July 6, 2006

Mumbai- Memories From Another Day-26/7

Filed under: Most Read,Mumbai,personal — Kaveeta Oberoi Kaul @ 12:50 pm
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Mumbai.. Day 4th July 2006..Time 11.00 a.m..interior.. bedroom..sound of rain and winds lashing against window panes..background skies.. dark and menacing.

Kitaro playing..aroma of parathas waft in from the kitchen along with an agitated babble of arguments between the son and the maid on choice of spices, proportion of cheese, and addition of butter on insistence of son while maid confused at whether it was a preparation of parathas or pasta that was being discussed!

Hubby on phone with colleague..pacing the room, leading on to the terrace..watching the monsoon lash the plants with all its fury..”No way that I am going to venture out..yeah its me saying that.. I know.. I know..nothing keeps me from getting to the office but today nothing will get me there…declare it a holiday.. Its insane expecting anyone to turn up..the city is on ‘High Alert’..let them take leave till the situation is under control”.

Me.. getting the table ready for breakfast.. nodding vigorously.. inwardly thankful that he needed no coaxing to stay back.. putting in a word.. whenever possible.. edgewise..heaving a sigh of relief that hubby had decided to be cautious. “Whats surprising “? you might ask.. Not if you knew hubby..come hail, storm or high water he never cancelled appointments. So how was this day any different from previous years. Well.. it wouldnt have been had 26/7 not happened to Mumbaikars and to us as a family!

Cut to 26th July 2005.

10.30 a.m

Mild rains .. heavily overcast skies.. me.. packing hubbys bag.. readying for the flight he was to take at 9.30 p.m. to New Delhi and onward to Nainital..he insisted on last minute detailing for the staff whilst away, so left for a few hours. Son at school in Juhu..

Something.. premonition .. I cannot say for sure.. kept me back..also the fact that hated to drive in monsoons.. and driver had not turned up.

2.30 p.m.. noticed dramatic and extreme darkening of skyline.. and a torrent of rain that seemed to unleash all of a sudden..I rushed out to the terrace.. ‘Cloudburst” was my first reaction..waited hopefully for it to wane.. Sonny had extra classes and would still be in his classroom.. Called up hubby..he sounded apprehensive.. said something like ..”Its weird but there is a traffic jam and I am in the midst of it at Juhu.” his tone of voice made me sense that all was not fine on the roads. Asked him if he could turn back towards Sonnys school and pick him up. He said it was impossible.. traffic was inching forward and the downpour was torrential.

Now panic began setting in slowly.. Sonny, had taken on the services of an Auto rickshaw for these extra class days.. which meant by now he would be en route and alone. I called him.. His mobile was responding indicating he was out of school.. His first words’ Mama.. its bad .. the rain..stay home..dont get out.. I’m Ok.. wheres Papu?”.. apparently both were less than half a kilometre away from each other, but there was no way they could get together.. Both were just a kilometre away from our residence.

By the time it was 3.30, situation had changed from grave to very grave.. Mobile calls were jamming because of heavy usage. Hubbys call to me said said in the calmest of tones but which had me paranoic and panicky informed ‘water is upto my waist in the car and it is seeping through continuously.. there are a 100 cars in front and behind.. I am stuck..If the doors jam I wont be able to get out.. the air conditioner duct has water in it.. I have had to switch it off..cannot open the windows.. its a storm outside” I kept my voice modulatedly stoic..asked him to try and get out of the car.. abandon it wherever it was and head home walking..When he came to realise that sonny was on the perpendicular junction he said he was going there to check on all the rickshaws.. which was not such a good idea since it meant he would be walking against the gush of water.. coming in now from the high tide at Juhu.. I dissuaded him amidst failing signal and indecipherable words.

Here I was all dry and at home while my family was facing a situation unimaginable, even an hour ago.. Just not fair. After this ALL efforts to speak them came to zilch.. Hutch service had crashed. Its not difficult to predict that I was wailing.. no way to get in touch with them.. all police lines were unavailable.. off the hook.. the t.v. channels were of no help.. there were no helpline short.. no one seemed to care and there seemed no saviour.

I just could not sit back and not do something..armed with my windcheater, mobile and umbrella I left the house, with a paranoid maid begging me not to..I began walking in the direction of the two.. I had to find them,.. By the time I reached the end of the junction, I was thrown off my feet by the force of what seemed like a River.. a spate of deluge.. I had lost my slippers by then and found myself walking against the tide…

I realised for the first time, first hand what was meant by the term ‘raging flood waters’. By this time a bunch of men began screaming out at me to turn back..I had tried to keep to the middle of the road.. but soon I found myself in almost chest high water and unable to get a firm foothold..I was alone in the middle of nowhere.. One from that gang, came up to me and literally pulled me away..constantly asking..”do you want to die?.. you will drown..” He pulled me , and we reached the other side..Needless to say my mobile had got lost..I went up, swam would be more like it, to a nearby store.. and tried calling..No avail.

