Wednesday, August 3

Drenched days

It’s raining in Bombay. Cats and dogs. I am stranded in the house, with my laptop and the need to write, to dry my drenched memories. NDTV telecasts are getting aggressive by the minute. Rain soaked news reporters are holding fort in various parts of the City reporting updates. Cameras, umbrellas, mikes trying to capture the elusive, evasive and currently washed off average Bambiya or Mumbaikar.

I watch the Police commissioner touring the flooded conscious of a city in a navy boat. There is also some debate on the state of submerge. A city under seize etc.

I like the deluge. I like the action. I like the debates its causing. I like the anger. I like that the city has stopped dead in its track.

Though I am glad that the city is not held to ransom by some underworld psychotic wanting to bomb its innards, or by some political jugglery driving it to ethnic genocide prompted by some vestigial lineage. Instead the spirit of Bombay is haunted by some thing more commonplace. Something that does not make news elsewhere because it happens everyday. Darbagha in Bihar is destined to be deluged for the rest of its existence, thanks to administrative apathy and defunct state mindset.

But this has happened to Bombay, the financial fulcrum of the country, the cinematic capital; it’s the blue eyed boy weeping. And thus the debate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the City. The romance started way back in 99 when I packed my small town morality in a suitcase and came here. Still not over it, I love to flirt with the city, challenge its limits; get more out of it, every time. I love everything about Bombay. I have been a student here once and now I am the part of the human sea which braves the city everyday for the serious business of life. I will save that for another day, when I am more objective about my lover.

What irked me about that fateful Tuesday was Life felt challenged in a City which celebrates it unconditionally.

We heard stories.

Of people who reached home, to see those little things they painstakingly built to call a home their own cruelly floating around.

Of a man calling his wife to tell her he would be home in the next few hours. She continues to wait. His name flashed on the missing person list. For her the monsoon is for life.

Of friends who waded through knee, waist and neck deep concoction of filth and stench mingled with water to reach home after being stranded in office for the night.

I also saved a tear for the death of a tree on Turner Road…. Uprooted and crestfallen the gloom persists.

My own experiences were far more secured to make a 70 mm.

I left office at 8:00 p.m. because I couldn’t sit around anymore. I had also had a fill of omelet sandwiches with extra chillies at the friendly canteen. I had to feel the rain on my face and be on the road. Frankly the magnitude of the problem had not struck my cocooned world.

And I was wondering about non issues like should – I – carry – the – laptop –home or can-I –pick - up -some – CDs ?

Well, judgment or lack of it prevailed and I ventured into the rainy night. There wasn’t a single cab in sight.

Bombay was on the road, people walking all the way from town. And they had a long way to go. A lady had to reach Borivalli. She was coming from Lower Parel . Her cell was not working. Her children had not gotten in touch. Her husband was away. We waited by the roadside to get through the numbers. Bounded by nature’s fury, we shared worry and concern.

In her anxiety she chided me. For being alone. For being drenched. For venturing out. For being mad. I saw worry in the old eyes for myself. It strengthened my resolve to be safe. To be home.

One minute I was wading, another minute floating in the miasma. My sandals weren’t geared up. I was never so unsure. Never so brave also. Mumbai at Sddhi Vinayak rent the air with “Ganpati Bappa Morya.” When all else fails, Faith works.

I chose the less trodden Shivaji Park to reach Mahim. With clean and clear roads for the first time it struck how wet I was. Deserted Taxis and cars parked on both sides of the road. Darkness enveloped all around, rain kept washing the self confidence. A fitness enthusiast was exercising in the Park. For some life goes on…

I needed the comfort of crowd, the stench of human sweat. It made me feel better. I took the main road back.

I had barely walked down for another 10 minutes when a taxi driver popped his head out “ Sister where do you want to go” ? I half tore the door and said Bandra. He had another passenger, going to Santacruz. I didn’t care.

I was inside. The first thought was to call Old man and wife and tell them I am safe. Tell them their daughter has grown a little more. Learnt something. I knew news would be flooding the living room in my home hitting their carefully crafted facade. I knew the wife would have walked upto the phone the nth time to dial my cell. I know the old man would be looking the other way averting the answer to the question “where is she? Will she be safe?”

I could not get in touch with anyone until the next morning.

We were stuck in the jam for next 2 hrs. The taxi driver was from Lucknow. He was a Bombay Raodie for 10 years now but this was new for him as well.

He dropped me off at SV Road. Another 5 minutes and I would be home. Fortunately one could see the edges of the road. I got drenched again. A good Samaritan stopped his car and asked if I needed help. I smiled and said- “I did some time back”. Now I am home.

The sight of my house never felt so good. I stumbled into the darkness. No candles. No charge in cell. No food. No water. Yet nothing matter. I had just survived. And I felt grateful about it.

It all came back the next day. The electricity. The network. Old man was choked with emotion. He told me the death toll in Mumbai. He narrated the horror stories. He just made inane conversation. At some level, he was just relived to hear my voice. He was tolerant of my need to be on the road.The Wife was not. She was hysterical. Candles??? Do you have candles? And bread? And have you filled up the filter? I knew they had not slept the whole night. I wept and laughed…

We were marooned for another few days, but it was not so bad. Unexpected holidays ( would be compensated later but that’s ok) . We had survived and so had the City.

Bombay recovers fast. Its drying with the little sunshine that filters through the concrete rooftops in the urbane jungle and while news papers are counting the death and destruction we go back to normal life with our drenched memories.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Didn't know you could be sensitive as well.....the only thing I could not figure out, why would you refer to your maa & babuji as old man & the wife????

Anonymous said...

You manage to surprise yet again... You need to find your place in the world and the corporate world is clearly not it. Follow your dream. Go for it Girl!!

shuchika said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
shuchika said...

Maa & Babuji ( or papa, thats how i address my old man) generalises it, thats all.

literary license... right?

Raps said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Raps said...

my crooked mind wants to know the content of the deleted comments!!!...

shuchika said...

hey raps,

the same comment posted thrice, hence deleted what is states doing to u?
babes ur mails on yahoogroups are becoming a litrerary challenge , esoteric by the minute.

Anonymous said...

It was nice to know mumbai for three years,The ability of the city to return back to normallacy,when its hardest hit by a bomb blast or a natural clamity like this is really amazing.I regret that i could not be the part of every thing.
Anyways, I was never in any doubts that Ba will not find her way back to home.

Raps said...

Hey,

I was trying to write a simple rhetoric mail!!! Looks like I complicated the simple stuff ah! well. But one good thing is I got couple of responses see :), trick that is taught in Columbia... when u want attention complicate... nice to hear from you though.

Anonymous said...

gud 2 read ur thoughts shuchi...how u use 'mumbai' as an alibi for expressing urself...a literary innovation????? gr8 job..keep walking..n keep blogging.
---alok

Ryan said...

thou hast a gift for words... keep bloggin... u were lucky to get a cab.. I dint - maybe cos i look a bit scary in a jacket and hood. AND I am curious about d comments u removed....

Anonymous said...

hey .... how could u call ur father old man .... and mother ..as wife.. u have had put in emotions ... but really u have lot of psudo arrogance

Anonymous said...

u are really parnoid