I’m fine, thanks everyone for asking.

I had some trouble over two days, not all of which I asked for. Here are the highlights.

I and colleague go out for lunch at 2:30 on Tuesday to usual place – restaurant 2 km from my office. This is after waiting 1/2 hour for rain to subside. Need to stick to routine wins over common sense. Auto has to take back entrance as front entrance is flooded. We still don’t get the hint.

By the time lunch is done, it becomes clear that we are stranded. Colleague who is Christian starts planning for an ark. Lots of people wait, thinking that rain has to stop sometime, including a firang female who is busy clicking on her camera phone.

We discuss the idea of waiting till tea and returning. As situation becomes clear, idea is amended to waiting till dinner and returning.. Situation becomes even more clear as water levels rise to flood the area we are sitting in and the restaurant turns into a relief camp for people who imprudently set out early. Traffic comes to a halt on the road outside. Cars and buses, lacking amphibian capabilities, have to stop.

Long queue at the restaurant phone prompts us to check our mobiles and try to contact family. Airtel service intermittent. Orange is giving no service. I manage to contact my mother at Reay Road and she tells me that she is setting off in her boss’ car to try to get to Byculla station. I rashly tell her that I would drive down to Byculla to pick her up. Thankfully, the imprudence of the idea becomes clear before I start. In any case, her car doesn’t even make it to Byculla. It can’t make it to Worli either, where her boss stays. They manage to go to a business associate’s place where it is they pile on for the night.

We conclude that we have to reach the office somehow. So we abandon dinner plans and decide to walk back.

Walking back turns to wading back. In waist-deep water. Colleague has imprudently kept his cell in his waist pocket. His cell goes on the blink. I am worried about my money and my cards, as I have to refill diesel. People request us to close our umbrellas as it is getting into their eyes and making us look like drooling idiots, worried about getting wet while wading in waist-deep water. People are singing and laughing about the whole thing. Most girls have kicked off their footwear and are walking barefoot. The taporis of Mumbai are doing a fine job as usual. They have formed a chain around some areas, standing in the water and warning people of open manhole covers.

We reach office to find that the lights have gone out because water has flooded the generator room. I get some SMSes, including from Amit asking me about my whereabouts. But the network is so bad that I never manage to send the replies I compose. In the event, with battery running dangerously low, answering those SMSes has to be deprioritised.

The company has decided to find accomodation for those who are stranded. I use my knowledge of Mumbai’s topography to deduce that the route I will be taking will probably not be flooded, and therefore not have any traffic jams. It turns out that I was right on the former count and partially wrong on the latter. If I had started at 5 or 6, I would have reached. I decide to wait till 8 so that “traffic subsides”. It didn’t, and the tale recounted by a colleague who had to abandon his car at SEEPZ and return to the office persuades me to drop plans of starting for home late in the night.

Naturally, we have to walk to the hotel. The approaches are all waterlogged. We manage to find an approach where the water is only knee deep and reach the hotel. Beds are arranged, but dinner is a problem. The only thing that can be arranged, the managers say, is Veg Biryani. Of course, we aren’t choosy. We sit and wait for the Biryani. The Biryani doesn’t arrive. Then they say they will get us rice and dal. Finally we get khichdi, which, given the circumstances, tastes delicious.

Wednesday morning I start early to find the road empty, except for abandoned cars and people standing outside, trying to hitch a ride. I would have obliged except that my car is full with co-workers. Networks are still down; I am still not able to get in touch with my mother.

I find that my beloved Ghodbunder Road had changed beyond recognition. It used to be a road with lots of potholes. Now the road has been washed away. In its place is a mud path with patches of tar forming the speed bumps. There are mudslides at a couple of places, but I reach home without event.

Then comes the task of getting my mother out. All phone lines, landline and mobile, are still down and making a phone call involves 20 minutes of sustained persistence in the face of adversity. I get the message that she has managed to get herself dropped at Wadala and walked the tracks to reach a relative’s place at Sion. I offer to drive down to Sion and get her out. She asks me if I had seen the news. I say no, we don’t have cable. We haven’t got the newspaper and the net is down. It transpires that Sion circle is flooded with neck-deep water and South Bombay is cut off from the North. Stranded and famished people are begging for food from homeowners. People are passing out biscuits and water. Plans to drive down are abandoned till the situation improves.

Then I drive my brother down to his office. He has the good fortune of working in Thane and his office is completely unaffected by the whole thing. But my car hits one of the aforementioned speed bumps. Bill comes out to 450 bucks, but thankfully, the damage is fixed quickly.

I get tired of waiting and feel the irresistable urge to do something stupid. So in the afternoon I decide to head down the Eastern Express Highway just to check out the damage. I guess that most of the route would be empty, and I promise myself that I would head back as soon as I find a little congestion, so as not to add to it.

As expected, there isn’t much traffic till I reach Chembur. There are cars abandoned all over the place, but no traffic. But in Chembur, there is a huge pile-up of trucks on a flyover. I figure that that is where the jam starts. Keeping my promise, I take a U-turn and turn back.

I find that there is an enormous crowd of taporis blocking the traffic. They aren’t letting any cars pass. Worried, I roll down my window and ask them what they were upto. It turns out that they were loading all passing cars with stranded passengers. They were doing this to help random office-goers they had never met and would never meet again. Shamefaced, I eagerly take on five passengers, four of them women and two of them a couple. Three of the women are from the same office and have spent more than a day stranded there. Finally, in desperation, they had set out, not knowing how they were going to reach their destinations – one in Vikhroli and two in Thane. The husband and wife have walked from Chunnabhatti after their bike broke down.

My phones still won’t work. Orange manages to exasperate me by periodically sending me an SMS telling me that a bunch of people ( among them Yazad) have left messages on my answering machine and then refusing to tell me who they were or what message they left. For the sake of my sanity, I abandon any attempts to make non-essential calls and SMSs (sorry Chandroo)

With nothing more to do, I turn in for the night, to be woken up on Thursday morning by my mom’s phone call. Turns out that she has finally managed to catch a cab and persuade him to get her to Mulund. I ask her why she didn’t call me earlier. Turns out she has been trying all the way and she could reach me only when she reached Mulund herself.

Thursday is spent playing “Age of Empires”. Landline starts working late in the evening. My net connection comes up and I check my mails to find that the Cartelians are wondering where I’ve disappeared. It wasn’t I who did. It was Orange. It’s still playing games.

Update: It turns out that tragedy had struck close to home and I had no idea. There was a mudslide at the access road to my complex where part of the road caved in. Three vehicles fell into a ditch. Two women from my complex died in a Maruti 800. Sad.

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