Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Water, water everywhere

It started with a windy shower on Friday afternoon. My colleague Sanjukta informed that South Bengal had experienced severe stormy weather and the temperature had dropped a lot there (her brother works there). The evening remained overcast as I returned to Hooghly for the weekend. At 2:00 am there was a most violent storm, as my parents told me later. I was, of course, un-wakeable at that hour.

Saturday morning was dark and gloomy, with occasional rain and constant stormy winds. The rain became continuous towards the evening. It rained whole night and non-stop throughout Sunday, so that by the evening, many roads in Hooghly were submerged.

I was looking for an excuse to sleep late on Monday. Normally I have to get up at 4:00 am if I have to come to Kolkata by a relatively empty train. That night, I decided to take a wait-and-watch policy. Often trains get cancelled due to the rain, so there was no point in getting up at an unearthly hour unless I know for sure that the train will run. Also, we had heard no trains passing since Sunday evening.

On Monday, I finally left home at nine. The rain sometimes slowed down and sometimes speeded up, but it never stopped. As I got down at the Bidhan Nagar Road station, I realised what the situation in Kolkata was.

The higher points in the road were under knee deep water. In the Ultodanga underpass the water must have been waist high, but it wasn't possible to judge correctly because nothing was plying there. The autowallahs were taking advantage of the situation and asking four to six times the normal fare. As an aside, I want to add that the auto drivers are some of the filthiest and meanest creatures that pass by the name 'human'. They are constantly on the lookout for ways to harass the passengers and extort money, and the slightest protest leads to altercation and even physical assault in some rare cases. There are certainly exceptions, but they are too few in number to affect the validity of the generalisation.

Click to enlargeAnyway, I had decided not to pay the auto drivers the extra money (when I need to spend some money, I prefer to take a taxi) and so waded out onto the road. I had rolled up my trouser legs and was wearing sandals as I had anticipated this situation. The water was up to my calves on the pavement. However, I soon realised the main problem of walking there was not the depth of the water. The pavement had been dug up for some repairs, and the whole place was a mess of upturned bricks and potholes where the water was up to my knees. One false step could result in falling face first into that water, bag and all. After the excruciatingly slow progress through this treacherous terrain, I reached the overbridge to cross the road. En route I saw that all the roadside shops had ankle deep water inside them.

Once I was on the overbridge, of course, I did the most natural thing: I took out my camera and started taking photos. I wasn't alone in this activity. There was one gentleman with a large Nikon SLR who might have been from some newspaper, and two others with a video camera and a mike who were from the Bengali TV Channel "Ne Bangla". It was raining all this time, of course, and so everyone had a tough time trying to keep their equipment dry.

On the other side of the overbridge I again waded through ankle and calf-deep water to reach the bus stand, from where I luckily got a bus directly to my office. I reached office around a quarter to twelve. It continued raining the whole day, and I had to spend this time in my damp clothes. There were very few people in the office, and the AC felt even colder due to this fact. In the evening, it was raining pretty heavily when I set out for home with my two friends Debanjana and Suman. There were very few buses and taxis, and we found none that could take us home. So once again it was a one kilometre walk through ankle and calf deep water to reach Karunamoyee, the main crossing near our office. Karunamoyee had water just under our knees, and every passing car or bus created mini tsunamis that threatened to reach up above our knees. From there I luckily got a bus that took me near my house, and I although I found ankle deep water on the roads of my block, it was a cakewalk after what I had gone through earlier in the day.

The others were not so lucky. From Karunamoyee Debanjana had to walk around another two kilometers and Suman another twelve kilometers to reach their respective homes. Suman even had to walk through waist deep water for a stretch of the road. It was a terribly scary situation, he says. He was walking all alone through waist deep water, and large branches and all kinds of other things were floating around him. There was not a soul to be seen on the road, as the Twenty20 World Cup final between India and Pakistan was being played at that moment. Even if a snake had come floating up to him (snakes are quite common in Salt Lake) he would not have had any place to run. He reached home three and a half hours after leaving office.

As for me, I reached home and watched the ball-by-ball text commentary of the final (furiously refreshing the page whenever I heard a shout from next door), and fell asleep after having dinner. On Tuesday morning it was still raining, but it stopped after a while, and the water started receding from most of the places (and also increased in some low lying regions). Even last evening buses were less and I had an argument with an auto driver because he demanded more money even though we were travelling on a dry route.

Today has been a sunny day, although in the last half hour or so it has become cloudy again. I really hope the rain does not start once more, because this is now beginning to get on my nerves. Besides, I have to do some Puja shopping as well.


  1. Quiet a right description for the condition...but you took risk in going to office on that day but i had been in your place i would have taken the advantage to be in home...just like school days :) 'RAINY DAY'

  2. Yes I heard about the rain, but you went to office in so much rain? Commendable.

  3. @tultuli: Good thing I came back from Hooghly that day. Next day the water at Ultodanga was waist deep!

    @shreemoyee: At that point of time, going to the office was easier than going home. But I did catch cold because I stayed in wet clothes all day, and had fever later that week. :(