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'My TV set started floating'
Sheela Bhatt |
August 02, 2005 21:42 IST
It began as the normal monsoon shower in Mumbai, before turning into the cloudburst that turned the city into a city under water.
If you survived the deluge, you were a lucky Mumbaite. But not in all cases. Survival itself does not mean normalcy, calm and quiet.
Ask Mumbai housewives how difficult it is to put back life in order. Rain waters have moved, touched, soaked and drenched every bit and corner of their homes and existence.
Neelam Shah, a 48-year-old housewife, narrates how she struggled with the sudden surge of rainwater when her ground-floor home in Ghatkopar area, in north-central Mumbai, got flooded.
Four days later, her home has dried up, the rains have almost stopped but now the fear of more rains are giving her that sinking feeling.
In a conversation with rediff.com, Shah describes how difficult it is to get back to normal life that existed on the morning of July 26, 2005.
"On July 26, as it started raining, my neighbour's home got flooded. I offered to help. I asked her to come to my home with her children, and she agreed. However, as I opened my door to take her in, my house got flooded. In no time, the water rose to a dangerous level, it was so sudden and surprising."
"I am a housewife, and have been living in Sanghani Estate, Ghatkopar (West) since the last 18 years. Two of my neighbours always had rainwater entering their houses. But my house, although on the ground floor, was never affected. That day, my son Sameer and daughter Nirali had gone for work. Around 3.45 pm, when it kept raining, I started worrying.
"When my neighbours came home for shelter, I had no idea what was in store for me. In just ten minutes, my house was submerged under one foot of water. My television set started floating."
"In Mumbai, Gujarati and Marathi housewives usually have the habit of storing things for generations. I too have huge stocks of stuff, and I wanted to save it. I told young boys from my neighbourhood who came to rescue me to save my TV. It was then that I saw that my grinding machine was also afloat.
"I was astonished to see my fridge too, was moving with the force of the water. I could not believe so much water had entered my home, it all happened in 15 minutes!
"My husband, who was suffering from cancer, passed away two years ago, and since I don't earn I value my belongings.
"Meanwhile, my daughter returned home, and both of us went to the upper floors. Once I moved up, I called up my son in South Mumbai. He had started walking home from Fort area, and it took him seven hours. Sameer was aghast to see our lane. It was pitch-black all around our house. He told me he was not scared while walking on Mumbai roads but our lane terrified him.
"My children are adults but they could not sleep for three days after seeing the devastation in our home. In front of our house, was a pile of more than ten kg of rotten tomatoes and other vegetables. I live in Subzi gully where more than 20 vendors sell vegetables. In the rains the vendors ran away leaving their stock behind.
"The ration shop in front of my house was flooded, edible oil from it made the front portion of my home muddy and sticky. In my backyard, some residents of a housing colony broke their compound wall to prevent the water from getting into the electric meters, and that water rushed straight into my home.
"My fridge, TV set, grinder, cooking material, the lower portion of two Godrej cupboards, a bed, mattresses, bedsheets and wooden furniture... everything was floating on water for ten hours. In fact, my neighbours didn't allow me to enter my house till the next day.
"My son Sameer took it coolly. He said, 'Mummy, maybe it's all gone because you need new things'. But I feel distressed. I feel we are helpless when pitted against nature. The post-rain days are very difficult. When I opened my cupboard, my saris were all mud-splattered.
"My daughter's wardrobe is gone.Sameer is so sweet he told his sister Nirali that he will take a loan from his boss to buy her new clothes. When I opened my jar of wheat flour, it was nothing but muck. I have this habit of stocking everything in the kitchen. My cereals are unusable. And my yearly stock of pickles has turned into mud.
"My house is in a mess and my children had to take two days leave to help me restore things.
"For three days I could not do any work at home because guests were coming endlessly to see the damage. They were shocked to see what water can do to our homes. When I went to the vegetable market, a huge crowd surrounded me and kept asking me about my losses. I got very emotional.
"Whenever anyone asks me about July 26 I start crying.
"All these years I had been sleeping on the bed while my children slept on the floor. No anymore. They say, Mummy, let us sleep together, live together. They just don't want to leave me alone.
"I sometimes think, why doesn't God ever look at my family?"
Terrible Tuesday: Mumbai copes with a calamity