Tuesday 29th August 2017. Wow. What a day. There were already some subtle signs early in the day, though I managed to reach my office (at Lower Parel) without much ado in the morning. Things were not going that great at work (Recruitment), with candidates either losing interest or not responding to my calls. Then, my boss – who commutes by train from his place in Borivali – got stuck in a local such that it took 2 hours just to reach Santacruz! :O There was some signal problem at Bandra, due to which slow locals were heavily delayed; though the fast locals seemed to run on time. Eventually, he turned back towards his home by another local on reaching Khar – deciding that it was best to work from home instead!
My boss told us (it was just me and one colleague at Mumbai, being a small team of 6-7 people overall) that it was better we finish our critical work and leave as soon as possible, given the situation at hand. Meanwhile, we had already noticed the ominous signs – it was raining heavily non-stop (as viewed from the huge windows near the lift area on the 11th floor, where our office was) and there seemed to be a sort of fog at the top of the high-rise buildings nearby. My boss then sent us (through Skype) the link to the NDTV article; which indicated that Mumbai was due to witness the heaviest monsoon since the famous cloudburst of July 26th 2005 http://www.ndtv.com/mumbai-news/mumbai-down-under-braces-for-heaviest-rain-since-2005-5-facts-1743294?browserpush=true .
I had a discussion with my colleague (who stays in Girgaum, near Charni Road) and an acquaintance (who worked in another company at the same business centre) who stays in Sion – the acquaintance would try to book a cab to Powai via Sion, and my colleague would go home by another cab;after I had my lunch. After I eventually had my lunch,however; there were complications in store – there was too much waterlogging on the roads; thus the cab option wasn’t going to work out for my acquaintance and I – we had to take the train; the train services were supposed to resume in the Central line by around 3 pm. I wanted to take a Western line train to Dadar and then change to a Central line local to Vikhroli, but my colleague pointed out (as the view from the huge windows on the 11th floor showed) that the trains were not running on Western line – there were locals stranded at Elphinston Road.
So, my acquaintance and I instead had to walk to Currey Road (which would take 10 mins at the very least) and then take a local from there. I was hesitant to go to Currey Road initially since it would have involved buying a ticket to Dadar (my Season ticket was between Lower Parel and Vikhroli via Dadar), but my mother messaged me saying that in such situations no one checks the ticket; and also in Western line trains were not running and moreover it was a very short distance (from Currey Road to Dadar). By the time the three of us left the office, it was 2 40 pm. My acquaintance and I bid goodbye to my colleague as we walked to Currey Road, while he proceeded to take a cab.
At Currey Road, the enormity of the situation hit us immediately – there was a huge crowd, and a barrier (by means of ropes) had been put up to prevent too many people from boarding the local to Kurla on Platform 1 – there was a Fast local stranded on the non-platform line! . We ducked through the barrier and boarded the first coach (2nd class). On entering the coach and hearing the conversation of the people inside, our worst fears came true – the local had been stranded there since 12 noon! :O After a while, I got a seat; my acquaintance too got a seat later on. The motors were soon switched on, which gave us a false belief that the train would start soon – we were to later learn that the motors were being switched on and then switched off intermittently every hour, so that the engine was kept warm during the rains; otherwise the engine might stop functioning properly!
Slowly, as we waited; the seconds turned to minutes and minutes turned to hours – time kept trickling away. I had a short nap in between. It was raining heavily without a blip, and the water levels were rising steadily – soon the water had almost reached upto the level of PF 2! :O The battery level was less in my phone, so I had to conserve battery by not using Whatsapp/mobile data (except when trying to use Uber/Ola apps – which turned out to be a total flop! :O ) and keeping the phone in Flight mode; except when making calls or sending messages. I had a powerbank, which I used to charge the phone for a while; before lending it to my acquaintance and a Tamil gentleman sitting near me (who was to go to Dombivli) – eventually the powerbank got completely drained of charge! 😦
Thankfully, through all this; my parents were not worried, since I was communicating with them (at least my mother! :D) regularly; and they knew that I had been through a similar situation in November 2015 – when it took me 50 hours to reach Mumbai from Chennai, as the train got stuck at Puttur for 12 hours and then took a massively circuitous diverted route via North Kerala and Konkan Railway! :O Meanwhile, some reporters from IBN had a field day thanks to the chaotic situation – one of them asked me in Hindi if my parents were worried, and I said that they weren’t; and had asked me to wait it out. A Marathi Ganapathi-related NGO rose to the situtation, and started distributing biscuits for us to share and eat.
Meanwhile, work was on to rescue the people trapped in the Fast local on the non-platform line; the rescue workers actually stood in the muddy water in order to help the people climb out of the train and onto the platform! It was most probably the same NGO involved in this operation – Hats off to them! My mother had a talk with her cousin (who used to be a Motorman for Western Railways, and now works in a desk job for WR at Churchgate), who had told her that he was going to walk all the way to his home in Matunga Road; and had suggested that I walk up to his place and stay the night there! However, it was raining and getting dark; and I didn’t know the route from Currey Road/Lower Parel to Matunga Road. I also felt that it was simply a herculean task of the highest order for my cousin to walk such a long distance in that rain!
My mother felt that he was probably a bit desperate, having just become a father. My father then called me; he agreed that it was not a good idea to take my uncle’s suggestion, as there was no point in walking in such a downpour without knowing the route properly – moreover the train and the station were safe, as there were a lot of people and a lot of activity too. The NGO got in the thick of action – they started distributing bananas (two for a person) to an ever chaotic crowd – people were coming from all directions in their greed, and the NGO had to shout to ensure we all stayed in a line; in the ensuing ruckus, the banner they were holding hit the fan (on the roof of the station) and got torn! We Indians never change! 😛
After I had my share, I threw the banana peels under the bogies of the Kurla local; failing to notice the dustbins some distance away! However, I was not alone in callousness – on the water near PF 2; there were many banana peels floating! :O My acquaintance decided that he was done waiting, and would try to get a cab/bus to his home. Meanwhile, the train remained stationary; but the people in it kept changing! 😛 I was somehow hopeful that we would finally start moving around 10 30 pm, as my father had told me based on the news. He could not have been more wrong! 😛 I called my colleague – his feeble voice itself was a giveaway – he was on his bed and extremely fatigued, having walked all the way from Mumbai Central to his home (which would normally take 20 mins, but took 1.5 hours in the rain! :O ); after his cab had failed to go beyond Mumbai Central (to reach there it had taken another 1.5 hours! :O) !
Hope this is chaotic enough to keep your interest going! 😛 Will wrap it up in Part 2! 😉