So there I was, happily plonking away at a keyboard at work, while people around me ran helter skelter and started leaving for home. Yeah, the rain outside seemed a tad on the heavier side, but I didn’t think anyone needed to panic. It was just rain after all. Then came the announcement over the PA system that all further classes were cancelled for the day and students were advised to go home. Hmmm. That seemed serious then.
But so what, I’ve survived heavy rain before. Not a big deal. What can Bombay throw at me? Ha! Most people seemed to just melt away. I was left alone with a couple of the students doing a small experiment. They lived close by and so they didn’t worry about getting home. We finished up our work and I sent them home. I was the only one left in the lab and the rain was pouring down. It wasn’t just raining cats and dogs, but lions and tigers too.
Around 4:30pm or so I decided it was time to venture to the local suburban railway station. The rain seemed to have abated a bit, but water flowed all over the roads and umbrella in hand, I sploshed my way through since there seemed to be no sign of the buses.
In about 20 minutes I got to Nana Chowk which had turned into a little lake with cars marooned in it and people resolutely making their way to the station. I waded through the waist deep water, taking care to avoid the open manholes which were marked with little red metal posts.
The station was packed with people. Announcements were being made that trains were cancelled until further notice due to flooding of the tracks. The lighting at the station, the rain and the cold made for an eerie feeling. Couple that with vendors yelling that they had fresh, hot batata vadas and it was the most surreal I’ve felt in a while.
People were slowly making their way along the tracks from the Churchgate terminus heading north even as the water levels on the tracks built up. I watched for a while, waiting with the milling crowds on the platform wondering what to do next.
Eventually, I decided what the heck, so many people can’t be wrong, I might as well walk with them too!
I trudged slowly mixing with the crowds that seemed to only get larger, until we got to the next station, Bombay Central. There the water levels were too high on the tracks and people were scrambling to climb over a wall and get off the tracks. By now I’d given up trying to protect myself with an umbrella and had put it away. I joined the near-stampeding crowd and managed to get over the wall with not too much trouble. The brand new jeans I had worn that day escaped without any damage. Yay!
Once I got out onto the road, I decided it was time to try and call some friends. But apparently the cell phone networks were busted too. I could barely get through to any numbers. With some luck, I managed to get through to a friend who worked at Prabhadevi and had a bike. He told me to make it to his office and we could bike it to his home from there.
I still didn’t know or realise how serious things were. I thought I could easily get a taxi to Prabhadevi. But once I began asking them, I noticed the long lines of vehicles stuck on the road. Nothing seemed to be moving. Some of the cabbies had rolled up their windows and were taking naps on their front seats!
Some more walking I guess. I walked, waded and semi-swimmed through Tardeo, upto Haji Ali. Traffic was still clogged up although along Haji Ali it seemed to be moving a bit at least. This was a horrible part of the walking, the wind blowing in from the sea carried with it raindrops and that stung. I was surprised that they didn’t raise any welts!
Worli Naka was flooded in parts and people formed gangs that were directing the others safely past holes, ditches, fast flowing water and open manholes. Pretty neat, that they organised themselves so quickly.
I got to Prabhadevi and my friend’s workplace around 7:30pm. Three whole hours after I’d left home. What followed was a mini-adventure too. The security refused to let me into the office saying that it was after hours. Even after my friend came down, they said I couldn’t be allowed in since I could just stay overnight at the office and that’s a no-no. It boggled the mind. A little convincing and they allowed me go upstairs. I dried off as best as I could, uploaded the pictures I had taken to Flickr and we decided it was time we attempted to get home.
We left (to the relief of the security guys) and headed towards Bandra. Traffic jams, flooded roads and intermittent rains that soaked us, or me at least since my friend had rainwear, followed us all the way. At Mahim, the water flowing into the bike’s fuel tank and engine was just too much for it and it gave up on us. As tired and worn out as we were, we were forced to wheel it along to a service station in Bandra (an ordeal in itself since it involved lifting the bike over a road divider, sloshing through more water, etc) A little fuel in the bike and she roared back to life!
The next problem we faced was that neither of us had a change of clothes and we were hungry! It was now close to 10pm. A quick bite at a small restaurant and another miraculous call to another friend that lived close by who I could borrow clothes from rounded that part of the evening off.
We headed to the other friends home, and I decided I might as well stay there for the night. I managed to dry off and change into fresh clothes. A soggy unread newspaper was removed from my backpack, my camera was still intact if a little wet and the bag itself was soaked through.
I tried to sleep after reading a couple of chapters of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (not interesting enough to keep me awake!) but like what I’d been through was not enough, I picked up a fever overnight and could barely sleep longer than 20-30 minutes at a time.
Thus ended my 26th of July, 2005…