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Sunday, September 11, 2005

26th July 2005

The last few days have been crazily wet. Mumbai is being deluged once again, in sheets of rain which slap against the defenceless city and its huddled inhabitants like a curtain flapping against a slender pillar.

The last few days have been so reminiscent of D-Day, 26th July 2005, that it compelled me to unearth some stray memories I'd noted down on that day. Here they are, witnessed first-hand by me as I travelled from office to home. This, then, is an eye-witness account of Mumbai, 26th July 2005:
  • A flag waving in the middle of the road. Investigation revealed that it was at the top of an auto which had been fully submerged!
  • 4 people pushing a stalled BEST bus which had passengers in it. And wonder of wonders, the bus moved!
  • Wading for 3.5 hrs through waist deep muddy flood water which occasionally reached neck level, with a laptop on my head and trying to aviod the invisible gutters and sharp-edged breakers. Spending 12 hrs in a friend's car and only travelling 1.7 km. Leaving office at 6 PM and reaching home at 11 AM the next day.
  • Discovering that men coolly walk through floods cracking jokes, while women invariably lose their heads and panic!
  • Seeing a frail old lady wade through the muck and water while carrying a little child on her shoulders, just like the Sherpas of the Himalayas or the women working in the tea gardens of Darjeeling do.
  • People pushing and shoving to enter buses. And after 3 hours of complete immobility, silently dismounting and wending their way homeward on foot.
  • An enterprising van parking itself in the middle of no-man's land between Santa Cruz and Kalinaka, and selling tea and vada-pav at tremendous premiums!
  • An opportunistic tractor allowing people to clamber up, and ferrying them through the floods, that too at no cost. They even provided umbrellas to the passengers!
  • Taxis charging Rs. 100 per head on sharing basis (instead of the standard Rs. 5) for a one kilometer journey from Churchgate to Colaba. And most people ready to pay!
  • Floating Santros. A Merc abandoned in the middle of the Santa Cruz flyover.
  • People spending the night in offices, 5-star hotel lounges, railway stations ... just about anywhere and everywhere!

I dread to imagine the plight of squatters, slum dwellers and low-lying chawl inhabitants.

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