Don’t we just love the time of the year, when the monsoon arrives? The long drives, hot tea, and pakoras, the pitter-patter of the raindrops on the windows and roofs. But with all this, also comes the memories of what happened 12 years ago. Yes, exactly 12 years ago the fateful day of ‘26th July’ took place. It was the day when the whole city of Mumbai came to a standstill. With no power and networks for almost two days, the people of Mumbai made sure that they keep their calm, help the ones in need and make sure everyone reaches home safely.
The worst monsoon day in the history of Mumbai. Never ever have we witnessed such a situation. A day that most people preferred their legs to their wheels. Some papers claimed that this was the highest recorded rainfall ever in India. Whatever be the truth, it certainly was the highest that Mumbai witnessed and people had to go through a lot of trouble. People were walking through the flooded streets like zombies. Most vehicles have broken down and others drowned. Houses were destroyed in the fast-rising waters, and in some localities, even two-storied houses were submerged underwater. Despite all the wreckage, both physical and mental, Mumbai lived up to its name. People helped each other, as Mumbaikars always do in times of trouble. Strangers were offering a helping hand to anyone and everyone, giving shelter and tea, water, and food at regular intervals to passersby wading through neck-deep rodent and snake-infested water as they made their perilous journey towards home. Most have been walking for a minimum of 10 hours, and unfortunately, some never made it home, being swept away in fast-flowing drains that they fell into because of the open manholes. And to make life even more miserable there was no transportation, no fixed or mobile communication and no electricity. Maybe having no electricity was a good thing; else many would have been electrocuted where naked live wires would have touched water.
This is what happened that day in the life of our protagonist of this short story.
Subhash was still in office, finishing off his task for that day (July 26). The rain had been slashing Mumbai since early morning. At first, people ignored it, thinking it to be a usual monsoon day, maybe the worst being that the trains would stop running. But by noon people could sense that this was different. Water was rising on the roads, and the rain showed no sign of letting up. The alarm bells started to ring in the minds of the HR personnel in the offices and factories. Something had to be decided urgently and finally, all offices asked employees to stop working around 2 pm and leave for home. He had a few pending emails to send and to intimate his colleagues overseas that he would be leaving early on account of floods. He took about half an hour to finish those and started to leave the office. As expected, the first casualty of rains in Mumbai, the local train services (a.k.a. the lifeline of Mumbai) had already been discontinued. Cell phone networks and emergency services also stopped functioning. No one could make or receive any calls. Mumbaikars were now on their own, and he could feel the loneliness creeping up his heart and sending a shiver through his spine.
He somehow reached the highway, which is built on an elevated ground, and to his amazement and horror found that the road was already about 4-5 feet deep in water. Buses were stranded with passengers inside with no option to step out on the flooded road, with abandoned cars floating around in floodwater.
He tried to wade through the waterlogged roads not able to differentiate between roads and drains, he hoped his next step would not be his last. After about 2 hours he reached Vashi, which was some 10 k.ms. from his office that he set out from. Vashi was the nearest hub, where he had hoped he could buy food and maybe, if he was lucky, get transport. But on reaching Vashi he had to face disappointment again. Buses that were standing in the bus stand had water reaching up to their windows. There was no place for him to stand or take shelter as the roofs were leaking as well. He started walking again not minding the downpour as he was already fully drenched.
He waded through the water and reached his Hostel room by 7 p.m. The city by now was enveloped in darkness, as there was no power. His phone was fully wet and as the mobile network was down, he was unable to connect with his friends or his family. Since all shops and restaurants were closed, he was starving with no food to eat. The last meal had been the unfinished breakfast that he had hurriedly. The dabbawallah who used to deliver his dinner also had not turned up due to rains. With an empty stomach and tired body and mind, he slipped into sleep.
He was startled by a knock on his door. He looked at his watch, which thankfully was the only thing that was working, and the time showed 1 a.m. He opened the door wondering who it would be, maybe a friend from the adjacent room perhaps. Looking out into the darkness he could make an outline of a person wearing a black raincoat. The person had in one hand a torch and on the other hand, there was some bag. To his wonder, it was his dabbawallah with his food box. The Dabbawallah fully drenched had cycled through the deep waters and delivered the food to the hostel knowing that his customers must not have had anything to eat. The dabbawallah was a true professional and did not fail his profession even under the most trying circumstances. This is what Mumbaikars are made of.
The rain lasted for three days. The next day, waterlogged roads and he could not go anywhere. He dried his phone as water has gone inside it. After drying, he put the mobile accessories back but still there were no mobile networks. On the third day, the mobile networks resumed operating, he started receiving the calls from his anxiety parents and friends from Mumbai and all over India. They said they saw it in the news how severe the situation was in Mumbai. They were really worried about him. All he could say to them as he was safe and not to worry.
In Mumbai, Situations were even worst. The rain waters rose up till the 2nd floor in the apartments. Buses and vehicles were drowned in Mumbai. Many people lost their lives by falling to drain. These happenings were displayed on the news the next day. In Navi Mumbai, there were no severe effects and situations were normal.
How trivial the fight he had and how such issues in the whole scheme of things don’t matter. He realized that his parents and his loved ones loved him no matter what.
True Facts about Mumbai Rains 2005:
On 26th July, by 2 pm, the city was drenched in heavy rains.
In 24 hours, a record of 994 mm of rainfall was recorded.
It was the worst rainfall in 31 years in the city of Mumbai.
The Horror Story of 2005:
By 5 pm, phone networks went off, and getting in touch with anyone became impossible.
Around 1.5 lakh commuters were stranded at C.S.T and Churchgate Station alone!
The City went powerless by the end of the day leaving everything in darkness.
1094 people lost their lives that day.
Dead bodies of 24,000 animals were disposed of.
The Time When Mumbai United:
Community kitchens were started and free food was provided by the citizens of Mumbai.
Lakh of food packets were distributed throughout the city.
Over 25,000 people were provided relief at 15 locations across the city.
The fire brigade and rescue team rescued around 3700 people.
Traffic Police cleared 26000 stuck vehicles the next day.
Strangers helped strangers.
The city was back on its feet the next day. That’s the spirit of Mumbai.
Salutes to Mumbaikar.
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