It began as an overcast Saturday morning, the only portent of worse things to come was the steady beat of raindrops against the tin roofing over the grills which had only intensified through the night. It had begun pouring down at around 3 am, and I had woken up to switch the airconditioning off, it had suddenly become chilly in the room. The brat and his father were sleeping and snoring in an innate coordination making an almost cute rhythm. The milkman came in at his usual time of 5.30 am, drenched to the bone, through his heavy duty macintosh. A sniff of the trouble to come was in his words. “Bahut baarish ho raha bhabhi, poora tabela mein pani bhar gava hai.” It was too dark to look at the streets outside, but there was a strange silence that I found ominous. No sounds of buses and autorickshaws, no honking. I got round to the boiling of the milk, the making of the tea, getting the washing machine going, clearing up the debris of the previous day. As the MIL and I sat down with our steaming mugs of adrak wali chai, we switched on the television and learnt that the city was sinking yet again. The reports were pouring in on every channel like the rain. My heart sank. Luckily we were all home, and it was a Saturday, no need to leave home and nothing earthshatteringly important that would need us to get out at all. The maids and the driver didn’t turn up. The latter called to let us know his shanty had been flooded in. We were yet safe, and then at around ten am, the water started collecting. Slowly the tyres of the cars in the compound began going under. The husband went down in the pouring rain to shift the cars onto the road. The brat climbed onto the airconditioner outside the window and happily watched his papa going about the arduous business of moving three cars out to the road, which is, currently thanks to newfound renovation by the municipal authorities at a considerably higher level than the building compound. The husband was to repeat this exercise four times in the course of the day, the last being a trip in chest deep water, (and this is a man who is nearing six feet) to take all three cars to a nearby friend’s compound. All the four episodes had the brat being sole cheering squad for valiant father while chicken mamma prayed that father would return safe and sound. Soon the waters rose and the electricity was switched off. The ground floor residents began shifting out their belongings to the higher floors, the waters swirled in, brown as shit, and full of debris from the overflowing gutters. The rain continued to lash down. From the windows we could see nothing but brown water swirling wherever we looked. There was no compound wall to be seen, the tops of the cars which hadn’t been shifted by their owners weren’t visible any more. Motorcycles were floating with the sheer force of the waters. Luckily, the rains stopped at around five pm. And we were told the high tide would ebb at five pm too, the waters swirled out like a Dracula unfurling its cape and by 7 pm the roads were clear. There was still no electricity. And today, the next day, Sunday, we still have no water, while electricity has been restored. It wasn’t so bad as 26/7/2005. Then we went a week without water, electricity and provisions. The husband, brat and I went out this morning to get some basic bread and stock up on fruits and other necessities. Shopkeepers were busy cleaning out the scum floating on their shelves. Our regular kirana walla dissuaded us from buying anything from his shop. “Pata nahin kya kya bimariyan ghus gaye hoge pani ke saath.” The vegetable and fruit vendors were back on the streets. Over ninety per cent of the shops were open for business. Seven died, and thousands were stuck with the disrupted rail services. Property worth crores had been damaged.
But. The spirit of the city lived on. The city was back on its feet. But we are tired of being a city that has to grit our teeth and survive every monsoon. I am terrified of knowing I might have to do the long walk back home all over again. I am terrified of knowing that anytime the rains could cripple the city and I might be stuck with the brat in any odd corner in the monsoon fury.
But. Salaam Mumbai. Despite it all we are survivors. We get on with our lives. We’ve spent the afternoon hauling out buckets of water from the overhead tank in the building. We’ve organized provisions and rations. The walls of the house have wept from every corner, have spent the entire day mopping up the floors and keeping the brat off the floor. We hope we’ll hold through if this happens again. But I am tired of this happening every year. I am tired of having a survivor monsoon story every year. I am so tired of dreading the monsoon, when I used to love the monsoons through my childhood and my youth.