being stuck in my car for three hours at Dharavi, we realized that taking the car any further would be impossible in the chest deep water. We decided to take the water logged road and walk home leaving our car. While wading through the chest deep water at Matunga, I realized that the city was abuzz with Mumbaikars all set to help people, come what may. We saw volunteers helping everyone find a safe path with their friendly guidelines, “Udhar gutter open hai, idhar se jao” “aunty dekh ke idhar divider hai lagega han” “yeh wala rasta mat lo pnai bahut jyada hai… udhar thoda uncha hai udhar se jao”.
By the time we made it to king’s circle, we were famished but glad to find Madras Café open. The annas served wadas and upmas and coffees in the candle lit ambience (the electricity was kaput!). People walked in drenched and the friendly owner gave them space wherever possible.
Moving on from king’s circle we started on the main road where there were abandoned buses and cars standing haphazardly. These were to later serve as bedrooms to the many left stranded on the road. As we walked, we heard songs and jokes. I quite expected some bickering about the floods, but Mumbaikars had decided to demonstrate their ability to have fun, no matter what…
Finally we came to our destination, thinking, ‘Oh! What an ordeal?’ That was until we saw the news about north Mumbai being cut off from the outside world, about many left helpless in the middle of the city, unable to reach home and worst of all about the people who had lost their life to the water. With collapsed cell phone networks and jammed phone lines, it was hard to locate your loved ones. But the night passed as the showers mildewed. Many took refuge in Municipal schools, buses and even bus-stops. Some kept going…
Next morning most of the water had receded but the cars still remained on the road along with people. No milk, no newspapers, but Mumbai’s very own Mumbaikars were down on the road with biscuits, bananas and clean drinking water for the stranded. These volunteers did not rest until each of the stranded passengers was provided with some kind of transport home.
In such a disastrous situation, help from government was scanty, but Mumbaikars were out on the road throwing their hearts and homes open, ensuring that the fellow Mumbaikar suffered as little as possible. The disaster management cell was invisible yesterday but help came from the amazing citizens of this amazing city.
This just goes to show that no matter what, Mumbai doesn’t stop living… The city has a million hearts that understand the needs of their city. These hearts understand their duties to the city and more importantly to the fellow citizens. A Mumbaikar becomes a brother to a fellow Mumbaikar in such times of need. And when you see the Mumbaikar striving hard to keep Mumbai’s spirit alive when challenged, you feel proud to be saying, ‘Me Mumbaikar!’