Friday, July 29, 2005


its friday.. its been three days of an emotional rollercoaster since the big rains hit on tuesday afternoon. i am sure everyone has heard all the war stories that have been doing the rounds since that day.. here is my contribution for all that it is worth.

thoug it has been very tough indeed- especially trying to come to terms with the devastation of the office (more on that later) i must admit that i am luckier than some of the other unfortunates who have lost people they love in the landslides or are missing washed away in the rivers that flowed in place of the streets or whose entire homes no longer exist.

it is one thing to apprehend these things conceptually in the abstract space of the the television screen, but quite another thing to see the aftermath on the streets in the morning after. a landscape of abandoned cars left on the streets, trees uprooted, dirt everywhere and plastic bags of every description caught in fences, branches..

kaifi azmi park near college completely destroyed

anyways my own story begins on tuesday when we were at pauls’ table discussing the ‘urban flashes’ workshop. it was three o clock and the rains outside looked ominous enough for sharmishta to crack a joke about having dinner at college. we brushed it aside of course, but as i started driving to the office i realized that it was actually much worse than i had imagined.

both access roads to the office were completely flooded and i needed to get home as soon as i could. after getting caught in a jam at fame adlabs, i deciced to try the highway and was caught for two hours on juhu versova link road in a completely stationary jam. the stories that were coming down from the junction up ahead were that there was chest high water there and the traffic would not move until next morning. so i turned around and went to rahuls house where i finally spent the night alone with no electricity and only the few snacks that they had at home for food.

by that time the initial anxiety had given way to a mad humor that was all over the streets. people were in terrific moods and joking away about their plight.

it was the same the next day when i tried to get out of four bungalows by driving through 4 feet of water in the market street. the car of course stopped. and i had to push it through the water to the nearest junction where i saw that every street out of there was completely flooded except one going towards lokhandwala. my car of course would not start so i went back to rahuls house and rested there for another hour before attempting to get back.

four bungalows market street

my car drove through this - almost..

having trudged back and forth through the water four times, the car finally started (jai maruti zen!) and i managed to get back to borivili in another 2 hours. on the way i gave a ride to two snazziliy dressed soaked gujarati kids who were on their way back walking all the way from churchgate to kandivili.

through all this the phone lines were completely dead and i could not talk to anyone. somehow i had learnt that mom was at usha maushis at powai and dad was spending the night at kurla itself. luckily mukul was at home and had not ventured out though his brother had got himself caught at thane. the last i heard from amit was when he was walking in churchgate the previous day and i was was quite worried about him.

when i got home my parents were already there, dad having walked all the way from vidyavihar to marol, and mom having changed three buses. mom had a cool story, the bus that she got into had another woman passenger who excitedly was calling up her friends to tell them that the buses had started plying, when the conductor shouted at her,” don’t go around telling people lies! this bus started yesterday!”

the next day i got a call from amit that the office was a total disaster. he was almost crying over the phone. saurabh, me and mukul got to andheri as soon as we could- and amit was right. it was a truly awful experience walking into the space into which we had spent so much of our time and care and watch it in the state it was. from the marks on the wall there had been at least 5 feet of water inside the office, which meant that all the computers, the refrigerator, the furniture, the furnishings- everything- absolutely everything was completely destroyed. there was almost nothing salvageable. a layer of brown mud was all over everything. though at that time i was trying to merely manage the disaster- a wave of sadness hit me hard later. it was not so much the money that we had spent on it, but the complete decimation of a concept that i found extremely tough to swallow. it just makes it so hard to be able to reconstruct everything again.

anyways, we cleaned up as much as we could. the monitors were taken to amits place for drying and the cpus we took to anands office in borivili east hoping that at least the data (all my music- 40 gb of it- my life) could be salvaged.

the shocking state of the office

brown slime all over the waiting area

the long arduous process of cleaning begins

amit and saurabh standing outside the office with all the stuff from within

saurabh in mukuls bac seat with our precious computers on the way to anands office

the slum along dahisar river- complete devastation

people watching the state of the slum from the flyover above

on the way back we came via the slum along the dahisar river and what i saw there was devastating. food grain on the streets, entire houses collapsed, people sitting in homes that once were- all their belongings in disarray. i got home very disturbed and was further annoyed when the electricity went. was in a very very black mood all day and spent the night at mukuls.

today morning at the insistence of paul i got to college, in spite of knowing that there would be absolutely no one there. 4 faculty members and 9 students- a completely pointless exercise that trip turned out to be. got home and decided that i was going to watch movies all day and i did. more about them later, i guess.

its been a strange few days. disasters bring out the worst and the best in people. i think all of us saw people in panic, anxiety.. people going out of their way to help others.. or not.. laughing away at the ridiculous nature of it all.. or crying at the state of their homes. i think it is only once the storm has gone that i am actually able to feel the real impact on the streets. i heard all the stories everyone told me- surreal things they saw- roads turning into rivers, people being washed away, hundreds of cars with their lights on under water, i am numb with these tales that and the images.

everyone is taking about how amazing it is that the city is back on its feet the next day. i guess that it is admirable, though i am sick of the ‘spirit of mumbai’ talk.. its become such a cliché.. i just hope that everyone is able to put this behind them quickly.. amit says we must- right now!.. i am giving myself inspirational speeches like american coaches in locker rooms.. i am hoping they work.. but right now i am also hoping that everyone i know is safe and dry..

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