Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Salaam Mumbai

Nithya sent me this forward highlighting some events which make every Mumbaikar feel within him the spirit of the city....

MUMBAI'S GLOOMBUSTERS Home Delivery While for most of Mumbai Tuesday brought unmitigated chaos, for the residents of Chand Society in Juhu it brought a baby girl delivered by the neighbours. Sonali and Bishwadeep Basu had been told that their baby was due on August 8, but soon after the rain hit the city on Tuesday, Sonali started feeling pangs of uneasiness. By the time her husband and father-in-law got back home at midnight, the discomfort was acute. The Basus set right out, but all the roads leading to local hospitals were submerged, forcing them to return home. By the time Sonali had climbed the four floors to her apartment, the baby was due. As soon as she entered the house, her waters broke, and her panicky mother-in-law called in her neighbour Mitali Sen, a teacher at Utpal Sanghavi school. Sen admits that she was not exactly experienced. "I tried speed-reading the Reader's Digest Family Health guide but there was nothing on home delivery,'' she says. An unexpected educational aid came to her rescue: Hindi films. "From all those scenes, I knew two things were needed-hot water and clean cloth,'' she says. But the baby could barely wait-as soon as Sen moved Sonali, she felt the baby's head, and almost before anyone could think, "Hoi gayche'' (it happened), screamed Sen. This was just half the job. "I didn't know how to cut the umbilical chord,'' says the debutant midwife. Luckily Sonali's husband had been busy on the phone, and through the yellow pages had connected with Asha Maternity Home in Malad, which gave her stepby-step instructions to cut the umbilical chord exactly two inches from the baby's navel. After sterilising the scissor, Sen plucked up the courage to do it. "I think we all said a prayer at that point,'' she says. "Because all they had was one candle. It was some time before they could tell it was a girl.'' The experience has changed Sen's views on delivery. "I've realised that it doesn't always have to be in a hospital and at such expense,'' she says. Now, she laughs, she and Basu are planning on getting into a partnership to deliver all the babies in the society.

Brush With Altruism Like thousands of other Mumbaikars, Lokandwala resident Manjunath Hegde left town on Tuesday late afternoon in his car. By the time he reached Khar, it was Wednesday morning, and he had given lifts to many others, including a pregnant woman who needed to go to the rest room every half hour. Luckily, Hegde knew many of the hotels on the arterial roads, and he was able to persuade them to let her use their facilities. His kindness was repaid in full when he passed Bandra on Wednesday morning and found residents distributing biscuits and tea to stranded commuters. One old man offered them to Hegde, who had been fasting for two days but was compelled to refuse. Reason: he was icky about eating anything without brushing his teeth. When the old man heard the reason, he went away without a word-only to return, much to Hegde's amazement, with a toothbrush and toothpaste. We're sure the old man got a torrent of gratitude along with the Close-Up smile.

Puppy Love The water was icy cold (just like in the Titanic, but filthier and without Leo di Caprio), there were dead rats, garbage, and the filth of the world afloat in it, and the young Pfizer employee who had driven to work in her smart Santro that morning couldn't believe that she would have to wade through this muck to make it home. But since her Santro was bobbing like a boat and a night had already been spent in the office where everyone had to queue up for a strictly rationed slice of bread and jam, she decided to take her chances. As if it were not bad enough to be wading through slimy, rotting water streaming down the road from the nearby market with a current that seemed to have consumed a cask of Viagra, she found that she was being accompanied by a stray dog. Not one to drool over strays, the dog's persistent presence made her edgy, and there seemed to be no way to shake it off. It took her a long time to realise that the dog meant no harm at all, and was in fact acting as a friendly guide to, incredibly enough, show her portions on which she could walk without going under. It ran ahead of her, cocked its head back and waited till she came abreast, then set off again. All the way up to her flat, a 45-minute journey, the dog played scout. And then, without waiting to be thanked, it scampered off. The Welfare of Stray Dogs may have got itself another sympathiser.

Mangal Mangal Asunshine story of a different kind came from a certain actor who was stuck along with the plebs on the traffic-thrombosed roads. In deep animated conversation with his friend, he had a security man who kept shooing people away from the car. Finally one of the more curious bystanders asked him who was inside and the bodyguard (who could probably do with some lessons in discretion) replied "Aamir Khan''. The news spread like the currents in the flood water, and people abandoned their cars to get a better look. The actor was gracious enough to wave to everyone and even answer a few queries politely. A thought: the real happy-shiny story would have been if he'd offered some struggling souls a lift, but even inadvertently brightening up a gloomy situation qualifies, we think.

Tough Tactics If Aamir Khan had been north of Bandra, he probably would have had pedestrians forced into his car willy-nilly. Bands of young toughs on the jammed Swami Vivekanand Road from Santa Cruz to Borivli were busy all of Tuesday and Wednesday forceopening car doors and 'requesting' owners to drop weary office-goers on the long trudge home to their destinations. The cheery young toughs had it all worked out: all available seats to be filled up and women to be sent in pairs for safety. As a rule we don't approve of strong-arm tactics, but this is one dadagiri that gets our vote.

City Of Gold We hate to trot out the cliche one more time, but the thousands of volunteers who braved the lashing rain and filthy flood waters to help others proved that Mumbai has a heart. Residents along S V Road abandoned the comfort of their warm homes and stood in chestdeep water all night to guide vehicles and pedestrians. At spots between South Mumbai and Mahim where the traffic had stalled completely on Tuesday morning, shopkeepers and stall owners on the road handed out tea and biscuits to people to keep them going. When the local municipal school at Dahisar (West) closed for the day, many bawling tots waiting interminably for their parents were rescued by local Gujarati housewives-the women took the kids in and fed them until their parents turned up. At CST station, Churchgate and Mantralaya, ISKCON workers distributed 20,000 hot packets of khichdi made in the organisation's Tardeo and Girgaum kitchens. "We normally send out 30,000 meals to schools, but in this emergency situation we are distributing food to stranded commuters,'' said Brijkumar Das of ISKCON. And then there were those who played good Samaritan even after going through a gruelling time themselves. Sunil Assar walked for eight hours from Mantralaya to Santa Cruz on Tuesday evening, and reached past 1 am. The next morning when he was out on the roads with his friends, he saw volunteers distributing tea and biscuits. Taking a cue from them, the group went home, got money and bought biscuits and 200 vada pavs which they started distributing at around 11.30 am on S V Road, Santa Cruz. When their stock got over by 3 pm, they helped a family that was handing out cups of tea from a bucket. They then bought medical supplies from Asha Parekh hospital, and jumped on to barely moving buses to hand out food and medicines to weary travellers. This, of course, isn't even a fraction of the kindness and compassion demonstrated by Mumbaikars on those terrible days. What else can we say but Salaam Mumbai?

No comments: