I am writing this article from a hotel room at Mohammad Ali Road, South Mumbai – a room where I’m stranded in for the night. Confined, and down with fever, I’m writing this piece to chronicle the adventures and misadventures of the day – the memories of which will certainly last a lifetime.
My day started off on an ordinary note as I headed towards South Mumbai, 26 km away from my house for a meeting. I covered the distance within an hour, courtesy the Mumbai local (the lifeline of the city).
It was pouring heavily since the previous night, and the trains ran cautiously on their tracks. Yet, everyone presumed it to be just another rainy day. I don’t think we were really prepared for what was to follow.
Those of us who should have been busy working and contributing to the country’s economy, were out there waiting endlessly for a local to arrive and take us home. Hundreds of us crawled to reach the stations in knee, waist, and chest deep waters, just to know that all local trains were cancelled. As I waited for three hours at the station, I looked around to see my fellow Mumbaikars trying their best to retain their zeal while the entire situation was yet to unfold.
The dabbawallas, who are renowned for their flawless meal delivery system, stood waiting too as their transport of choice was in shambles.
Then, there was a call that made its way through the crowd. A chartered bus was set to leave for Chembur and the Ghatkopar area and around a hundred pairs of feet immediately started following the conductor. The bus was parked at quite a distance and a handful of us made our way through the repulsive water to reach the spot. For those of you who follow Game Of Thrones, I can tell you that by the end of the day, my feet did look like a Whitewalker’s.
The arbitrarily set ticket price of ₹150 for the 20 km journey was the least of everyone’s concern. All we wanted was to somehow reach Ghatkopar in the hope that from there, maybe, just maybe, the metro will be able to get us closer to home.
The bus was full by the time we reached Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). And that was it. In the next two hours, our bus moved only a 100 metres. During this time, there were arguments for a refund with the conductor, calling out the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, comparing the situation to 26/07, jokes, vada pavs, and chai. All of this kept us going. Everyone was trying to see some hope within our despair.
There came a point where I became extremely restless and booked a single dorm bed in one of the very few budget hotels around the area. My purpose was to stay near a major station (CST) for easy access to aid in case of dire circumstances and to have a close proximity to the Western Line so that I could head home as soon as the local trains became operational.
I stocked myself up on dry snacks, and water, and headed to my hotel. However, my relief was short lived. The hotel in which I had a confirmed booking through a travel website, refused to acknowledge it stating that it was already full. While I argued with them suspecting that they might have given my room to someone else for more money, a couple of other people who had also booked the hotel online turned up. Supposedly there was a technical glitch between them and the hotel booking websites.
However, the travel website was supportive of my situation and offered me an upgraded room in the nearest available hotel, at Mohammad Ali Road, 2.7 kms from where I was. There was no other option and I knew I had to walk. And while I did, I could feel the survival instincts kick in. It’s times like these that give us a lot to reflect upon. I did not have a family to go back to, I was not ill, I didn’t have anyone to take care of, had no important professional obligation. I had nothing to hold me back from enjoying that walk, but people did.
There was nothing to be romanticized about the rain. It was a tremendous hassle, which transformed people and their miseries into a spectacle beaming incessantly on news channels. It must have horrified some, amused some others. It must have made some people pray, made some prepare, and made others thank their gods for being safe. But it brought the city most famous for its pace to a standstill.
The rain ripped away the glittering facade apart to unravel its stark vulnerability. It brought flashes of the 2005 disaster. It also brought forth an exemplary sense of camaraderie, where people came forward in large numbers to help fellow citizens. There was a sense of comfort in the numbers and in the spirit of Mumbaikars.
It definitely feels good to be back home after a day of unwanted adventures. This date, August 29, 2017, will be remembered for many monsoons to come
Photos provided by the author