The rains came to Mumbai with a roll of thunder and a lot of chaos. It was 31 May and it had been pouring relentlessly, all day. It was 7 PM, an hour past the time I usually leave work. My friend Ankhi and I rushed to Thane station, in order to get home as soon as we could. There we encountered the first bad news of the day. The trains had stopped running. Ankhi and I decided that we would take a bus to Check Naka and from there, board another bus to Mumbai. Half-way there, we got stuck in a traffic-jam, stretching on for miles. And this was in Thane, a city where the roads are as wide as the gallies in Mumbai or Delhi. Ankhi and I waited patiently for 20 minutes. Then it became too much…the traffic seemed like it was frozen for eternity, the rain refused to abate and we were getting more and more anxious to get home.
Finally, we decided to just get off the bus and walk to the Naka. Once there, we had to face up to the ordeal of actually catching a bus home. So many buses came, but we couldn’t board a single one. Everyone who was stranded due to the rains in Thane was taking the buses and there was no way the two of us could shove and fight all those hefty men and women in order to board a bus.
Just then, our friends Ujjayini and Sagorika called. They had hired a cab from Check Naka to Sion for 200 bucks. I liked the idea, but Ankhi was a little wary of spending all that money. She persuaded me to go back to our office from where we could take the 9 o’clock bus to Chembur.
When we reached office, Sago and Ujju called again to tell us that the Eastern Express Highway was free of both water and traffic. At the same time, our boss, Devang, informed us that the bus might not come at all. We were in two minds. Finally I decided to take an auto to Check Naka again and from there take a cab to Mumbai. Ankhi decided to risk the bus. I tried to dissuade her, but she refused to listen. I gave up and pushed off. I was, of course, a little scared to take a cab all alone, especially as I would be using the deserted highway. But I was even more anxious to just get home. In any case, Devang had given me plenty of money and two of my colleagues, who live in Thane, had given me their phone numbers, in case of an emergency.
When I was already on my way, Ankhi called to tell me that the bus was definitely not coming. I got so mad at her! I had told her to come with me earlier, but no! She wouldn’t listen! Anyway, she apologized and I told her to come to Check Naka immediately.
At Check Naka, the cabbies and autowallahs were having a field day. They were charging exorbitant rates to take us to Mumbai. We refused flatly. Who would pay 150 Rs. per head by auto and 500 Rs. by cab?!?
We walked on and finally caught an auto, which would charge us according to the meter. We set off, feeling very jubilant. But of course, when things can go wrong they will. I was just telling Ankhi that I hoped the auto wouldn’t breakdown, when it did. Right in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Vikhroli. We looked at each other in dismay. All sorts of horrible thoughts came to my head….it was a lonely spot, we were two young girls with no knowledge of karate or ju-jitsu and anytime, anything could happen.
Just then, something did happen. Fortunately, it was another auto, empty. We eagerly stopped it, paid the first auto and then set off homewards, once more. This time we did manage to get home. It was 10:45, when I was wearily ringing the doorbell of my house.
What a harrowing experience that had been! The rains shouldn’t make things so difficult. Every year, the same parts of the city get flooded and every year the railway system gets paralyzed. One would imagine that by now the authorities know what the problem is and where it lies and that they would do something about it. But do they? No…of course not!
In any case, three to four months of uncertainty lie ahead…will July 26, 2005 be repeated? And mind you…these were, as the weather bureau called them, just the ‘pre-monsoon showers.’