Vantage point

Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Flood Experience

In the past I have often read about calamities in newspapers or followed the coverage on television. I realise now how "fictional" those calamities were for me because I was miles away. Over the past few days I have been in a region that has been worst hit by a calamity, and the reality of the experience is jarring, mind=numbing, and makes me feel very insignificant.

I was saved from the full impact of the rain somewhat fortuitously. I had gone to work in the morning on tuesday. After lunch I realised that I had forgotten at home some of my income tax documents which I needed to submit for filing the returns. So I went home and collected them. As I was about to go to office, it started raining very hard. I thought I would leave once the rain stopped. Needless to say, by the time the rain stopped, mundane things like office and work were not on my mind.

In a few minutes after the rains started, the power was gone. It still hasn't returned in the area where I stay - Kalina (am writing this psot from a friend's place in Vile Parle). No TV, no net, and the mobile networks weren't working either. I just stayed put in my apartment.

The first indication of the unprecedented intensity of the rainfall came when I heard water outside my door. I live on the fifth floor, and it was very unlikely that water could have risen so high so fast. As I opened the door I saw there was a virtual waterfall flowing down the stairs. Apparently the terrace of our building was filling with water so fast that the drain pipes couldn't empty it fast enough. The water was flowing through the terrace door, down the stairs.

The land around me started flooding. A few cars were almost completely submerged. As I fell asleep that night, I had no idea how bad this calamity had hit us.

Wednesday morning I looked out of the window and could not see land anywhere. It was as if my building was in the middle of a sea. No electricity meant that no tap water since the pumps weren't working. After the rain took a break I decided to go to a shop nearby and get some bottled water and food. I was wading in waist high water and just about managed to return home before the rain started again. The shopkeeper told me that the army was rescueing some people in nearby Kurla.

By evening the water had receded but the electricity wasn;t back. Mobile phones weren't working. No contact with the outside world. It seemed such a cruel irony that right now the whole world knew the details of what was happening in Mumbai, but not us Mumbaikars.

At night once the water receded completely and the rain stopped, I ventured out to go to the Kalina market. Below my building I could hear wails and cries of women who lived in a house close by. Apparently her son, who was sleeping, had died because of the flood. In the kalina market an ever more macabre sight awaited me. Half a dozen dead bodies were neatly laid out on palstic sheets next to the police station. This was the first I heard of the incident in Air India colony. Apparently around thirty people had died.

I walked around trying to locate a phone booth from where i could call up my family and friends, but to no avail.

to be continued.... need to have lunch