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'I can't believe I survived that nightmare'

July 17, 2023 08:54 IST
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'The buildings all around had caved in or were damaged. The trees were all uprooted. Things were very scary.'

IMAGE: Ruslaan Mumtaz in Manali, with the raging Beas behind him. Photographs: Kind courtesy Ruslaan Mumtaz

Actor Ruslaan Mumtaz had gone to Manali for a film shoot with a 40-member crew.

He reached Manali on July 3 and was to wind up his shoot by July 23.

For one week things went smoothly, until Nature displayed its fury which put the lives of everyone in danger.

Ruslaan spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ about his traumatic experience of getting trapped in the floods and landslides in Himachal Pradesh.


On July 9, I had an off day from my shooting at Manali and was enjoying my stay at the Shirar Resort by watching the Beas river which was passing by the property.

By afternoon, an intuition of impending danger set in for me.

I could see from the resort the water level rising in the Beas due to the heavy rains.

I kept asking everyone, 'Is this not a dangerous sign?', but no one seemed to be taking me seriously.

I guess the Mumbaikar in me was seeing the danger signs due to the monsoon mayhem which causes havoc all the time.

But then for others shooting at the resort and even locals, it was just a passing day of heavy rains which would subside.

At 2 pm suddenly the lights went off in the resort and yet it seems that no one was bothered from our team of 40 as they were playing table tennis and snooker in the resort when the shoot took a break.

I for some reason was not feeling comfortable and went on to pack my bag, kept my phone, wallet, power bank in a plastic bag and then placed them in my haversack.

Everybody told me to chill and after a point I too started chilling, but kept my haversack constantly with me.

While I was playing table tennis, the hotel owner came and told all of us that we will have to move out from one area of the resort to another for safety reasons as the water level in the Beas was rising.

This was when everybody in my unit started panicking.

I had never seen a natural disaster in my life. And when I was making the videos for my Instagram account on reaching Manali, I was not sure what I was going to face in the coming days.

We were then moved out of our respective rooms and shifted to the club house at the resort.

In two hours' time, which was around 6 pm, the club house was also not in the safe zone as the water level kept on rising.

We were again evacuated and the owner of the resort (Nakul Mahant) told us to move further inside the property.

He then moved all of us towards the servant quarters. We had to stay there and the night set in.

We were stuck in the servant quarters that night and stayed without electricity.

Nakul told us he would shift us back to our rooms the next morning as soon as the water level subsided.

He used to make his staff follow the guests and ensure that they all got hot cooked food and proper shelter.

The food menu was the same, like black dal and rice which we eat in the resort's restaurant and the same thing was served to us when we stayed in the servant quarters.

We soon forgot about the floods and started partying. Everyone was hoping for the best and felt that by the next day we will start the shoot.

At 8 am the next morning Nakul said that the entire resort property was in danger as the water level was constantly rising and told us to move out of the place.

He then arranged cars for us, which were three kilometres away from the resort. He told us we would have to walk through the water because there was no way the cars could come to the resort.

IMAGE: The Beas had eaten into the embankment.

An advice I will give everyone who is stuck in floods or a rain situation is always keep plastic bags with you and a haversack. Put your essentials in the plastic bag and put that plastic bag in the haversack.

There was a time when I was walking in knee deep water, but I was not worried about my belongings because I knew that my mobile and wallet were safe.

After walking for three km we reached the cars which then took us to a school. We soon realised that there was no water and no electricity in the school.

I got nervous, so Nakul put me up at one of his relative's house.

He did that even when his own property was getting destroyed. He never made anyone of us feel that our lives were in danger.

My sanity was maintained in this tragedy because Nakul was keeping so calm that time.

I then moved to Atul and Richa Khullar's house. This couple was very sweet and kind. There was no electricity in their home, but they charged my phone by starting their car.

By doing so, I could constantly keep in touch with my family in Mumbai. I could get network randomly but Internet data was not working. My battery was very low and all I could do was tell my family that I was safe and then disconnected the phone.

If this couple was not with me in those three days I would have gone into depression. I will always be grateful to them that they kept me sane in those three horrifying days. I am forever grateful for their hospitality.

When things settled down a bit they suggested that I go by Kullu airport which was one hour away from their place.

While traveling to Kullu airport I saw the signs of devastation that the floods had caused. The buildings all around had caved in or were damaged. The trees were all uprooted. Things were very scary.

I reached Kullu airport to take a flight to Delhi and from Delhi I came to Mumbai.

Right now I am sitting in the comfort of my house and now when I think back of my Manali shoot, I cannot believe that I survived that nightmare.

I am happy to say that all the 40 shooting crew members are back in Mumbai, but I am still in shock when I see those photos and videos.

I tell myself, Oh God, I was right there!

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