It is difficult to describe the walk back home the helplessness and the fury of feeling impotent in a situation such as this.. the astonishment that this could happen to us in a city like Mumbai, the hopelessness that could engulf you in a matter of hours and turn your life topsy turvy. And all you could do is .. WAIT..

That is what I did for the next most excruciatingly agonising FIVE hours of my life..WAIT..I had by then called my friends.. each one consoling me that all would be fine.. but none able to offer any solution…Unbelievable.. What should I do?? Where should I go??

My puja temple was the focus of my attention and gaze..I had nowhere else to look..literally…

Finally at around 9.00p.m. the doorbell rang.. I rushed out.. It was my son.. looking almost blue..I rushed down.. he was with the auto guy..No words were needed.. He had brought back my son from neck deep water, holding his hand and carrying his school bag on his head..He said it was his responsibility to do so..Crying is so ‘filmi’..I felt these words thronging in my mind.. but here I was crying unashamedly, profusely thanking him blessing him and thanking him again.. all at once..Whoever said there are no angels??Or that there is no GOD??

“Wheres Papu?”.. I had no answer.. kept distracting him.. pushing him to the bathroom to have a shower.. asking him whether he’d want hot soup or milk.. chattering all the time.. what could I answer?

I had faith in the Supreme.. half hour later.. the doorbell rang again.. It was hubby.. drenched.. and smiling.. ‘Its Okay”.. In the meanwhile I had cancelled his ticket with the airlines.There was no way I was letting him out of my sight.. in any case the flight too did not take off due to bad weather ..

The car had been abandoned like so many others.. but that seemed the least of our concerns..we were together again..

Next morning.. we walked off to get the car..but could not get as far, since the waters had not receded. But what I saw brought a lump to my throat.Those who werent living close had to spend the night in their conditions which were frightful. Most cars with central locking had the system dysfunctional so in fact they were prisoners in it ( There were cases reported of deaths in the car due to lack of oxygen) Houses lining Linking road were privy to the situation and residents braving the weather had spent the night going from car to car offering support in whatever manner possible.

This was a side to Mumbaikars I had hoped to see but never witnessed. The “spirit of Mumbai” was visible in times of calamities as these. Mayhem exposes virtue. And the Mumbaikar had risen to the occasion splendidly.

The following days saw various such deeds being written about in the media ..but sadly not to the extent one had imagined.

Why is it not as important to expostulate on stories of gallantry and bravery, goodness and positivity in as much footage and glare of media attention as the sensational ones depicting debauchery of a rape, murder and assault? How is it possible, in the absence of such stories, to reinforce the faith in one another as humans? To assure that the milk of human kindness flows as energetically? Chivalry is not dead.. it only needs to be re-awakened, re-kindled form its slumber of dormancy into active expression. What better way than a real life story which depicts its presence, in all its glory?

Cut to ..4th july 2005..Any wonder then that hubby and kid are at home, like so many other Mumbaikars? While the citizen may have learnt his lessons, the Government seems a slow learner. 400 crores they claim has been spent on Mumbai and another 100 crores on roads..(yawn)

Trivia: Is Mumbai the only city in the world which has POTHOLES even on its RUNWAY??..Asked with a wide-eyed genuinely quizzical expression!!


  1. Whew!!
    it happens only in la la la la

    Comment by Anonymous — July 6, 2006 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

  2. for the past three days each news channel in their own stupid way is catering to the already existing paranoia and is looking for better ways to bitch about BMC
    i agree that the government has failed to a large extent…
    despite 26/6 have people stopped using plastic bags and throwing them on road
    you seem to stay somehwre near Juhu kaveeta or wherever you stay…the beach is cleaned by the initiative of the authorities or some celeb or the common residents and how many days does it stay clean for…
    my building compound is full of bricks and the assorted building materials…and i do now stay in the cleaner places in mumbai but last year at this time i was in andheri east which had garbage and more garbage….
    the BMC does not dirty the beach, nor throw the plastic bags here and there and does not litter the roads…
    i am not saying BMC needs to be defended
    but what have we done…
    and the news channels ONLY exist to create panic
    i walked back with a co worker i barely knew, (who is my best friend now), i am still new and know very few people in the city, and we walked from juhu to 7 bunglows (hardly a dstance if you look at what other people faced) and my sisters were travelling from delhi to mumbai the next day…the train was 12 hours late and the phone lines were jammed…tell me about fear!!!
    but god bless the spirit of mumbaikars and your autowallah

    Comment by silbil — July 6, 2006 @ 5:32 pm | Reply

  3. Nandini.. there are two aspects to this conundrum. Let us take it step by step.

    First is the condition of roads DESPITE the claims of having invested a sum of 1000 crores this last year on repairs and maintenance. Where is the proof of it? It is undoubtedly a case of the contractors having done a slip shod job . They have to be made accountable for the potholes and the ensuing traffic bottlenecks.

