26 July, 2006
26/7 - Mumbai and the Monsoon
"With all due respect, Sir, I believe this will be our finest hour."
- Gene Kranz (Ed Harris), Apollo 13
It's Mumbai's sprit that's celebrated
I'd never have known it, but so fated
Was I that I could learn
Patience, Friendship, Fun ;-)
And miss them once the rain abated.
It's an year to the day Mumbai was drowned by it's heaviest rainfall ever recorded. The administration failed to respond quickly, and it fell to the citizens to fight off the rain and lift Mumbai from the rainy mess. And how they did it is now legendary. The ones who were trapped at the railway stations (upto a hundred thousand of them) set off home in the night, when the water level on the roads had lowered a little. The people fortunate enough to reach home early went out and helped those heading homeward, offering them water, coffee and food. Mumbai helped itself, and emerged stronger.
I was heading home from college when the train stopped before Vile Parle station. After waiting for 30 mins, me and a student from Ruparel college, who I'd never met before, alighted the train. We walked to Vile Parle station along the tracks, then when we saw that all trains were stopped, went to a phone booth nearby. He called his dad, who said he's come (all the way from Kandivili) to pick him up. When I picked up the phone to dial home... all the lines went dead (I've always believed in Murphy's law ;-) ). So, on the hope that his father would come, we waited till midnight.
Until then, we sang songs, narrated our experiences at college, described how we had landed in this unfortunate situation (He'd rejected an offer by a friend to drop him by car, I'd wasted 1 hour chatting with my friend Anand... we both could've been safely home). We formed a group of four... the other two people were a boy and his uncle (we didn't know them too).
At midnight, finally, Amit's dad arrived. He'd left his car at Goregaon, because, well, it had been submerged in water. We decided our the best path to take would be to walk all the way home. So we did. There were hundreds marching along waterlogged roads, and we followed them. (In the dark of the night, the only way to be safe is to follow exactly the path the person in front takes... or you could be spending the night in a manhole.) We stopped for two hours at a hospital, where they were serving free tea and coffee. After that, we set off again, and didn't stop until we found Amit's dad's car.
The water had subsided, but the car was in a bad shape. We'd have to push it to Kandivili. I helped them till Goregoan, and then left them (making excuses... I feel bad about it nowThey'd helped me, I should've helped them). I stayed at my Uncle's house at Goregaon for two days, and then went home. It was an experience that taught me a lot.
It's surprising how two people can become the best of friends in two hours, and never contact each other after that day. (I should contact him again tomorrow.) Without that friendship, we both would've been lost, not knowing what to do.
It really was Mumbai's finest hour. Rather, the Mumbaikars'. To quote a proverb: A dose of adversity is often as needful as a dose of medicine. I don't know if Mumbai needed it, but it got one. It has benefited from it hugely.