August 01, 2005

It Poured Like Never Before

The flood in Mumbai has taken over 800 lives so far. Life has become a struggle for all those who are involved. And the situation does not seem to be imporving. It is at times like these, when facing an enemy who is beyond any control, that we see the resurgance of humanity. The collective effort of people, from all walks of life, to fight on, to help, to stay afloat, to defeat, to prosper. The following is an account, from Amit, one of my friends from college, who was unfortunate enough to be there, about the hardships which people face, and they overcome, which we can only imagine, sitting miles and miles away.

I had heard of natural calamities before, be it earthquake (in Latur, Usmanabad , uttarkashi) ,Tsunami etc and never imagined how it would feel to be in such situations.

It was Tuesday, 26Th July, me with my colleagues were in the office. Morning was normal and we never expected so horrible evening. Around 3.00 P.m we thought of leaving office coz it was raining since morning and there were news of trains not running at some places.

Two of my colleagues Mr. wagh (40 years old male )and Ciana (40 years old female) had already left around 2.00 PM for Kalyan and
Virar respectively. We got the news of trains being held from churchgate to Virar. V (remaining guys) didn't have any other option
but to stay back.Two more staffmembers Swati and Ananad decided to take their chances and left office hoping for the trains to start

It was around 6.00 PM when Mr. Wagh came back .The condition of Central Line and V.T was pathetic. Around 6.30 i could some how got through my colleague and friend Salim, who was struck at Matunga. He with two other collegues Arjun and Nerulkar was on the roof of Company's sumo.water was above 5 fts and it was pouring heavily. They towed the sumo for two kms after that decided to walk and reach andheri.Cars were floating at that place.Traffic was struck and sky was pouring like never before.Arjun was worried about Swati ( they are getting married next year) . There was huge problem in the mobile network but Some how our office landlines were working. so i was the only link between them.many other peolple had decided to walk.It was really difficult in the 5 fts water level , somehow they were managing by holding each other's hand. Many resisdents of that area came out to help them. But trust me till now I didn't understand the seriousness of the situation.

Expecting the trains to start by night we decided to go to nearby bar and then for a movie making most of the occasion. We were
enjoying as if nothing has happened.

Around 12 midnight i got call from Ciana who was struck at Andheri but some how managed to get shelter at one strangers house. Being the junior most in the office she calls me "baby". We were so helpless to do anything but speak, console and motivating her not to cry and assuring her that the condition would be fine. While coming back from theatre we saw hundreds of guys on the streets walking or sitting along side of footpath just killing time. Many people were still sitting and sleeping in trains waiting them to start. We got something (whatever remaining) to eat in one hotel and finally reached our office. My accounts officer's wife who works in nearby office had joined him in the office. Their 1-year-old son was alone in the house and being taken care by neighbours. Swati and Anand also came back.

We slept in the office,there was no other option!!!! Next morning On 27th July Salim called me and told what he went through and advised
not to leave office. Hey i didn't have anybody at home waiting for me but colleagues had wife, children, parents worried and waiting for them. Accounts officers with his wife and Swati decided to take chances. Also there was news of road traffic cleared upto Bandra. Till Dadar they were in touch but after that we lost their track.

After Lunch we all decided to take chances. We hired three taxis and headed towards bandra. After some time we lost track of each other. Around 5.00PM we three reached Bandra. As trains were running from Bandra to Virar. There were thousands of people of all age groups gathered around bandra, All in hope of trains starting soon . Although trains were running but the frequency was very low @one/hour. Western Highway was jammed so well the S.V road. First we took western Highway route, water was till our knees and some guys (who were returning )told us about the horrible flooded condition ahead. So we decided to take S.V road. There was a huge traffic jam there since yesterday. We were on streets just walking with many others. That was the time when i realized what is to face any natural calamaty and what my friend Salim faced. But It was great to see many people who were on street to help all of us with food, water, tea, traffic Etc.cheers to all those kids and to their parents for being such a great role model for them. I never liked Parle G biscuit but at that point of time this small cute little girl came & offered biscuit " Uncle Biscuit". Normally i hate being called uncle by any kid and instruct them to call bhaiya but at that point of time what could I have said except "God Bless u". I had taken my Lunch but there were many who really needed that biscuit.

I reached andheri around 6.30 P.M . I had never seen so peaceful and calm Andheri infact mumbai till now. Some autowalahs were charging tripple charges at this point of the time and making money.many were ready to pay the money but the number of autorikshaws were very less coz of unavailiability of gas and electricity.

On 28th July I spoke to all of my colleagues. They had reached their homes safetly. One of my friends parents came back after staying two days at their office.

Still Our panvel office is in pathetic condtion. Files and computers are floating in water. Water level is 6 fts above ground level. At
some places in Kalyan there is food supply problem. Some places are still flooded. Trains are running but not 100%ly. Although the
situation is getting better but who knows about the next hour!!!!!!!!!!!

I didn't face even 1% of what others or my friend Salim faced or would have faced if it had rained any longer but realized

How a biscuit could be so important sometime?
How important could it be to get a call from your friends or call our friends?
How important money could be at some point and just a peice of paper at other point?
How could be someone so selfish or selfless sometimes?
How important is to help or being helped by someone ?
How important is to love someone and loved by someone ?

What is to be in a situation (natural calamity) like this and most important how important it is to be a good human being sometime?

Amit Tiwari

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