MUMBAI: I stay at Navi Mumbai, about 40 km away from my office at the other end of Mumbai. The usual commute takes about an hour-and-a-half. It was raining when I set out for office on Tuesday morning. It was raining since Monday.
But for Mumbai, the monsoon that is a normal thing. Hence, just like millions of other commuters of Mumbai, I too ignored it. Anyway, there was no specific alert except for a possibility of ‘heavy rains’.
When I reached the suburban railway station, it was crowded as usual. I sensed something was wrong when the indicator didn’t show any Mumbai-bound train. There were no announcements either. After about an hour-and-a-half, a Mumbai-bound train came. It was too overcrowded even by peak hour standards of Mumbai suburban railways. The train took about 30 minutes, double the normal time, to reach Vashi and stopped. Again, there were no announcements. There was heavy rush on the platform. Everybody was puzzled as to what had happened and whether the train was going to proceed further.
Inquiries at the station master’s office were met with rude responses that several trains were stranded and there were no instructions from the higher-ups. After about an hour, the instructions finally arrived and it was announced that trains going to Mumbai (CSTM) have been cancelled. It took the administration another half-an-hour to decide to send back the train to Panvel and start a shuttle service.
Meanwhile, the frightening nature of the downpour had started becoming clear. Mumbai Police started sending alerts on twitter. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the police were the only visible face of the administration that helped the people of Mumbai Tuesday. Photographs and video clips of the deluge started being shared over social media.
This offered some solace to the commuters. Various mobile applications too started sending alerts on heavy traffic due to water logging. Many commuters then took a decision to return to their homes.
While most of the administration, except the police, was not visible, the people of Mumbai came forward to help those who were stranded in the traffic. The ‘Spirit of Mumbai’ once again came to the fore. WhatsApp groups were flooded with messages about details of several individuals as well as Ganeshotsav Mandals, gurdwaras, mosques and churches offering food and shelter to people.
Despite repeated attempts, airlines could not be contacted.