26/7: Some memories...

The memories of the Deluge that Marooned Mumbai - The financial capital of India - for about 2 weeks is still fresh in the minds of most "mumbaikars"! This fateful day happened on 26-July-2005 when it rained about 944 mm. This is the maximum rainfall recieved at one place on a single day in Asia. Thus Mumbai set a "One Day International" Record! On the fateful day, my friends and myself were sitting in the college library near a window. We were enjoying the cool breeze and the non-stop rainfall which hadn't stopped since morning. One of my friends suggested that we should go home while the remaining of us (we were 4 in all) protested! We had a practical that noon and I did not want to miss it. Just minutes after the practical started, the lab had water all around. (No! That was not a flood but the windows were leaking! We were on the second floor). Our teacher wasn't ready to let us go! Finally after "rounds" of talks and protests, we were finally allowed to leave at about 1530. We quickly packed bags and reached the college gate at 1600. There was no way to get out of the college! The roads were flooded and there was a strong current of water rushing down the Yeoor hills located right behind the college! We somehow managed to cross the flood waters without realising the danger!
We formed a group of 4 and slowly walked towards Thane, the nearest railway station, which is about 13 kilometres from College. Bus services had almost come to a standstill. The flood waters had already broken the dividers present on the road. Some shanties in the nearby slum had already been swept away. There was knee deep water and very strong under currents. To our fortune, two buses (both bound to thane) came by and the second one stopped for us. The lowest step of the bus was almost underwater! The lowest step of the bus is more than 1 metre above road level! The bus "waded" through flooded waters. The courage of the driver surely needs recognition! He drove through "invisible" roads but ensured that all passengers are safe. The journey took almost 2 hours but we reached Thane very safely. The phone lines were dead and this made the situation more dramatic and anxious moments followed!
I was on my toes and rushed to the bus terminus to board the next bus towards my home! Unfortunately, bus services were totally cancelled! There are two transport companies - One owned by the local Municipal Corporation (Navi Mumbai Municipal Transport a.k.a NMMT) and the other owned by the state government (Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation a.k.a MSRTC) - operating towards my residence from Thane. MSRTC had shut their control room and instead put up a board saying that the services are cancelled due to flooding of roads. The control room of NMMT was open, and one of their buses was waiting there. But the authorities weren't ready to allow the bus to run since the roads were totally flooded and minutes back one of their buses was overturned by the undercurrents!
Angry and anxious passengers waiting for a bus were shouting at the "Timekeeper" present at the control room of NMMT. Finally after much "heated" arguments, the authorities finally announced that the bus would depart - but at the passengers risk! They said that the bus would run to Vashi - the "capital" of Navi Mumbai - and would run only upto the point where the bus can reach safely! The driver and the conductor walked towards the bus, I followed them. As soon as they started the bus, I jumped in and "grabbed" a window seat! The bus was full in minutes and passengers had not spared even an inch of standing space. People were overflowing from both the entrances of the bus and passengers were grabbing on to what ever support they got! The conductor had a tough time negotiating the crowd and issue tickets. He finally succeded in doing it! The driver was driving at a speed not exceeding 40 kmph. He negotiated flooded roads very cautiously and reached a point where the water current was high and he was in a state of confusion - whether to drive or to abort! Finally after much persuation from passengers, he drove. It was getting dark. The 23 kilometre journey started at 1830, and even at 2130 there was no signs of it getting over!!! I was very hungry but had nothing to eat. We were held up at a traffic block for the past hour. Finally at about 2230, the conductor suggested us to make a group of passengers travelling towards the same destination, and walk down! We did it.
The water was knee deep in most places and was upto waist deep at many! It took almost an hours' walk for me to reach a place which was not flooded! There was a scene of chaos all-over. Many buses had water entering its engine and were stranded in water! To my fortune, a bus came my way and the driver did not know the way ahead! Since the bus was going towards my home, i suggested to help him! He dropped me near my home in exchange! The driver was talking of his mis-fortune. He had left the depot in the morning with the bus. This bus had left its origin (Dadar in Mumbai) in the noon, and had covered half the distance only by night! He said that water seemed to have entered the brake drums, the headlight was insufficient and what not! On reaching a point about 400 metres from my home, i got down from the bus and walked home!
The road to my home was flooded with knee deep water, and i finally waded through and made it to my home at 0030 in the night! A 39-kilometre journey took 8 hours to complete!!! The deluge blessed us with a week long vacation for college!!!

This post has been reproduced from my "now defunct" blog - "A Budding Pharmacist". Post was originally posted there on July 03, 2006.


Anonymous said…
Thank god you reached safely Binai!! I wonder wouldn't it have been more prudent to just stay at Parshvanath College instead? On that fateful day, many lives could have been saved if people could have just accepted that they will be away from home for one night. There was a mad rush to "get back home", a journey which many never completed.