    The second is the matter of storm water drainage. I think this is what you are referring to. Undeniably, we as citizens lack civic sense which is apparent not only by the garbage disposal methods we seem to adopt apart from irritatingly unclean environmental attitude.

    However to see it from a broader perspective is vital. While it is interesting and progressive to self evaluate and consequentially ease the burden from the B.M.C., as also being a proof of being aware and conscientious, nevertheless I would like you to consider this. The developable land in Mumbai is around 185 sq kms or its whereabouts. The population residing here is 1269, which you can add a fifth safely.

    The fact is that our municipal officers displayed no foresight or attention to the growing numbers in proportion to the drainage system as had been installed 5o years back. Did they not have a duty towards ensuring proper drainage before they passed the notification for newer buildings, societies, malls and multiplexes?? surely this situation has not occurred overnight! They were slowly leading Mumbai to get choked on the roads and under it , turning a blind eye to its cost and repurcussions.

    Also, I have been witness personally to the workings of the municipality and its decision making process. The road directly in front of my house was dug yp initially by Relainace, then the drainage people , then piped gas, one after the ther. Each time they severed the water pipes leading to my house, with total abandon. I photographed the severed pipe and showed it to the officers, only then was I able to get the labour to fix it on a priority basis. Can anyone ask them as to why is is that roads have to be dug up thrice and why the lack of co ordination between the departments? After all the sanctioning authority is a single one?

    While I agree with you that blockages may have occurred also due to apathy from citizens, but can you vouch for 400 CRORES being spent on drainage which collapsed in the very first downpour?? Public involvement is a must , but that can also happen if the faith in the system is re established. the media is not conjuring up images.. these are real life occurrences.

    There are garbage dumps which are not cleared for DAYS in highly congested areas.. What possibly can a citizen do if there is inefficiency on that score? I have been involved with area mamgement for quite some time. It is not as you imagine. The B.M.C. cannot duck this time. The high court has asked for a show cause notice as well . Lets hope that the Right to information act will disclose the names of contractors who have clearly pocketed a sizable portion of the booty with no concern as to the repurcussions of their unprofessionalism. It is time that blame is shouldered by those who have been getting away with it for years now. Juhu, one of the cleanest and most expensive residential areas, has water coming into as much as 4-5 feet with a single downpour. It has to do with the age old drains ad their miniscule diametrics primarily.

    What the mumbaikar has done is first and foremost get ready for another disastrous monsoon. Nobody got fooled by the tall claims of the commissioner. The water logged prone areas had residents constructing temporary mezzanines in case of a ‘Venice’ like sitution and have done it with a smile on their faces. And this is what I love about Mumbai..nothing gets to them. Solutions are always at hand and life goes on.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — July 6, 2006 @ 6:12 pm | Reply

  4. kavetaa,
    Just one of those things.. i was out of mumbai those days and could not return for days.. so missed out on the happenings. But i have heard various stories of heart rending tales.


    your post is rather vague.cleanliness has nothing to do with monsooons is an all the year round requirement. if garbage is not cleared from the juhu beach how the frig is tht a reflection on storm water drains in kurla being clogged?? to have an opposing viewpoint is never always necessarily a corrrect view point.. just disagreeing for the sake of it is funny.

    I quote you “for the past three days each news channel in their own stupid way is catering to the already existing paranoia and is looking for better ways to bitch about BMC”

    i dont believe this.. the media ought to be thanked that they have stood in knee deep water for hours and brought into focus the plight of the after day after day.. In almost every area where it has happened and also in the VERY SAME areas it happened last year.At a time when for the first time almost all governmental and nongovernmental organisations, citizens groups and ngos have agreed that the BMc has fouled up you call it ‘bitching about the bmc’..its weird really. maybe you are new here so cannot see the problem how Mumbai-ites see it..please do not confuse civic sense with municipal obligations..its ridiculous.

    Comment by Neha — July 6, 2006 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

  5. there goes my post again.. digressions and hijacking galore..(sigh)

    ideally these comments belonged to the earlier post..if at all!!

