It was July, 26th 2005. The Day Mumbai, the city on the Indian west coast, the Financial capital of the country, the Indian metropolis came to a complete stand still. The unprecedented rainfall causing floods, almost marooned the island city.
The city received 37 inches of rainfall in a period of 24 hours as against the usually high 8 inches. It was a Tuesday and being a working day effected the lives of every single resident of the city. Trains, the lifeline of the Mumbai, came to a grinding halt, traffic was bursting the roads, buses couldn’t ply on the roads, leaving all commuters including schoolchildren stranded in the middle of nowhere. Land lines, mobile phone services and power supply went dead in many areas. Highways connecting the city got blocked and the airports had to be closed.
On that fateful Tuesday, I was at work. The heavy downpour started at noon. Everybody began getting calls from home informing that the trains were running late and schools had been closed early. Our manager asked us to leave, but there wasn’t anything alarming. One of the usual heavy downpours of the season I thought. But we all left anyways.
It was pouring and there was 3 inches of water on the road. Luckily the bus going towards my house stopped at the bus stop. I was completely drenched and feeling cold. As I sat in the bus trying to dry myself, I noticed the bus was crawling forward. I looked out of the window; the road was a scary sight. The entire place was flooded.
There was a long line of stranded vehicles, people were wading through the flood waters, people carried kids on their heads as the water had now reached 10 inches. I decided it was safer to stay in the bus than be stranded in the floods with the unceasing rain.
As the evening passed, there were fewer people on the road and the bus had become stationary. The water levels must have reached 20 inches. I had to somehow inform my parents at home that I was safe. But the mobile networks were down. Suddenly we saw the street lights go off. Somebody in the bus mentioned it was to avoid electrocution and fires. We now saw the water levels rise tilthe bus doorstep. The bus was no more safe.
The rain stopped for a while. A couple of people living close to my house decided to wade through the water to get home. That was the only way of survival I thought. I decided to join them too.
We formed a human chain and got into the water. The flood waters were cold. Besides they were dirty. As I landed on my feet I realized the water was up to to my neck. The man heading the human chain used his umbrella to guide his step. All of us began walking.
We were estimated to take at least 2 hours to get home. As we walked, we could see the damage the flood waters had caused to life and property. There were books,caps,folders,school bags,umbrellas floating over the water. But we kept encouraging each other.
We also saw people standing by their apartment complex gates offering biscuit packets and hand towels. Others lending a hand to people who were wading through the water. The best face of humanity was on display.
We walked; hungry, tired, cold but hopeful. I had seen such things on Television. Never in my life did I expect this to happen to me. It was getting difficult to keep my head above water. We all wondered if we would live through this to tell our tale of survival.
Finally we reached our destination. My house is on a high lying area and hence had less flooding. I couldn’t wait anymore. We thanked each other and I ran towards home.
I saw my mum waiting at the balcony hoping to see her daughter. Both of us were overjoyed to see each other. We hugged and she broke down. I looked at the watch, we had walked for 3 hours.
It’s only the next morning when I saw the news on Television I realized that I had been a part of one of the most horrific events in the city’s history. About 406 dead due to drowning, landslides, stampede, electrocution and wall collapse. The were expecting even more loss of human life due to disease, in the coming days.
The Television showed stories about people who tried to wade through the flood waters but were killed either due to electrocution or by being pushed underwater due to the current ; a few just missed a step and fell into a manhole. I could have been one of them I thought. I just thanked God for his grace and said a silent prayer for all those who were effected by the unprecedented floods.