History repeats yet again…..and again…

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On 4th August 2020, Mumbai saw heavy rains and water-logging as Indian Meteorological Department issued a weather alert asking citizens to remain indoors. This is a repeat of the heaviest spell of rain since 2005. Roads in areas such as Goregaon, King Circle, Hind Mata, Dadar, Shivaji Chowk, Shell Colony, Kurla ST Depot, Bandra Talkies, Sion Road have been flooded. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has asked all offices to remain shut barring essential services. The Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) has diverted bus routes in the city. Multiple landslides were reported along the Western Express Highway in Kandivali due to incessant rains. Operations at the Mumbai airport have also been affected due to heavy rain. (source:from a website)

On 29th August 2017, Mumbai witnesses once again massive rainfall disrupting lives. Reports are still pouring in….

On 20th June, 2015 Mumbai witnessed unprecedented rainfall in a decade. Many lost their lives, many their income, many most of what they had.

Someone said famously,” Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”.

Here is something I wrote a decade back.

Mumbai Floods –July 2005 Steve Correa

Time, they say, is a great healer.

It is a great antidote to pain. It allows for wounds to heal, hearts to melt, and memories to forget as also to normalise ‘impact’ over time. The flood waters have receded and shortly too our memories will recede with time. Life will ‘limp’ back and ‘normalcy’ will be restored. The local dailies will switch over from its current splash of human interest stories, shocking photographs, and lampoon of the administration to other more ‘live’ news. The television cameras would move on to snapping more gory images elsewhere to feed a ‘hungry’ populous for even more news. Time would distance memories of the Mumbai flood, like time has done successfully for so many past disasters. Indeed, normalcy would have been restored till yet another catastrophe.Yet for us, in our conscious memory a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday did happen–and for each one it was a personal story filled with significance. Forget the fact that I walked twice through through waist deep filthy water – the first time to get to a safe place to spend the night, the second time to reach home. My wife walked too, that evening. My kids were stranded somewhere else. But in sum, it was only a‘fraction’ of the horrors that others had to face. Through that walk a thousand images have locked itself, playing out a human saga of glory and strife. At one level, it’s a celebration of the human spirit, at the other a sad commentary of our abject apathy.

Through careful reading of newspapers, scanning every word we read about what happened to others around us. Information on how many braved through the nights; courageous acts by some despite personal odds, and of those who were not so fortunate – who perished into the night. Of facts- of power, phones and what not! Time will convert this to nameless and forgotten statistics, but for now? Through colleagues, we listened to their tales(as each had one)and those of their friends and family.

We complimented the spirit of those around us and were saddened to hear of those who took a heavier brunt. I am still saddened with the image of a crying one year old atop his mother’s shoulder, while she walked through waist deep filthy muddy waters. Thousands of newspaper readers, am sure, would be equally horrified on seeing the photograph of a dead child being carried in the arms of a relative, a coin placed on his forehead. Some were reduced to spectators – those on high ground watched with horror, the long serpentine trudge of human lines walking across each other to get to the other side. Children held in arms, old folks supported by younger men. Some were sombre, but most were spirited. It is said that it is the spirit of Mumbai. Not so – it is the spirit of humanity that rises when all else fails.

The blame game will play itself out – like some catharsis, and it must. Questions will be asked, blame will be assigned, anger expressed at responsible people and machinery- who did not act responsibly when the time came to do so, or despite wanting to help could not. I am choked with the helplessness-that despite knowing the real reasons, we will shelter behind good reasons. This time – it was the unprecedented amount of rainfall. There will always be a good reason and it will always obscure the real one.

At the end of the day, the responsibility is ours as citizens – in the world’s largest democracy, ‘we deserve what we get’; when we flirt between options to either defy or deny what’s happening to us and choose not to define.

Mumbai Mirror showed a photo of a distraught Bachchan, headlines screaming ‘den flooded, loses precious memorabilia. Ironical that in all this human tragedy his ‘tragedy’ has more interest for readers than those less fortunate. Even worse, a full story follows on another section inside. Don’t get me wrong, Amitabh is still my favourite actor, but on this day, the heroes belong elsewhere. I saw many that day, and they will remain unsung. History would not even record, their acts would live in the memory of others, who were helped.

52 locals, 37,000 autos, 4,000 taxis, 900 buses, 10,000 trucks grounded and damaged are statistics that get thrown up. Just numbers! Yet for each one-his moment with grief, resolve and fortitude. Tell a star fish, who has been thrown back into the sea, so that he might live, that he is just a numbered statistic.

A lot of meetings will be held, post mortem done, plans drawn for the future. It will be forged and energised on the strength of what once has gone through. But it will not be lasting. The embers will die down. Another tragedy will strike soon, our hope will be it will happen elsewhere. Awake citizens – raindrops do fall often in the same place. Boomerang time again. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

In all of this, an emotive part in me stand rebellious. Where is the anger that must arise and demand for justice? When will there be enough tragedy, such that we will wake up? ‘How many roads must a man walk down’…wailed Bob Dylan. How many deaths will it take before, we realise that too many have died?”

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.

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