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — July 6, 2006 @ 9:52 pm | Reply

  6. makes me scared. my sis for the first time in mumbai n whenever we call her- she just says its raining. hehe.
    mam ive crushed my right hand thumb. so cant type much.
    but i want to leave u with some food for thought-
    the greatest tragedy of life is not death but loss of hope.
    i really need help on this topic mam. if u cud just render some- pleaseeeeeee

    Comment by Dim Poetry — July 6, 2006 @ 10:26 pm | Reply

  7. Hey dim,

    I have missed you n was wondering.. look after that thumb:)

    N ‘loss of hope’.. those words dont sound right from someone like you. I have read your blog and notice a spark there which is rare and precious. I mean not one who subscribes to empty words.You know that. your words have saddened me.

    I will write on hope.. just for you..but remember..’Love comes to those who still hope even though they’ve been disappointed, to those who still believe even though they’ve been betrayed, to those who still love even though they’ve been hurt before’.. so keep loving no matter what and life will suddenly transform you.. happiness is in giving.. unconditionally..

    luv u..kiddo

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — July 6, 2006 @ 10:44 pm | Reply

  8. @neha ,i wasn’t really disagreeing with the post…at least for the sake of it
    so the amusement caused is purely unintentional

    veera desai road at andheri houeses the two production houses which make the maximum money in films and television respectively,and two channels and an edicting studio…look at the condition of roads on both sides of fun republic.
    the one leading to balaji had to be closed on tuesday…and there was knee deep water in the by lanes in just an hour of rains…
    so all these offices which make crores with each serial and each film can’t contribute even a little bit in making the roads that lead to their office even a little pliable…
    sure it is BMC’s resposnsibility and why should they spend their hard earned money especially if they pay taxes but at the end of the day, they and their crew and actors travel on their road…
    okay forget spending money, with all the clout in the world they could have got it repaired…but why should i do anything is what seems to be communicated…
    sure the BMC needs to be accountable for the 400 crores and the whole YEAR that they had got to perform and also the lack of foresightedness …
    but let’s not talk about the poor media people…
    last year in the nail biting tension that was mounting every where there was a promionent news channel (i forget which one so i won’t give a random name) which repeatedly showed BREAKING NEWS, XYZ log baadh ke chapet mein aaye in BOLD letters and followed by, aisi afwaaho par dhyaan na de…
    that it is a rumour is a BREAKING NEWS? and that it is a rumour should come in small letters and the rumour in bold…
    that does not amount to sensationalising, does it?

    Comment by silbil — July 7, 2006 @ 10:08 am | Reply

  9. This time I was there! Landed in Bombay on the 4th of July for a same day return trip but could only get back on the 6th. Spent 2 days cooped up in the JWM – it took me all of 4 hours to get there from the airport – and worked for 4 hours on the morning of the 6th.

    I absolutely love the rains – in Delhi!!

    Comment by Chameleon's Karma — July 7, 2006 @ 10:30 am | Reply

  10. Your timing was fantabulous ck..sado masochism??LOL..deciding to land on the 4th of july! didnt mistake it for the us of a by any chance now didya? Atleast you gotta experience rains on the beach first hand..unforgettable I’m sure.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — July 7, 2006 @ 11:36 am | Reply

  11. media is an industry naa… it feeds not on the goodness of human kind but on the sensationz.. watever sellz n in watever form!

    we have gotten used to digesting the over dose of spice along with the essential truth.
    and we do not feel bad, as what is reflected of the social diaspora is democratically ours only.. en mass!
    when last was a feel gud news given the centre stage?
    mumbai is (the) most unfriendly city in a recent survey.. in chennai u speak non-tamil lingo n the auto wallaz take u for a ride! they openly detest the national tongue.. calcutta.. people are dying on the streets of heart attacks n we have lots of on-lookers but no one coming up to help!! for me, cal is the best.. a city where everyone can eke out a living.. but still cant be biased!
    i don feel proud of the common man on the street. and don we have positive emotions flowing in the city lines?

    the fightes of survival has less footage than even atalBV yawning off to la-la land at some public gathering! with science n tech. lifes just a ‘button dabao’ now!
    the subtle emotions, chivalry n ethos of our race… rest in peace!

    ‘turn the page.. here i am on the road again’… this metallica song just tells me, its all an individual effort n for all its worth… i have my utopian existence where therez still body n soul cooking up positives n vibrance:)!!

    ps: was there in march @ tiss, deonar.. loved mumbai.. hope to be there sumday- my perfect definition of a wonderland… sans alice!!

