The experiences of 26th and 27th of July would rank as my most unwanted adventures. It was the first time I was a part of an urban disaster – I didn’t enjoy it.
The day started with me bunking the college. I left home at one in the afternoon. It had started raining. At the college, the schedule had been cancelled and I found myself sitting for a grand total of one lecture instead of the elective and tuts I had expected. By three, our college looked like it had been set down in a swamp. The quadrangle was filled and water had submerged the steps at the entrance. All we could see was a flat expanse of water – no road, nothing. I was ready to wait it out (though not for 24 hours), but my friends prevailed upon me to start the journey home. Four of us moved out.
Twenty steps outside the building and it was clear that an adventure lay ahead of us. Fully drenched within a few steps and facing roads under 2-3 feet of water, sometimes flowing with great force, we covered one-third of the way home – upto Oshiwara.
The floods had worsened by then. Traffic was breaking down. The water, now clearly sewage water, was climbing above the waist. I discovered what a struggle it is to just stand in waist deep flowing water, forget moving through it. In accordance with Murphy’s laws, my sandal gave way at that moment. We moved around in the flooded zone for close to twenty minutes.
The others decided to crash at a friend’s place in Andheri. I grabbed a friend’s arm and limped through the water as we made a dash for a BEST bus. As it crawled down south, I finally gave up and decided to go to my aunt’s place instead – it was in the locality. Packed away the sandals in plastic, got down and marched barefoot to her place.
The bus broke down a few metres ahead of where I got down. My friends tried to walk ahead but neck-deep water forced them off. They finally landed up at an acquaintance’s house. The next day, they simply walked home, like the hundreds, if not thousands, of Mumbaikars who had been stranded overnight.
As for me, I tried getting a rick in the morning. Not seeing any, I stepped back into the house. As the day wore on, the enormity of the disaster finally rang home. At noon, my father called me up – it was a Long March. My friends had done it in the morning when I was looking for a rick. I stepped out thirty minutes later after fortifying myself with lunch. Amboli to Malad. In just under two hours. The longest walk I ‘ve done to date.
And it was all true. Crushed cars with hay stuffed in transmission housing. Buffaloes lying dead and swollen in the streets. Lines of BEST buses – our usual rescuers in floods – disabled on the roads. The sewage drain at Oshiwara, flowing like a muddy river. Volunteers helping out in flooded areas – marking out lanes on the flooded roads for people to walk through safely. Giving tea and eatables. Flagging down vehicles to carry those walking upto Borivili and Dahisar.
It was a memorable experience. But one that I could have done without.