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.
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.