Skip to main content

I am born in June, the month when monsoons arrive in Mumbai. Amma says that year I brought exceptionally heavy rains along; my baby clothes just wouldn’t dry. I guess that’s why I so love and enjoy this season.

You would be surprised if I told you that I seldom feel like spending a rainy day on the couch, drinking coffee, or reading a book. Instead, I brim with energy when it pours. My heart fills with some kind of crazy positive vibe, and I rush around running errands, cooking, singing, writing… In fact, my productivity soars because I’m just free and happy. I would have chosen rain over sun every single day of the year, all until that fateful day, July 26, 2005. The day when the joy of rain turned to fear and anxiety for life.

What if the downpour never stopped? What if there was water everywhere and I was stranded, neck-deep in murky water, calling out for help with nobody in sight?

It’s been a good eighteen years, but the memories are etched deep. It was a sunny day, and rain came gently in the afternoon. Light in the beginning, strong in a couple of hours. I was in the office, and nobody took much notice. Heavy rains are commonplace in Mumbai; it rains and it stops. But that day, there was no stopping.

By 4 p.m., almost 3 hours after the relentless torrent, panic struck. News began spreading, and for once, rumours weren’t false. There was flooding almost everywhere; the mobile networks were down, and people were being advised to rush home as soon as they could. Perhaps that was a mistake too late to be realised because every Mumbaikar who started for home got stranded underwater, on the road, or tracks.

I was not an exception. Little did I and my colleague, who stays in the same gated community as me, have the slightest inkling about what lay ahead for us. We got into an autorickshaw, which somehow waded through shallow, waterlogged streets and brought us close to the gates of our colony. But the very sight brought him to a standstill.

The water level was way too high, and he didn’t venture any further. We got down and were left in thigh-deep waters to fend for ourselves. Usually bustling with traffic, the colony gates looked like an abandoned post. We could see some vehicles turning back and a bus trying to make its way, but there wasn’t anyone we could reach out to. Help arrived at the gates by late evening, but we were unfortunately at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We held on to a railing and tried to push our way through the brown, murky, gushing waters. I hadn’t ever known what currents felt like. Now I did, and for every little step we took, the water pushed us behind forcefully. Our umbrellas and footwear were long gone; we were holding on to our bags, but God knew for how long. The water level steadily rose; I was now waist-deep submerged. The mobile phone was in the bag, and mobile networks had gone down long ago. I would say that at that particular moment, I saw death. At close quarters.

Helpless, we stood, unable to call home, unable to move. My husband was out of Mumbai for work, and my 7-month-old son was safe with his grandparents in our top-floor apartment. It was just me who would pass on; my family was safe after all. My eyes welled up; I had never imagined an end like this.

There were people far away, struggling with their own predicaments. I recall a mother with an infant trying to save herself under a tree. She was being taken care of; people were offering their hands so she could walk.

“Madam! Madam!” We heard a faint call from a distance. Yes, there was a man waving out to us from the other side of what would have been a gate. We waved back in desperation. I hazily remember a tall young man in a sky-blue shirt walking towards us. He had height and brawn to his advantage. We hoped he could make it, and we prayed he wouldn’t get discouraged and return.

He did reach us with an extended hand. “Haath Pakdo.” He commanded. He grabbed my palm tightly; my friend held mine, and then he almost pulled me against the current, and my friend followed suit. Until we reached the cobblestone stairway to a building, I muttered a silent prayer. That I wouldn’t fall, that I wouldn’t drown, and that I would survive.

The stairway was at an elevation; we were now out of water and close to our community. We could safely walk. God, all of a sudden, we were safe—alive! As we stood gathering ourselves, it struck me that I hadn’t thanked him. I was wondering if I should reward him with some cash because, however much I try not to say this, I could figure he was poor.

But he was gone; I recall his silhouette far away in the downpour. He had almost sprinted his way ahead. “Bhaiyya, Thank you,” we called out; he didn’t hear. All I could do to reciprocate his kindness was pray that he reached home safely.

****************************************************************************************** It was late in the night when the rain finally ceased. I held on to my baby all evening with a little introspection, and I was grateful that he wasn’t with me in the deluge. I get goosebumps even now when I imagine being stranded with a baby. But just how many mothers would have been in that very predicament?

We were watching the news, and the visuals were scary, to say the least. The maximum city stood helpless that day. The mobile networks shut down entirely, shanties and bungalows were all submerged, local trains and BEST buses were immobile, and the entire population—rich, poor, middle class, young, and old—was caught unaware. Nature’s fury knows no discrimination. But what stayed intact was Mumbai’s never say die spirit. In spite of the floods, News channels, papers, and messages were swamped with positivity.

As to how more than a hundred people stayed overnight at a one-bedroom flat in the railway colony. How total strangers welcomed those stranded into their homes; How tea, biscuits, and vada pav were distributed to people who walked home for two days at a stretch.

They say God exists in many forms. Yes, he does. For me, he arrived that day in a blue shirt, stretched out his arms, and sailed me to safety—to life. Expecting nothing in return. 26 July 2005 would tell us a myriad of stories where God turned up from nowhere.


“Have you taken your umbrella? There is an orange alert today.” I shouted out to my son. “Yes, I know. If it’s flooded, call me. Stay where you are. Don’t venture out onto the roads. Cut the melodrama, Mom.” He mocks.

If only he knew.


This blog was first posted in The She Saga, and it won the most read blog in July 2023.



Leave a Reply