Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Aug 01, 2005
Industry & Economy - Natural Calamities
Frustrating battle for Mumbaikars
Shyam G. Menon
Mumbai , July 31
THERE was a time when the Mumbaikar was as predictable as the city's trains. An all-weather, 24x7 operation, who even in his deepest slumber could still be woken up to the day's grind.
That was true until a few days ago when torrential rains robbed over 400 people of their lives and brought the city to a bewildering halt.
The country's financial capital has since then begun limping back to normalcy, thought it stayed jittery over the weekend.
What is also limping back is the human spirit; the support systems for life in the metropolis were only partially alive and fully at the mercy of the heavens. The rains are still on and occasionally, much to the concern of all, heavy. On Thursday night, a lone star in a clear sky above Marine Drive twinkled oblivious to the wails below. By Sunday, that same sky was grey and brooding.
The battering that spared South Mumbai was severe towards the North. Many of them who reached their homes in the distant suburbs by Thursday or Friday chose to stay put today. Those who returned on Saturday took back basic essentials, including jars of drinking water filled from the office tap.
In Dombivili and Navi Mumbai, water supply was either absent or was fleeting, muddy and undrinkable. Bottled water was in short supply in these areas. Bad weather forced the Chief Minister to cancel his trip to badly-hit Kalyan.
With every hour becoming a frustrating battle, small things suddenly mattered a lot.
Overnight heavy rains nearly forced a shutdown of train movement on Sunday. Unclear announcements at the Vashi railway station caused a lot of confusion. Since rails were submerged in water, trains from Vashi were stopped. Flights too continued to be disrupted though the rains were not as heavy as before; visibility remained a problem.
"Otherwise, the airport is operational and both runways are available," said Mr Sudhir Kumar, Airport Director.
The road from Dadar to VT was awash.
The city's rains tend to completely clean the roads and buildings - suddenly the cement has a naked feel to it and the ancient brickwork reminds one of underlying skeleton. Parel's mills and Byculla's old buildings obtained that character. Contrast this with the bright hoardings all around.
While a hoarding cried, "We are open 8 a.m-8 p.m", another said, "Unwind." Ominously enough, a third whispered, "You will need your doctor today." Levis, Lee, Adidas, Reebok - all flashed by - their lifeless mannequins staring at a sleepy road.
On the brighter side, the traffic department worked overtime to guide the people. Policemen cautioned and diverted motorists at the usually crowded spots at King Circle, Wadala and Dadar.
Unlike last week, there wasn't a lot of water logging this week. Out came the children and the cyclists, revelling in the splash.
Inside a taxi, the commentator declared `Marshall out, caught Dravid; bowled Harbhajan'. Neither the taxi driver nor the rickshaw driver before him at Sion charged extra. Both smiled, tired of the rains.
Monday, which marks a new week, should be a test for all Mumbaikars. Time for the city's thousands to march like an army - to work and back. Even as they hope the trains will run, the CM, in a press briefing, warned of more heavy rains over the next 24 hours. Schools will be closed for another day.
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