Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Real Bombay Rain

Ever since the monsoon came to Maharashtra last June, I have always had a great time with it. From the distinct earthen scent of the cracked soil getting watered for the first time in months, to the roaming in the rain with teenage girls, on to river rafting while getting even more soaked in the ravaging rains, and to a 7-hour bike ride with friends to a really cool (literally and figuratively) hill station.

Recently, however, the rain seems to bring me more harm than good. First, it affects my work schedule going to work in Dadar (as I need to travel about 40kms) and I refuse to go when it's a downpour, to protect myself and Aspi from risking getting wet. Second, if there was no choice (i.e. it was not raining when I went to Dadar but it was raining going back), and if I am unlucky, the rain will be heavy by the time I reach Kharghar and walk towards the Centre (auto wallahs are difficult to get past 9!) and I would end up getting wet and sick the next day! Third, if I am really unlucky, like last night, the trains will not be working and I would have to sit in a bus for a 6-hour journey through the flooded and crowded streets of Mumbai.

It was the first time for me to take the bus, and I was just lucky that the Urban office has found an "escort" for me. One of my colleagues stays in Panvel, a node in Navi Mumbai that's about 10 minutes from Kharghar by road or by train. At about 630pm, we were waiting in the rain for the government bus that goes to Panvel. We ordered a vada pav earlier, which is somewhat like a potato burger but with Indian spice mix, as parcel and took it with us on board. It being Satel's first bus experience too (he's not from Mumbai or Navi Mumbai, just moved in Panvel) we, well he, ended up asking everyone. Thank God he was there because the people he asked always were saying things in Marathi.

Anyway, two hours after we boarded the bus, we were still stuck at Matunga Circle area, which is literally next to Dadar area from where we came from. I was either reading my book (well, Rajie's) The Glass Palace, sticking my head out of the window to see if there's any chance of moving, or staring at the penguin trash bin in the park that's slowly drowning from flood water. Oh, we were also waiting for calls from other colleagues and friends for updates on the status of the trains. Actually, I think the trains are working fine but some of the stations' rail tracks were completely flooded.

Kalyan Junction (photo grabbed from Prathamesh's FB page)

Wwhile we were at the penguin's park area, we already saw people walking. Passengers were getting down the buses out of impatience for the traffic jam. Satel suggested that we do the same. I was hesitant since I am carrying Aspi with me, and we were not sure which direction heads to the train station (of course we could've asked) and if the trains were working at all. Then we got a call from Sanjay, saying that it's better to stay in the bus. Dilip, my boss, also called to say that the Panvel to Mumbai CST route is working but not the Mumbai to Panvel. UNFAIR! So, we stayed at the bus and ate the vada pav.

At about three hours in, we moved about a kilometer from the Circle. We were now stuck in another circle, what they call King's Circle, still in Matunga. By this time, it's barely raining. After 30minutes more, Satel said we should just try to walk and catch a bus to Panvel that's beyond the traffic congested area. Bored and tired of waiting, I agreed. We managed to walk for about 150m before we were greeted with the knee- to waist-high flood water level and a bus stuck in the middle of the road which I believe caused more traffic. I think Satel would have been able to cross the water but I wasn't very keen on it. One, for the fear of Aspi getting wet (he's wrapped in plastic and all but still) and two, for the fear of whatever it is that's mixed in the water.

Went down the bus to see if we can walk it (like most of the
passengers). Needless to say, we went marching back.

Needless to say, my fear and anxiety won and we returned to where we came from--the comfort and safety of bus no. 23! It's a good thing Satel took note of the bus number before we headed out. And when we came back, our seat was lost but there were other seats available. Plus, Satel was an instant news reporter, I supposed, as he told everyone what we witnessed. All I understood was "pani" which means water and his body language of making a distinct line in his knee cap area.

After another hour, we finally moved again to the direction of the flooded area. To ours surprise, the water has subsided only until ankles. Another surprise was that the bus were being boarded by people offering drinking water from bottles (when drinking from bottles in India, people don't usually touch their lips to the lip of the bottle, making sharing a norm and a common practice) and even a pitcher with plastic cups, plus some snacks like chana or dried things (they call time pass). These people, I supposed, are families who live nearby and who took pity on the people stuck on the bus. Plus, as they live very near this big temple, I think it was some form of harnessing good karma. Anyway, I was touched by this gesture.

After about another 30 or so minutes of traffic, we finally reached a traffic-free Sion-Panvel highway. Our bus was now speeding like no tomorrow (of course, he was no match to the "killer buses" from Pasay to Novaliches), just dropping passengers and not waiting for new ones to board, unless they can catch up with it of course. Oh, he did wait for a family with a baby to get on board so that was nice of him. My friend, who works in Lower Parel and is on a bike, told me to get down at Chembur highway area as he's already there so we can go on his bike together, as it will be much faster. I appreciate his concern, really, but I mean, there's no way I'm getting down on a highway in the middle of the night! :p *peace*

Once we crossed the Mankhurd (last Mumbai area)-Vashi (first Navi Mumbai node) bridge, I called up Pratap, one of the centre's stay-in staff, so he can pick me up at Hiranandani (actually it's Crystal Plaza but famed as Hiranandani for its constructing company), about 5-10minutes walk from the Centre. I didn't want Satel to get down at Kharghar just to take me to the Centre as there would probably be no or very limited buses plying to Panvel by this time. Anyway, Pratap was already at Hiranandani as Sanjay had called him earlier to pick me up. And, to my surprise, Satel said he's getting down at Kharghar as his friend will pick him up with a car and bring me to the Centre before they go home to Panvel.

When we arrived in Kharghar at about 12:30am, Pratap was with another staff (I dunno his name!) and Satel's friends were also waiting already. As I have two "escorts" already, I told Satel there's no need to take us to the Centre and just advised him to go to Panvel directly, together with my thanks! And while walking towards the Centre, I explained, in as broken Hindi and as simple English I can manage (which is getting more and more simple by the day), the experience to my escorts and I am not sure if they understood coz they were just laughing! Or maybe the way I told it was really sounding funny.

When i finally got home, the first order of business was to heat water as I desperately wanted to take a shower! Next is to send out messages to people expecting for my "I am home" confirmation. Then, after 10minutes at 270degrees, the water finally boiled and is hot enough! I boiled another set while showering as I need more water to cook a tomato noodle soup to heat me up and fill my tummy! I had a tomato soup and biscuit dinner with melon slices for dessert and a glass of mango juice. I didn't want to have something heavy to eat as it's already about time to sleep.

after the rain dinner!
While eating and updating on FB that I am safely home, I had my feet soaked in warm water as I didn't have alcohol with me. I was especially concerned as, even though I didn't have open wound, the rashes from my skin problem are drying up and I don't want to worsen the scarring or marks. Plus, I really am afraid of catching leptospirosis or something. Sorry if I am being "maarte" but you know, just trying to survive!

It's hot!!!
After dinner and after the water has returned to normal temp, I had another Fern-C (vitamin C capsule from Mom) and a pill similar to Neozep/Bioflu just for good measure! Again, I caressed the rosary bracelet and thanked God that we got home safe, and that hopefully He kept as much number of people safe as well.

I woke up later than usual but was pardoned because of last night's ordeal. Today, the office is almost empty too, without my colleagues living in Mumbai so I guess there's still something not so great about the trains. I would've gone to Mumbai today too, if not for the sign of rains again. I am all for adventure but I guess a one-time experience of the real Bombay rain will serve as a good quota for this month, or whatever time is left of my placement!

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