Sitting in office, after having driven my car through a few minor lakes getting here, I am wondering why the roads were mostly empty at 11.00 am in the morning on a weekday. Outside, as I write, the rains are pounding the city of Bombay (Mumbai). Trains have stopped, flights are being diverted, schools and colleges have shut. And those who did make it to their offices are planning their trek back.
Now, the roads were not completely deserted, of course there was traffic. But very little. One reason is most of the smaller roads in and around residential areas in Mumbai's suburbs are flooded. So, even if the arterial roads are okay, you can't get out of your lane. For me, getting out of my immediate area was a greater challenge. Actually, so was the road which leads to my office in Worli, in central Bombay.
Did folks heed the BMC (civic authority) Commissioner's warnings yesterday ? Which said that heavy rains were expected in the next 48 hours. Quite possible. But, we've had similar warnings in the past as well. Yes, parents would be careful and would not take chances. What about those who commute to work, clearly the majority ?
Beaten Into Submission
The answer is simple. Bombayites have been beaten into submission. Mostly by fear. Ask anyone who spent the night of 26 July 2005 on the streets and they will tell you that a shiver runs through their spine when they see flooded roads. I don't exactly feel thrilled at the prospect either.
This city's never say no spirit is under extreme strain. Perhaps like never before. One feet of water and the bravest are taking a step back. No one, absolutely no one seems to trust the civic authorities or the politicians.
When asked on a television interview (in a city channel) about lifeguards at the beaches (following a few drownings), the BMC Commissioner said they were being interviewed and would soon be hired. But then, when was the BMC ever in a hurry ? Or for that matter any state or civic administration ? A deadline is not a deadline, its just another point in time.
Well, its the same attitude that ensured most road work was not complete before the rains arrived, on schedule. And there were at least nine months if not a year to set things right. The wounds of 26/7 are yet to heal. I think it will take a long time, if it does.