26th July 2005 – almost a decade ago – G & I were studying in Mumbai. It was the rainy season and no one took any notice of the incessant rain that was pouring down. In fact the weather was so good, that some adventurous souls (G included) decided to do an impromptu rain dance. So the music system from the college was borrowed and set up, and the fun began.
I was prone to severe headaches triggered by sinusitis and I was suffering from one that day. So I decided to ditch the dancing and head for a coffee instead. We lived around the campus, and the coffee shop was sort of midway between my house and the college campus. Mostly we walked everywhere. I told G I am headed to the cafe and once he is done dancing he can join me there.
The rains were still pounding, but that was normal for Mumbai. I opened my umbrella and started walking. As I left the college building the water was lapping my ankles. By the time I reached the campus gates, it had risen to thigh level. I was now midway – I could either head to the cafe, or go back to college. As I stood there trying to decide, G came running to find me. The college authorities had got a flood warning and they had advised the students to try and get home asap. As soon as he heard this, he ran to look for me. I can still remember the look of relief on his face when he found me.
The water was almost waist level now. The umbrella was useless, so I folded and kept it in my bag. We decided to head home. By that time a few other friends and my roomies had arrived too. We held hands – the current was quite strong – and walked back home. All the while the water level kept rising. We were worried about open drains – a common occurrence. One misstep and we could be washed down to emerge kilometers away in the sea. So we held tight and slowly made our way home.
G & his roomies left us safe in our house and waded to their place. By then the water was up to their necks. We were students and as such didn’t stock much food at our place; and the boys had even less. They survived on chips and some food that the neighbors shared. We cooked up some rice and watched the water rise to submerge cars around our area. The power was out and the mobile network was gone too. So there was nothing to do but to wait for the rains to stop and the waters to recede. Which they did after a couple of days. G came over to check on me and we walked out to find a phone booth to call home.
Almost everything was a ruin, we heard horror stories about people drowning in their cars, getting washed away in storm drains, stuck without food or water. It was a relief to be safe. It was a relief to be together. We were there to watch out for each other. And nothing, not even being in the middle of a disaster – scared us.
Well that’s all changed now. I’ve never been so frightened as I am nowadays. And the flood that I am drowning in, is flowing my own eyes…