Friday, July 29, 2005

The Graveyard Shift...

Ideally I would’ve liked to have this post up as early as possible but due to connectivity problems and electricity fluctuations it comes a few days late. The whole experience has been tiring, mentally and physically exhausting. Mumbai they say is not a planned city and the way it is expanding with no disaster management in place, it looks like a ticking time-bomb. Mumbai faced its first of a kind, natural calamity on 26th July, 2005

I’m proud the way the common man handled it and faced every hurdle and most appalled by our authorities. The Government, The BMC, the MMRDA, The Police, The Firemen, The Special Squad, the Great Mobile Networks. Anytime Anywhere is what all of them preach, Nonsense (and trust me that is a mild word I use for all of them) Not one connection was working when people needed to get in touch badly and none worked till afternoon on 27th July! What great technology, 24 hours on, are we talking about? If you cannot work at times like this, we really could without any of them!

After hearing the experiences people went through including my dear sister-in-law I felt really lucky! I was stranded in office along with 300 odd colleagues and we spent the night at our office. First the AC and lifts were off, then systems were shut down (My only connectivity to the outside world, and that was also taken away) and then lights went off on all floors except the ground and 1st floor to conserve energy. Our canteen guys handled the situation well and kept serving us hot upma and later dinner. Not that we ate much due to being tense but their effort was appreciated. The Security guys were up all night guarding the office and taking care of our needs. Not one slept a wink the whole night.

People kept the spirits up by playing Antakshari, Dumb Charades, and talking into the night. None gave up any hope and everyone was sure Mumbai would be fine by next morning, only if the rain stopped. The rain had come crashing down since 2.00 in the afternoon and continued non-stop till 2.00 in the night. It was devilish, it was pouring, and it was destructive!!! In my 25 years in Mumbai I have never seen rains like this and the old generation, the likes of my granny said they had seen nothing like this in their entire life spent in this city!!

At our office the Admin people were hurrying around frantically, assessing the situation every hour, to decide what time would be suitable to send people off in the buses. They finally got us out at 5.00 a.m. on 27th July and I reached home at 7.00 a.m. safe and sound! Much lucky compared to those who struggled their way home.

Water flooded at most places and people waded through neck-deep water. Highways were jammed, trees broke down, walls came crashing, trucks toppled, cars floated and there were scenes of destruction everywhere! It was scary, it was frightening and seemed like it would not stop. Public services came to a standstill and traffic refused to budge. People left their vehicles and started their walk home, along the roads, along the railway tracks. People walked all the way from V.T. to Thane and Churchgate to Dahisar, i.e. almost 50 Kms. They started their journey back home at 3.00 in the afternoon on 26th July and reached home on 27th July at 3.00 in the afternoon!!!

No person gave up, they fought, they fought hard, and they were not fighting the rain god. They fought our stupid authorities who as always failed to be ready for the rains. These authorities relax and have their way and only the common man suffers. People will be agitated for few days, authorities will inspect few troubled areas and life will be same again. Nothing will be done to preempt disasters like this. The common man will continue to suffer! It’s really appalling that the authorities did not realize the enormity of things that were taking shape and no relief operations were started! People sought their own!!!

My dear sis-in-law walked bare feet form Andheri to Borivali. She lost her chappals in the water at Andheri owing to the strong force, she was caught between the devil and deep blue sea when she realized she could not return back to office nor come near mine. She walked the whole night taking some stops in between and finally reached home at 8.00 in the morning. She was so shocked from her ordeal that it took her sometime to tell us about her journey home. She was fine after that, she was just happy to be home!

People helped each other in this tragedy and that was the most heartening aspect. Mumbai is one big pool of water right now. I don’t know how soon we will recover from this. But the common man has learnt to fight and he will survive.

26th July was one of the days which tested the survival of the fittest and most passed the test!! There is something about this city and its spirit that is united, endearing, warm, compassionate and really special. It is our good old Mumbai.

However that does not mean our authorities slack and relax. This just a warning of bigger things that could happen. If we do not learn lessons from this downpour which was the highest ever recorded in the country, higher than Cherrapunji at 94 cm I doubt how long Mumbaites will sustain these disasters!!!

Is anyone listening there????

P.S: In a discussion in office a friend pointed out Minal what’s with 26 and India? I don’t believe in these things but seriously what is the link?
26th Dec 2004: Tsunami,
26th Jan 2001: Gujarat Earthquake,
26th August: Latur Earthquake
26th July, 2005: Mumbai Faces its worst rainfall ever!



5 comments:

Anshul said...

Why couldn't the damn TV stations air a HUGE WARNING before the rains came in. Atleast some people would have stayed at home and not faced the worst storm in Indian history. Shame on the authorities and puppy shame on the damn media. If I were there I would go spray paint this all over Mumbai's politicians' homes (ofcourse after the water levels subside and all the rescue and clean up operations are taken care of). Side by side, one good thing would be if people of India in localities set up their own disaster planning committees and disaster relief forces with trained volunteers. Also awareness through fliers, door to door and public announcements about how to survive something like this would be a good thing. If the authorities can't do squat I think we ought to take it in our own hands to save our lives.

Marginalien said...

Congrats to you, your sister-in-law and all the thousands of hard-working commuters who just did what they had to do. It is so sad there are no medals for this kind of bravery -- the ordinary bravery of coping against impossible odds, for no real reward other than just getting home, getting dry, being safe. Wow.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Minal said...

Hi Mr. Maverick Anonymous,

Kindly be brave enough to post your name. Reveal your identity.
I believe I helped as much as I could and within my abilities. I need not justify to an anonymous commentator like you.

People in power have been given a certain responsibilty, as a citizen I try not to fall short of my responsibilities, I don't blame people unless it is warranted and definitely not if I've fallen short on my front.

Please do not form impressions sitting in an AC office about people just cause they were among the few lucky ones to get home safely.

Everyone has their own troubles and sufferrings to go through and yes from wherever you are, you find the spirit to handle it.

And by the way looks like you know me, though I can't make out who you are, and if you do, you ought to know that I'm not among those who blame others for the misery I encounter, so if I've blamed the authorities it's after a lot of thinking!

Now you think about it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Minal,

Thanks for the comments, Im glad you read them. Though I am a little disappointed that you deleted the post from the blog, I would have preferred the other regular visitors here to have read it. Anyways, your call. It kind of makes me feel you agreed with most of it.

Everyone has a responsibility towards improving the system, not just the authorities. I would be deeply greatful if you can tell me what in "your capacity" have you done? Yes the people in power have that responsibility, and I only hope this serves as a big lesson to all. But please do not take this personally, all I meant was that they way we have treated our city is as if it is a big garbage bin. And for this all are equally to blame, so stop pointing fingers.

The case of the River Mithi being filled up, which is being blamed as a cause is certainly a black spot in the authorities books. I feel sad to say this, but there has been a prophecy, that one day, Mumbai will sink and be wiped off India's map. I only hope the right people take this matter seriously and stop blaming one and all for the causes and effects.

Its very easy to pass comments and put shame on others. And its not only people here, but even those sitting in the USA who do this as much. They pass comments and their oh-so-valueable suggestions. But would finally prefer being there. Please stop posting such gibberish here from such folks. If you can, then come here and make this a better place else please keep your priceless advices and suggestions to yourself.

I know that you do not blame anyone for your misery. You are a wonderful person and a great friend. Please dont take this personally, im not against you, Im only against the mental thought process of starting to point fingers whenever a calamity strikes.

Finally, you do not need to justify anything to an anonymous commentator like me. Im not afraid of anyone, but some things are better left unsaid.

Take care,
Maverick