    @kavita- the questions u have for every post.. the answers we all try to place… we think, we wanna solve the su-do-ku of this society.. but why arent we able to? well… change is the only constant factor in life n we are just not changing!

    Comment by der Bergwind — July 7, 2006 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

  12. Hi grasshopper..err silbil,

    The next in line are the corporates who have to be badgered for now not cleaning the drains !!!!!!sooo basically la monde..the whole world is to carry out the jobs ordained for the BMC except .. BMC !!!!!

    your understanding of depths of mumbais problem is touching..

    nyways.. I tried.

    Comment by Neha — July 7, 2006 @ 7:55 pm | Reply

  13. der.. really liked your got it right on..

    Wheres the harm, however utopian it may seem presently, in aspiring for a stage in the history of Indian Media where positives will take centre stage and negatives limited to the ticker…umeed pe duniya kaayam hai:) I can be hopelessly optimistic and terribly its most e x p a n s i v e connotation.

    And alice .. may be just around the never know.


    Drainage meant for storm water evacuation is being innundated with sewer water for long now. Resultantly, come monsoons and clogging occurs..magnified a hundred fold by high tide . A MAJOR overhaul is urgently needed. I agree that minor issues play no role in either the accentuation of the dilemma or its solution. In a city where garbage bins are in short supply (personal validation) a squeaky clean environment is well nigh impossible.And this has little to do with citizen participation. To expect herculean measures of active interest towards an apathetic municipal corporation is akin to banging ones head against the walls.. and NOBODY can be expected to make it a profession or an honorary committment..especially in a scenario where taxes are sky high and benefits do not accrue, worth the mention. One hopes that when the citizen notices visible signs of improvement he will be obliged to keep his side of the bargain and endeavour to contribute effectively and regularly..and all will be well:).. i said .. i am hopelessly optimistic.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — July 7, 2006 @ 11:23 pm | Reply

  14. wen wordsworth wrote ‘daffodils’, i guess life was a touch slower… a touch prettier… a touch more innocent… gullible, maleable, ductile (the engineering angle!) and a lot more open..
    now toh its in the ‘mindscape’ where thoughts just germinate n live out its virtual life cycle…
    even am too optimistic n hopelessly romantic but woe betides.. haha:)
    ‘what is this life so full of care,we have no time to stand n stare..’, don remember the author but thatz what life has become… an existence within the existence; people who live the superficial r cool…
    still therez the bank balance of hope that helps tide over the eclipses of life… wat the hell! its just better to find peace witin the soul naa:)

    ur pragmatism as well as belief in the goodness of life is really inspiring:) thanks for putting in so easily.
    alice round the corner:) was sweet… only i need to find a way to wonderland first- am still trying:)

    Comment by der Bergwind — July 8, 2006 @ 10:49 am | Reply

  15. Oh der dear.. dont give in to the ‘woe betides’

    its so strange you mention the poem ‘Leisure’..its one of my william davies

    What is this life if, full of care,

    We have no time to stand and stare.

    No time to stand beneath the boughs

    And stare as long as sheep or cows.

    No time to see when woods we pass,

    Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

    No time to see in broad daylight,

    Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

    No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

    And watch her feet how they can dance.

    No time to wait till her mouth can

    Enrich that smile her eyes began.

    A poor life this if, full of care,

    We have no time to stand and stare.
    Ahh poetry..wondrous words.. soup for the soul.


    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — July 8, 2006 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

  16. yup.. its leisure ( loved it since god knowz wen.. must have been in class5!!).. god these engineering sauces have spoilt my literary tones:(
    ya.. am trying to soak up the sun:)
    no woes.. but am humane, wear it on my sleeves naa!
    thanks for jogging me bac n putting up the verse..
    btw.. have a scribbled poetry on my blog.. do read it 🙂

    Comment by der Bergwind — July 8, 2006 @ 12:13 pm | Reply

  17. thanks alot… for the appreciation n also seeing in2 the combinationz inside 🙂
    n even thanks for linking me in:))

    Comment by der Bergwind — July 8, 2006 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

  18. der,

    ‘seeing the combinationz inside’:) thats what leads us to understand why a group of people get together while others don’t.

    if you are reading this, I had written a long post for you today..just when I was ready to publish it , the laptop was infuriating to say the least. will harness strength to do it agagin.

    Comment by Kaveetaa Kaul — July 9, 2006 @ 8:18 pm | Reply

  19. […] while one is soaking in the delicious rains, thunders nonetheless bring back memories of another day 26/7.. which one hopes, fervently prays is never repeated in the life of a Mumbaikar again.. […]

    Pingback by Of Rains And Times Of India « Sachiniti — June 25, 2007 @ 1:30 pm | Reply

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