The sounds outside our bedroom are different today. For the first time in four days it's not raining. Crows are cawing and another bird starts chirping, tentatively at first. One of the first buses of the day drives along General Bhosale Marg, towards Mantralaya. The bell sounds at the fire brigade, round the corner from our house.
Mumbai had endured days of non stop rain, making up for the shortfall of the past months, but then yesterday the levee almost did break, with almost 300 mm of rain falling in twenty four hours, ten times the normal amount.
The TV is showing images of thousands of workers walking along flyovers, trying to get home. Maharashtrian women, their trademark saris tied up like a dhoti, walking with fierce determination, 35 kilometers to go to get home. Thirty men stand in a truck, holding on to ropes to keep standing. The driver picked them up at Marine Lines and is offering them a free ride to Mulund, in the North. Western and Central railway lines halted service. Kumud spent five hours to Worli and back in order to pick Tarini up, normally a thirty minute ride each way.
KEM (King Edward Memorial) Hospital was flooded yesterday. A year ago my father, his short term memory fading fast, recounted how as a young doctor at KEM Hospital in Parel he'd have to walk, shoes in hand, trousers rolled up, to get to work during the monsoon. "The water flows down from Parel to Lower Parel to Worli during the monsoon", he remembered. Sixty years later the water still flows from Parel to Lower Parel and on to Worli, as it should, and KEM Hospital still gets flooded, as it shouldn't.
Everyone remembers July 26 2005, the year when heavy rains combined with clogged drains and high tide immersed the city. Kumud's nephew, now an investment banker in Chicago, was stuck in his schoolbus for twelve hours that day. 1000 people died.
At $3.8 billion the BMC, Mumbai's municipal council, has a budget larger than that of any other city in Asia. 28 of the 58 projects promised after the 2005 deluge, and meant to prevent another such as yesterday, are pending, incomplete.
The sun has just peeped out but the city is virtually empty with everyone at home, drying their feathers.
As I walk back from my half hearted Saturday morning run I see the woman standing at the corner of the Mantralaya intersection, selling thin pieces of steel wire pierced through green chillies and limes. She sells these every Saturday to passing motorists, to ward off the evil eye. It explains why Mumbai has so few accidents.
She just gave birth a few months ago and the baby is fast asleep in the sari which she has strung between two lampposts. When we first came here seven years ago her first born, Rakesh, slept like that in a sari. Now on weekends he darts between cars, buying something for his mother or the baby. Rakesh does go to school, his mother says, but she seems unsure where it is. When holding one of the coloring pencils that we gave him, he seems unsure, or out of practice.
A shop along Marine Drive was advertising apro nachos, 'our' nachos in Gujarati. I think fusion cuisine just went a step too far.
My wife tells me that she couldn't sleep most of the night because of the pounding of concrete pillars into the ground by Mumbai metro, not 100 meters from our house. Strange. I slept the way I always sleep, flat on my back, hands folded across my chest, corpse style.
Mumbai is building a metro from Colaba in the south to SEEPZ in the north, running right across the city, uprooting trees and buildings. Once done it will do good for the environment, right now not so much.
The next song starts on my iPhone, I'm trying to remember who the artist is, but I recognize the production. I remember just in time, before his raspiness starts singing. It's Dylan, from the 3rd generation iPod ads, 'if it keep on raining the levee gonna break'.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.