Disruptions and a protest in Mumbai rain
Mumbai city news: If only listening to “baarish ke gaane” on FM channels made commuting easier and safer, perhaps more of us would be rain-romanticsUpdated: Jun 29, 2017, 08:43 IST
As it happens every monsoon, the first rain washed away all the tall claims made by assorted political and city leaders about Mumbai being rain-ready. The incessant hard rain since Sunday morning led to half a dozen deaths, injuries, tree collapses, water logging and flooding in most chronic spots, potholes and craters, traffic snarls that doubled travel time, moderate to severe disruptions on the railway lines with delays and cancellations that made their timetables meaningless, and all the other problems that the monsoon brings to the city.
Cynics look at this chaotic state of affairs and wonder why there should be a fuss about it because, of course, the city is not rain-ready any year despite the political and bureaucratic assurances that come our way. Romantics, or at least those who do not have to brave the elements and can sit by their windows with the quintessential chai-bhajji to watch sheets of rain tumbling down, wonder why the rest of us cannot be more sanguine about this season.
If only listening to “baarish ke gaane” on FM channels made commuting easier and safer, perhaps more of us would be rain-romantics. Alas, stepping out in the rain means negotiating chaos, slush, delays and unspeakable anxieties. Mumbai, the city for which ambitious infrastructure plans are regularly drawn up, witnesses its basic infrastructure routinely crumble when it is most needed, its citizens left to their own devices.
For all the grandiose Metros and coastal roads planned, Mumbai still does not have an inclusive, well-debated and comprehensive urban flood management system which addresses rain-related problems in different areas of the city and recommends a standard operating procedure for each. That the city needs such a system is beyond doubt. That it is unlikely to get one and will stumble from one monsoon to the next with band-aid measures is also not beyond doubt.
Cynics and romantics may take their corners, but it is the realists who determine the character of the city. The rain and its miseries do not halt most Mumbaiites in their tracks. Mumbaiites were a resilient people long before resilience of cities became the new buzzword in urban studies. In rain or shine, whether assured of safe and reliable transport or not, the realist Mumbaiites step out to do what they must – many because they have to, a few because they want to.
Some of the latter gathered at the Carter Road promenade on Wednesday evening as rain lashed down and sea waves threatened to knock people off their feet. They came to simply say #NotInMyName, in response to the darker clouds of hate gathered over the country’s socio-political horizon.
They came in anger at mob violence and lynchings that have become almost normal in today’s India, they gathered in grief and helplessness at mob terror mostly against Muslims and Dalits over religious beliefs and cows, they came because an individual voice raised in protest is often the only hope to reclaim civility and force the rule of law to prevail. There were film personalities and well-known faces, and then there were Mumbaiites who took detours from their office-home routine and college students who bunked a class – all who braved rain and bad traffic.
Mumbai was not the only city to protest, nor was this the only protest given that plans are being drawn up for more. But this one was heartening. The city usually sends out a strong message when it is down under torrential rain.