October 9, 2017, was another usual day in Hyderabad – a calm morning and unexpected showers in the evening. It was around 8 PM when it started raining, a slow drizzle which eventually graduated into a heavy downpour for over an hour and then, just as suddenly as it had started, it got demoted to a light drizzle.
As the downpour graduated, the traffic slowed down. ‘Slowed down’ is a rather innocent word, I’ll take the privilege of using the word – snailed. I still didn’t find anything unusual. Rainy day, er, a ‘heavy’ two-hour-long spell and the traffic started to move even slower than snails. Nothing unusual at all.
In the office, I thoroughly enjoyed the rain, sipping a cup of coffee, waiting for the rain to tame. Once I was done with the coffee and the rain yielded, I got out, thanking the heavens that I had brought my umbrella and proceeded on my regular route to Cyber Towers Junction to get a cab, via the Cyber Gateway. I walked down the road in between Cyber Pearl and Cyber Gateway to reach the main road and took a prompt left towards Cyber Towers.
I kept walking on the road (you see, we don’t have a footpath there), playing hopscotch using all my effort to find a safe piece of earth for my foot, amidst the flowing water on the roads and the tires of the bikes, cars and autos. Funnily, this was nothing unusual either. Two hours of rain and we have jams and roads overflowing with water.
I crossed the road hoping to use the footpath on the other side of the road. “Ah, safe,” I thought. The next second I realised that there were scooters and bikes on the footpath. I smile “Another usual sight,” I thought. Hyderabadi two-wheeler drivers were at their wits again.
I kept a steady walk and finally reached the Cyber Towers Junction. Half the road towards Madhapur was brimming with people, vehicles didn’t get a chance to cross the road towards Madhapur. After waiting for several minutes and with no sign of any transport coming my way, I realised that it was better to keep walking and try my luck along the way.
I didn’t know what I was up against.
I kept walking, happy that I could ‘walk’ comfortably given that there weren’t any vehicles on the road. Those several hundred meters were a bliss. Finally, I saw the tail-end of standstill traffic. I started my hike, climbing over rocks, broken walls and heaps of granite chips on the road. It felt like a game – finding that piece of earth for my foot and hoping I wouldn’t plunge into a manhole or get my foot run over by a vehicle.
As the hike continued, I changed sides hoping for safer abode on the other side, but eventually, I realized that either side were no good. The traffic thinned and I looked over and saw that the whole road was inundated with waist deep water, with vehicles under water and people stranded on buildings. Sadly, this too was another usual sight, after a rainy two hours.
I kept walking and saw that both sides were now inundated. Water was gushing through the walkways in between the medians under the metro line. People got onto the medians and walked pillar to pillar. Women, children and men, crossed the pillar walking on the small projections around them as if balancing themselves on a rope. Well, the hike suddenly changed itself into an obstacle course. And to top it all, one of the walls of the median lying down as rubble. Well, I thought another usual sight, after all, such sights were all over the papers when it rained every year.
I managed to hike through to find the traffic standstill and more water on the road, all the way till Jubilee check-post. One good thing was after the Pedamma Temple there were hardly any vehicles on the road towards the Jubilee check-post. The road towards Hitech City was full of vehicles and water. It was a rainy two hours, all this was usual and bound to happen.
This was the situation in the IT Corridor that the city proudly flaunts. The conditions in other lesser known locations are best left to the imagination. Every ride on the road is like a game of Dirt Biking, thanks to the potholes. Every walk on the street is like a life-altering game of hopscotch, thanks to the manholes on the roads and the footpaths (in case you manage to find any).
After having seen several ‘usual’ sights, it got me thinking if it was a problem with me to see all this as usual. I reflected on what shouldn’t be usual.
What shouldn’t be usual is the contentment of authorities and their dismissal of distress as usual. Governments and authorities should not test the resilience of its citizens. Unless there is a high casualty figure in terms of a number of deaths or economic losses, governments don’t spring into action. This is not the first time Hyderabad has had such heavy rains, cases of inundation have been occurring time and again during the rains each year. Last year, people went through the same hassles as they are having to go through this year.
If the government cannot be proactive, at least be reactive. All we get to see is lethargy and extreme complacency. I doubt if all that I’ve said would have any impact on those who run the government because this is a citizen’s rhetoric, just like their rhetoric at the time of polls. Alas, public memory is short-lived.
There are several campaigns on the internet asking the state to return the money collected as taxes if roads are not repaired in six months. But they would be laid, within several months, as has been the case last year. It’s just that the lifespan of Hyderabad’s roads is a rain away. This reveals the fact that government spending creates an infrastructure of inferior quality. It’s not just the roads but this is the case with most services the government provides.
If we are to live with the contentment of – “kuch na hone se ye acha hai (something is better than nothing)” then we shouldn’t aim to brand ourselves as a global city. And if we do, then we should be ready to brace first world problems and shed the third world attitude.