Saturday, January 5, 2013

The day after 26/7: Part II: Homeward journey continues

Continued from previous post... (I really did not mean to delay this post so much. I was just too occupied with other things.)


To go or not to go was the question. I had no time to stand and analyse. I wanted to reach home fast. Very fast. But my common sense knocked hard at me, or so I'd like to believe, and told me to believe in the majority of people who were coming back from the deep water warning us not to go any further. BUT I was being ruled majorly by my fear of the dark. Water or no water, I was sure as hell not walking into pitch darkness. Nah! I told them I'm not going any further, did not wait to see their reaction and like a few people around, got into the first bus in the line. It was a double decker and there was no place to sit. I saw there were some seats where a third person managed to squeeze in. I did the same. I saw a seat with two females, asked them to shift just a bit and tried to fit in there.

There was knee deep water all around and I was glad to be out of it for a while. Called mom and told her the situation. She agreed with my decision of spending the night in the bus. I was quite comfortable in my seat after a while of shifting and adjusting. The rain did not stop. The lights in the bus were on- by public demand :P Everytime the bus driver put the lights off, there'd be a loud 'AAAEEYYYYY!!' and the lights would be on again :)

At around midnight, I noticed a Maruti 800 parked just outside the bus. The water had reached about 2 inches below the window of the car. That was my reference level for the night, to check how much the water level would change. I kept dozing off through the night. Mom called many times to make sure I was safe. I often checked the car window. Not an inch difference in the water level all through the night :(

Day 2: The day after 26/7

It was 5:30 am when it was bright enough for anyone interested to start walking or swimming. I was wide awake listening to people's discussions about what they were planning to do. Many of them formed small groups and left the bus. Someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned around to see a girl who seemed to be my age.

"Where do you have to go?" she asked me.

"To the suburban side."

"Are you coming with us? My friend and I are going to start walking. We stay in Kurla. You can go ahead after that."

"Walking? In so much water? No, I rather wait in this bus for the water to recede. You carry on. Thanks! *smile* "

*no smile* my my the girl was serious! "How long are you going to wait? You think this water is going to vanish? Its going to take very long. I'm telling you. Join us."

She sounded convincing, but I wondered why everyone wanted me to go with them. Did I have a 'HELP ME!!!' written all over me or something? I called mom and we decided that I should go with her. Well, mom knows best!

I was sort of dry by then and shuddered at the thought of walking in water again. We stepped out. :( the water was sooo cold at that time of the morning. But we didn't step back. And there, once again, started my journey back home. We were about 6 or 7 people in the group. We held hands so that no one would fall and die.. unnoticed. On our way, we met a man in his fifties and asked him the way. He was a local and had come to help people find their way. :)

"There is a short cut from here. Follow me."

"Uncle, is the water level high where we're going?"

"No, no, there's no water anywhere ahead," he assured us.

Yay!! We smiled at each other happily and followed him in knee deep water. It was still raining, but thankfully, not too heavily. After a while of walking in knee deep water (I can't really estimate right now for exactly how long I walked), we reached an area where the roads were just wet - not even any flowing water there. Happy happy we were :D After all, local uncleji was right! :D

Further ahead we walked, water rose and this time we were in waist deep water. Felt so funny walking in that :-S

Such a wavy road it must have been.

Knee deep - no water - waist deep - no water - chest deep - no water - neck deep - no water - knee deep again... and then... we saw a crowd of people ahead of us. And there was a lot of shouting and screaming too. Something was surely wrong there. We went ahead. (This time, only 3 of us from the group were left - the girl who called me (Lini), her friend and I. The others had gone their respective ways) As we neared the crowd, the men turned back to look at us.

"Females can go back. You cannot go any further. Go back."

!!! Go Back?? Ridiculous!! That's what I feel now. Back then my thoughts were: I have to go back. Have to look for another way to go. Or will have to wait here till the water is all gone. I was so scared and sad at that time. I was so weak.

My brave companion came ahead. "Why can't we go?"

"You are short. There is 6 feet water here."

Even if I want to go, I cannot. 6 feet!!! Good lord!

"The men here aren't that tall either," she told me. "Let's go."

The men who were discouraging us were suddenly supportive and helpful. There were many locals out there who had come just to help people reach their homes safely.

With every step I took, I could feel myself getting submerged a little more. Soon, the water was touching my chin. We were on the tips of our toes trying hard to keep our noses above water. I was actually concentrating more on keeping my mouth above all that dirty water!

"Madam, chhaata bandh karo na!" (Close your umbrella)

Isshh! That's when I realised that I had my umbrella open all the while. As always, I did the best I could, to not catch a cold! :P

"Oh Jesus, oh Lord Jesus..." Lini kept chanting.

We were so worried, almost in tears when the water was just below the mouth. That's when someone yelled, "Hold the ropes" and then told us, "Here, here, hold this."

I held on to the thick, horizontal rope and as instructed, kept moving my legs in the water when I could feel my legs getting automatically lifted. We were made to hold bamboos too. I couldn't feel the ground for a few minutes there. It felt good.. as if it was a swimming crash course. I didn't know how to swim, but still I managed to stay afloat. It felt really great! :)

Soon, I felt my toes touching the ground and then I was walking on earth again and the water level kept decreasing. I was alive :) They had asked the females not to go further and we had managed to cross that barrier. That was one part I really loved. Before going any further, I turned around to see where the bamboos and ropes suddenly appeared from.

Aah! That's was a good arrangement they have there. Bamboos were fixed to the ground at a distance of about 20 feet from each other and ropes- very thick ropes- had been tied to them forming a link. There were people holding the bamboos to keep it in place. They even held some bamboo sticks horizontally. The purpose? To help people less than 6ft of height keep their heads above water!

"Come on. We're reaching. My house is just around the corner." Lini had already convinced me that trying to go home would be very dangerous for me and that I should stay at her place till things were manageable. I turned and we started going ahead. After a few minutes, we reached the last dangerou spot of our journey, where we all had to walk in a curve, follow the person just in front of us and not step to the sides. There were invisible boundary lines. Anyone who stepped to the sides we slipping and falling. Of course, the locals were there too, positioned and ready to help people out of any danger. Last barrier crossed successfully :)

We were again on a road with only ankle deep water and reached Lini's building's gate. The compound was at a lower level than the road. So, through knee deep water we waded into her building. Inside, we saw the wet building walls and realised that the ground floor was totally submerged on the previous day. Lini stayed on the first floor.

She pressed the doorbell. Silence. No electricity. Knock knock! A smiling lady (Lini's young aunt) opened the door.

"Aah.. you're the first one to come back. No one has reached as yet."

"No one's back? Were are they?"

"They stayed back in office itself."

"Oh! They told you that?"

"No. I'm just assuming."

Assuming??? :-S Good lord! Bring them back home, whoever they are!

After a few minutes of introduction and explanations for why the hall was full of things from the ground floor house (it was because the ground floor was submerged under water), I fished out my phone from my wet bag. Blank screen. Click click cluck cluck.. Not working. The last I spoke to mom was at around 5:35 am. Lini's phone? Blank. Landline? Dead.

Mom is a bag of worries. I just HAVE to let her know I'm safe. Have to find out if dad and brother reached. Hope that Lini's relatives will reach. Safely.

...to be continued... the next post is going to be really delayed because I'm caught up with life transforming procedures!)

1 comment:

Jack said...

Shruti,

These memories will remain all through your life. I really appreciate your courage, Lini's helpfulness and the locals for their social service. Now please do not wait for 2014 for next part. Oh! I almost forgot. Wish you a very Safe and Happy 2013.

Take care