A Harrowing Experience

What began as a simple trip back home turned into a nightmare last night.  I was on my way back home from work yesterday. When it began raining. Ironically, just before I left office  I wrote a blog post expressing my distress on the lack of rains this year. I didn’t get the time to put it on my blog, I though I would put it up at home. A few hours after I left office, there was no need to.   All was well till the time that we entered Vashi. Just as we crossed the creek and entered the city, suddenly the intensity of the rain increased. I got a call from home asking me to call back if I don’t find an auto so that my mum could come and pick me up. I got off at my bus stop , couldn’t locate an available auto but instead of calling home decided to walk some distance in the home of finding an auto in the next auto stand. After walking for about 8 minutes, finding no auto and having become completely drenched, I decided to call home. One phone call later my mother was on her way to rescue me. I waited for more than 20 minutes, but there was no sight of my mom or the car. Naturally I grew worried. She  called to say that the roads were beginning to get flooded which was making driving difficult but she was on her way. I told her I would be walking towards the post office and would meet her there. The post office is away from the main road so I thought the traffic would be less and driving back would become easier. Ten minutes later, after having waded through calf-high, dirty, muddy, cold water I reached the post office, spotted our car and quickly got into it. Avoiding the main road, which was already flooded as my mother had found out on the way to the post office, we took an alternate, parallel road that generally has lesser traffic and is often the fastest means to get home in the peak hours. As we continued driving the water level on the road  began steadily increasing. Visibility was very low. Twilight had given way to nightfall. The street lights were not working. The rain was pelting down hard on the roof of the car. The only sounds that could be heard were that of car horns, the rain falling on the metal roof and people accelerating their car engines in order to force the car to move against the forceful current of the water. It got so bad that it was practically impossible to see where one was driving and the road was gaining the shape of a river. We took a quick decision, driving in such conditions was too risky. People with big SUVs were alright, but our little Alto would not survive this ordeal. We drove into the first building that we came across on our left. Two young boys were hanging around in the building compound. We explained to them our problem and asked if we could park our car for sometime in their compound. We told them that we lived in the next sector  and that the conditions are absolutely unsuited for driving. They weren’t too keen but informed us that we could stay in the compound along with the car for half an hour or so. We were surprised at their reluctance to extend help but we were simply not ready to drive on, so we took whatever little help they offered. Their parking lot was almost  empty with only two slots occupied. There must have been space for some 12 more cars. Some thirty-five minutes later, things had only gotten worse. The road was now a full fledged river. The electricity had gone off, plunging the whole area into darkness. We were wet, cold, hungry and tired. The strong winds were contributing their bit to the already terrible situation. It was already 9.30 and we were no where close to reaching home. The boys kept dropping hints that we couldn’t park there for long and that we should find an alternative. They suggested we should go out and survey the road and if it looks better(as if that was possible!) drive back home. He flatly refused to let us park in the night. We went out and took a quick walk to gauge the situation. It didn’t look to good. But we weren’t too comfortable keeping the car parked in their compound either. Firstly because they kept insisting that the “rules” didn’t allow it. Secondly because not once did they had already refused to help us .Plus their attitude was rather disturbing, because of which we were not comfortable requesting the to keep our car for the night. Their attitude showed that it was very likely that they would call us in the middle of the night and ask us to remove our car. If things got even worse at that time, what would we do then? So we decided to brave it.We drove at 10kmph for a distance of may be a quarter of a kilometer, when the water rose and began coming into the car. That was the second low point of the evening( the first being when we were not allowed to take shelter in the building). We drove to the side of the road and stopped. We stepped out of the car and found ourselves in 3 feet deep water. The whole situation was extremely scary. It looked and felt straight out of a horror movie. Water all around. Not a single source of light. And a number of cars stranded at various points along the road.  We found a man in a car about 2 feet away from us. We could see is car was filling up with water, but he looked totally unconcerned with the development. Mom knocked at his window and told him to come out. In the deluge of 2005, a lot of people died because they go locked in their cars and couldn’t get out. This scene looked frighteningly similar. The man, however, wasn’t interested in coming out. He told us he wanted to make phone calls and fished out his cell phone. Seeing his strange reaction, we let him be.  A Maruti 800 stopped behind our car. We saw smoke coming out of the car’s engine and shouted to alert the driver. Being lower than the Alto, we could see it was also getting flooded. But the couple in the car were least concerned. They were too busy making out to bother about the water pooling at their feet or the smoke coming out of the car. The girl coolly told us ” its ok, we are fine inside the car”. We were too shocked for words. Were people deliberately trying to get themselves killed today?! The couple remained in the car and after sometime the smoke from the engine stopped.  We waited around the car for forty minutes or so. We scouted around for a safer and higher place to park the car but found none. People had abandoned their cars on the road and walked home. We did the same.  We reached home at 10.30, prepared and ate dinner. At midnight we set out again to go and find our car. I kept getting this horrible image of the car having floated away. Fortunately we found it where we had left it. The water had receded quite a bit and the electricity was back. We opened the bonnet to check things out. It looked ok so we said a quick prayer and tried the ignition key. It worked! The car was running!! A car’s running engine never sounded so good to me!  The car had loads of water on the floor but other than that it seems to be in perfectly good shape. Two men walking down the road stopped and asked if everything was alright. They had seen us opening the bonnet of the car. They were drivers working in Vashi and were walking home from work. They waited for us to try out the car and seeing all was well , went about their way.We drove back and reached home at 1.00 am and crashed out.  It had been a very long day. It had taken me over three hours to travel from one place to another , within Vashi. A journey that usually takes not more than 15 minutes on a normal day. But then today had been anything but normal. More than the flooding of the city, what upset me was the attitude of the people.  Yes, it is very annoying when the government messes up the drainage system and constructs  on ecologically sensitive sections of the land causing flooding every season. But what does one do if the people of the city become so insensitive that they no longer feel the  need to help others in distress. When people neither extend nor receive help how does this city cope with its annual calamity?  

2 thoughts on “A Harrowing Experience

  1. mandy…my heartfelt sympathies towards the alto but am glad to know that you and your mom made it back safely…

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