was not more than a whimper.
The government blamed it on a cloud burst, for nature will never appeal or oppose, but the government will never tell or justify the reasons why the rivers like Mithi or other similar ill fated ones were sent to oblivion, nature will take revenge one day… and the river took its… albeit a bit violently…
Every tragedy brings out the inner strength of our people, when the entire government machinery fails, the people take it into their hands. I saw many youngsters standing in rain and forming human chains to prevent walkers from getting drowned in gutters, people distributing tea, vada pav and other eatables. Back in my Office, i had left my bag, my room was fully damaged and my entire systems collapsed there was knee deep of dirty water in my room. Where nobody ventured, my colleague, a girl, went into that dirty room, opened my cupboard, which was also full of water and took out my bag she washed it took out papers, my bank passbook etc and dried it and then kept it in her custody, when i resumed my duties after 7 days, she gave it to me.. That is what friendship is. Isnt it?
Humanity was visible just everywhere that day, An inspector turned into a saviour that day at Kalina, the Bus Depot of Kurla Garden saved lives of hundreds when it opened its gates to public and people boarded on the first floor of its buses to save their lives. We Indians may be poor in worldly terms like money, power etc, but our culture has made us into superbeings and we pass our tests during testing times, be it 26th July, Gujarat Earthquake or Kargil, we’ve shown it to the world. Have’nt we?
Nature has through this tragedy of 26th July given us a bold warning, Dont mess with me, but, are we listening ??