Sunday, July 28, 2013

The day after 26/7: Part III: My struggle to reach home


It's been ages since I wrote the first two parts of the story of my date with death in the dirty waters when Mumbai overflowed. For those who haven't read, and others who want to take a quick look through it, here are the links: Part I and Part II

According to Lini's instructions, I took off my mobile phone's battery cover and battery and allowed the insides to dry. In the mean time, I went to take a bath. Lini gave me clothes to wear. Getting into dry clothes after so long was a relief. Since there was no electricity, the water pump wasn't functioning and the residents had to carry water from the tank to their respective houses. But for now, there was enough water in the house. After Lini also got fresh, we had breakfast. I was eating after 19 hours and acidity had begun to act on me. A skipped meal usually gives me a killer headache which responds to no medicine whatsoever and goes away only after I throw up. Now, a headache had begun and I sure did not want to create a scene. Lini's aunt gave me a Crocin and I prayed that I'd be silently cured. Lini and I then went to bed, tired and famished, for a much needed sleep. I was woken up at 3pm by excited voices of men talking.

The relatives had returned. Thank God! They were alive after all. Unlike Lini's aunt assumed, the men had NOT stayed back at office. They were stuck on some flyover. Good place to get stuck in the rains. At least it doesn't get flooded over there. I realized later that my headache had gone and I had not thrown up. And I hadn't even caught a cold after so many wet hours! Miracles!

The day went by slowly, while I kept thinking about mom. How worried my mom must be! As if reading my mind, Lini's aunt came to me and said, "Your parents must be worried, no?"
I looked down and nodded. "Dad will be cool. It's mom that I'm worried about. She gets tensed very fast", I said and wondered how much my brother must be contributing to the emotions at home.

Night fell, finally. I really wanted the next 12 hours to go by in 12 minutes. It was surprising that in spite of all the apprehension, I slept like a baby.

Day 3: 28/7: The struggle to reach home

I woke up only when Lini shook me. The first thing that came to my mind was that I could only think of going home to my worried family if the roads were clear. I rushed to the window and stared with wide eyes at what I saw.

There was no water, there was no rain either. Yippie! I could now go home!!

Lini and I had our breakfast, I thanked and bid farewell to her family and then the two of us set out to find out whether taxis and auto rickshaws had started commuting. Also, since my phone wasn't working and everyone else's phone batteries had been discharged and landlines dead, we also went searching for open public phone centres so that I could call home and tell my parents that I was alive.
We learnt that people, like us, were only beginning to explore waterless lands in awe. But, there was not a single public telephone booth. So, we went to Lini's friend's house to see if we could get help there to make a call. No luck!
Next, we went to look for transport. Something had to take me home. If I could walk, I would. But it was too far and I did not know the way.

We saw a few auto rickshaws and asked each driver if he could take me home. When they heard where I wanted to go, they said, "You better wait before you go there. Too many landslides in that area. The roads are blocked and it's not safe. I asked them to take a different route but all of them kept refusing. Couldn't blame them. They loved their lives too!

Just before we lost hope, we spotted a halted taxi. In spite of the passenger in it, we asked the driver if he could take me home. He first hesitated and said that he already had a customer - a man. But after a few seconds of god-knows-what-went-through-his-head, he told the passenger, "Your location is nearby. Let me take this madam to her place. Please allow her." And the passenger willingly stepped out!

HUH? Doesn't this guy want to go home? Do I still have "HELP!!!" stuck on my forehead?

I was happy and wary at the same time. Why would this driver suddenly bend the first-come-first-serve rule and offer to help me instead? It was no time for suspicion, but it is always safe to be sure. So, I took out a pen and paper and in a tone that was audible to the driver, I told Lini, "Here is the taxi's registration number." I copied it from the number plate and gave it to her saying aloud, "I'll call you when I reach home. If I don't call you even after one hour from now, you know what to do. You have the taxi number." I winked at her and I know she understood.

And there began my journey home. It took 20 minutes of driving through clear roads with hardly any vehicles commuting, to reach home. I thanked the driver and paid him more than the meter fare. I was full of apprehension while I climbed the stairs to my house. I could imagine the hugs and words of relief that would be showered on me by my family.

I was at my doorstep. I sighed home sweet home and rang the bell. Aha! There was electricity at my place!

My mom opened the door and loudly announced without a smile, "She's here." My brother came rushing to the door and gave me an angry stare and told mom, "Give a call to Kurla Police station."

...to be continued...