Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Salaam Bombay!

Got back to work after my week in Bombay and people looked up at me as if I have just risen from the dead! Well... almost actually. The flight home was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride at Disneyland. I think I might have developed a severe case of phobia towards flying. The whole duration of the flight I kept praying and striking bargains with my God. After that ordeal, I am inclined to agree that I have indeed come back from the dead!

I had been looking forward to my 8 days of relaxation in Bombay and what I got was 8 days of tumult... first there was the news of the Hero Honda workers being lathi-charged leaving hundreds of workers injured, followed by THE RAINS, close on its heels came the fire at Bombay High and the landslides, the next day it was the rumor about the tsunami bringing the stampede in its wake, the next day it was the Air India airplane skid at the airport...

Coming from the safe and rather uneventful (praise the Lord for that!) city of Singapore where a person falling off his bicycle makes it to the national newspaper and the NKF scandal was the most exciting thing that has happened in more than half a year... this constant barrage of news was an obvious overdose.

The rains did wash out all my plans, though the upside was I spent a lot of time at home, rather than rushing around shopping, watching all the movies and trying out all the latest eateries in town! And well, what can one say about the rains... 94.4 cms of rain in a day (beats Cherrapunji's record of 83.6 cms)!! Everybody I knew had a story or two to narrate of how he or she was stuck in the rain, on the bandra kurla flyover or the saki naka road for 50 years with no food or water or how their house was floating on a thousand feet of water which had accummulated in the backyard. My last glimpse of Bombay from the airplane was an ocean of water and Noah's ark floating by.

Anyways compared to all the horrendous and heroic stories I have sat through, my own stuck-in-the-bombay-floods story is very bland. The rains started quite tamely, but were soon raging... though we all thought it was just another Mumbai rainy day. So in high spirits and with one-liners on how one must keep one's adventurous spirit alive and how it is sooo romantic and such fun to go out in the rain, sis and AG and I dragged mom and dad to accompany us to the nearby mall. Now this mall is just a 15 minutes drive from home, but it took us an hour and by the time we reached there, we had seen enough destruction to convince us this was no normal rainy day, something big was afoot and we need to head home pronto. Getting back home was something which needed the 5 of us to pray collectively and fervently, invoking all the gods we knew and listing out to them all the good deeds we had ever done. Almost 4-5 hours after we left, we got back home, walked to the lift in knee deep water, saw that the lift was drowning and left it there to climb the stairs and get home. No electricity (this is a rarity in our area in Bombay) and the phone's landline connection was dead! Spent the next 3-4 hours calling up everyone we knew to find out their whereabouts and playing Russian Rummy (this is my favorite card game after Bluff).

Mercifully it was cool enough to sleep without the fan or the A/c and the rains had wiped out all mosquitoes too alongwith thousands of cows, buffaloes, sheep and goat. The building grounds by then were 5 feet deep in water and only the tops of the cars were peeking out. Somewhere at 3:00 in the morning we got up to find our noses assailed by the smell of petrol... to our fright, we realised that the petrol tanks of the cars parked below had leaked!! The water by now had entered the houses of the people on the ground floor and all it would take was a single spark for one of the cars to blow up in true bollywood-ishtyle. As if that was not enough one of the cars started and for the next few hours we were treated to the rather silly roars of a car grumbling by itself, which it then topped with the bleating of its horn!!

The next morning the water drained away and life around our home slowly got back to normal... electricity and water supply were restored and phones sprung back to life. But the following 4 days, news kept pouring in about the rains and the massive destruction they had perpetrated. Amidst all that heartrending news and stories of misery and helplessness, there were scores of heartwarming tales of good samaritans who went out of their way (some risking their own lives) to help their fellow Bombayites. Time and again Bombay has displayed her resilience and her indomitable spirit and in every calamity her large-heartedness has shone through. Every time bad news strikes, Bombay has pulled through with an undying determination and an uncommon unity. All around and daily... people stop to help, do their bit. You see evidence of it when you travel by the crowded local trains... hands stretch out to pull you in as you run to catch the train and then someone else holds you fast as you hang on at the door for dear life. The same spirit pulls the city through dark times and difficult days. Truly... the city is a survivor and a fighter. Here roads are not paved in gold but in her bosom Bombay harbors a heart of gold! Salaam Bombay!!