Monsoon in Bombay

Saturday 30 June 2007
11am.

Kumar just called to tell me not to go out anywhere – “there are hardly any trains functioning.”  I had already heard that, since Devanshi called earlier in the morning to tell me that a film maker we were supposed to meet this morning could not make it because of flooding.  He lives in “town” – South Bombay – and the trains were not operating.  Devanshi’s college, Xaviers, also in “town” closed down, and her mom advised her to go to her aunt’s place in Breach Candy rather than try getting back home to Vile Parle, in the suburbs of “town.”

The film maker  is also very sick, with a viral fever that is going around.  Devanshi was laid up for a day as well, a few days ago.  The viral fever is attributed to the change in weather as the monsoons have started in earnest.

Yesterday, John received an SMS on his Reliance service LG phone:  “Heavy rains for the next 48 hours.” (I just get ads with my AirTel service:  “SIVAJI super Hit songs as HELLO TUNES. Call 678905 @ Rs 6/min, Rs15/song & Rs30PM.)  This morning, his phone was dead.  Fried due to a power surge?  Got wet from being carried around in the rain?  John ventured out, wearing wet clothes that had been hung out on a 4-foot line above the back door for three days, to try and get his phone fixed.  Without Internet – it is the only communication device he has.

John has been laundering clothes every day and hanging them out on the above-mentioned 4-foot line above the back door of our office/residence.  He has been wearing his clothes wet, and drying them with body heat.  Today, he had three layers to get through – boxer shorts, a t-shirt that came down below his hips, and a pair of pants, wet from waist to thigh.  When I first got here, he offered to string up another line above the back door.  I demurred.  I have been washing small, light things, like underwear, a blouse, a pair of nylon pants, and drying them in the office, under a fan.  It works.  I’m going to take dirty clothes to Delhi on Monday in the hopes that I can find a better system for Kurtas and other clothing that cannot be draped on the plastic arms of three office chairs.  I have not had time to look for the local ironing-wala or even a dhobi-wala.

11:30am

Nina just called from a cab using Devanshi’s phone (she’s misplaced her phone and will not be able to retrieve it until Monday) to say that she is turning around to go back home – all the roads are flooded.  If things calm down later in the day, she may try again to come to the office.  If not, then tomorrow – Sunday.  “It’s going to get worse right now – it’s getting darker.”  And sure enough, it’s been raining harder for the last hour.  Rain, non-stop since yesterday evening.

I am going into survival mode:  filling up all the available buckets and other vessels with water (who knows if the municipal water, which comes for about two –three hours in the morning, from about 9:30 to noon, and which we use to fill the tank above the toilet – our only other water source, will be operational tomorrow); boiling water to drink; and washing all the dishes with water from the municipal tap.

We have some bananas, a couple of mangoes, a few biscuits, a little bit of cheese, and some leftover rice and a cup of dal.  I guess we can always order in or go out in the neighborhood if the restaurants are open (depending on whether their staff/owners could get to work).  (Sunil, our office “peon” did not show up.  Nor did Rizwan, the office administrator – his grandfather passed away either last night or this morning.)

12:15pm

John just came in – no luck on his phone – all the stores and service centers were closed.  He said “Bombay is in trouble”.  Particularly for the next three hours.  It is high tide now, and all the sewers are erupting like geysers.  With no phone and no Internet, John went out again to the “corner” store to get some Hide & Seek (the “World’s best moulded chocolate chip cookies”) – he feels like he needs a treat right now.

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