To the people of Mumbai, the thought of rain is as natural as breathing. And they think they are always prepared for it. As the temperature drops, and there is a slight nip in the air they cannot help thinking of piping hot pakoras and garam chai or hot tea.
But the visitor often drops down from the sky unexpectedly. It has the power to disrupt the lives of the people. Like it did recently.
The city of Mumbai had a parched or thirsty look. Then, all of a sudden, the scene changed. It rained for a full day! It was the worst downpour in the last 50 years in the month of May. Even the weather office was surprised by the happenings. The pre-monsoon showers had arrived earlier than expected. And what an arrival! There was water, water everywhere.
Water seeped into vehicles. Scooters, cars and motorcycles came to a spluttering stop! Harassed Mumbai-ites had no choice but to wade in waist-high water, pushing their vehicles that had died a sudden death. At the first sign of rain, the tarpaulin covers were put on the roads that were being redone. The covers were no help. The roads still became a slushy bog.
It is the responsibility of a city’s municipal corporation to keep the roads in shape, and to see that the sewers and drains are cleaned in time for the monsoon. That is the only way to prevent streets and houses from being flooded with water and rubbish.
But, like the weather office, Mumbai’s municipal corporation also was caught napping. It had not cleaned all the storm water drains. As the water gushed through the drains, out came all the rubbish that collected in them. The streets became a wet dustbin.
The railways tracks are the most important lifeline for the residents of Mumbai. But they were totally covered with water in several areas. Many trains got an unexpected holiday. They did not run that day. Since most people of Mumbai depend on trains for transport, they were left standing and waiting. And wet. Many others took advantage of this unexpected “off day” by spending the day in cyber cafes.
As it was, the city was drowning in water. But there was more to come. As the Arabian Sea experienced high tide, more water entered the city’s drains and caused flooding in all low-lying areas!
Ground floor residents at many suburbs faced an additional problem — floods in their drawing rooms! Stagnant water seeped into several sitting rooms.
But in the midst of all this fury, many Mumbai-ites braved the storm to go the Gateway of India for a ringside view of the surging Arabian Sea. As the name suggests, you can see nothing but water till the distant horizon from there.
Normally, there is a great deal of activity at the Gateway of India. Regular ferry cruises are a great favourite with children and adults alike. But that day the Gateway of India stood out, stark and splendid, against the backdrop of the stormy sky. The raging sea mirrored the clouds above — gray and menacing. Even as breakers or waves crashed against the rocks, soaking bystanders to the bone, few complained — they were too busy admiring Mother Nature at her stormy best. But then that’s Mumbai for you!