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Saturday, Aug 24, 2019

Mumbai rains: When strangers to social media, all came forward to help

Tales of some hosts and guests in Mumbai

mumbai Updated: Aug 31, 2017 10:27 IST
People help a patient pass a waterlogged street at Lower Parel.
People help a patient pass a waterlogged street at Lower Parel.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

It’s not ideal, but when Mumbai is left to fend for itself, the results tend to be heart-warming. Bowls of hot khichdi, warm clothes and endless cups of tea awaited weary and anxious commuters who, left with no choice, turned up at the doors of strangers amid Tuesday’s deluge.

These were Mumbaiites who had posted online using the hashtag #RainHosts. We’re here to help and our doors are open, was how most of their posts went. They weren’t exaggerating.

“I had been uncomfortable with the idea of resting at a stranger’s house, but it was really nice,” says management executive Nivedita Beriwal, 29. She turned up at her Samaritan’s home at 11.30 pm — after seven hours in the rain — and was greeted with hot food and dry clothes. “Despite the hardships, it did feel good to see the nicer side of people.” Her host was marketing executive Purva Khetan, 25, in Goregaon. “Being a Rain Host struck me as the right thing to do,” she says. “I also put together all the other such updates in a single Twitter post, so that people could find them more easily.”

Had it not been for social media, banker Shahmaaz Shaikh, 33, says he would have been on the streets all night. Through Twitter, he was put in touch with Gaurav Patel, a 45-year-old businessman in Goregaon, five minutes away from where he was stranded.

“He entered completely drenched. He had not eaten for over seven hours. He had never eaten Gujarati food and ended up loving it,” says Patel. Shaikh says dal-khichdi is “my most favourite comfort food now”.

“I can’t help but feel that the situation on Tuesday could have been a lot worse had it not been for social media,” he adds.

Film producer Akshata Jaiswal, 29, says Samaritans appeared as soon as she began having trouble wading through the knee-deep water outside Bandra’s Mehboob Studios.

One man offered his umbrella. A rickshaw driver got her through the floodwaters and to dryer land in his vehicle.

“I eventually ended up posting on Facebook asking for shelter. A friend put me in touch with someone,” Jaiswal says. As it turned out, the person was someone she had worked with earlier.

“We had never talked much then, but over one night, I think we’ve become the best of friends. She helped me with clothes, food and a place to crash. I got home only the next morning.”

We were ready to host many more, says her host, Janice Goveas, 28, an executive producer. “Later in the day, we also went down and distributed biscuits.” Samuel Fernando, a 28-year-old musician who lives in a one-bedroom flat in Khar, hosted five people. “I could see a lot of people stuck on the roads and helpless,” he says. “There was a mother-son duo who could barely hold it together. The water was reaching the child’s neck. I asked them to come over and they looked so relieved. I made them some Maggi and tea and offered the boy some juice. He was so hungry, he polished it all off!”

As Fernando put it: “I’m proud that we have people who help and trust strangers but it’s almost like the authorities are testing us all the time about how strong our spirit is. Are they ever going to take responsibility?”

What it has done — the apathy and corruption of the authorities — is create a culture of care.

Priya Saraf Negi, a graphic designer, was stranded at King’s Circle with no hope of making it home to Thane. A colleague’s relative’s neighbour provided shelter. “She treated me like a daughter,” says Negi. “An absolute stranger helped me. That Aunty is an inspiration for me now. Next time there is trouble, I know that I too have to help someone.”

First Published: Aug 30, 2017 17:44 IST

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