On Tuesday, when Mumbai faced the heaviest rain in 12 years, recording almost 300 mm in some parts, the city was almost crippled. Swapnil Naik was stranded on the Dadar flyover with his dog, his mother, and his father-- a cancer patient.
Naik was taking his father to a hospital in Mumbai Central. He left home from Kurla at around 9 am and managed to reach Dadar, a distance of less than 10 kms, in two hours. "I couldn't have left the dog at home alone. So we took him with us," he said. At the Dadar flyover, Naik and his family were stuck for nearly five hours. "None of the cars were moving. Some of the cars were almost submerged in the water. It was just chaotic," he said.
He took to Facebook asking for help.
"My phone has never rang so many times in a day," he said. Immediately, a number of people offered help to Naik, opening up their homes. Within minutes of his Facebook post, an old friend of Naik's, who lives in Hyderabad, tagged his brother -- who lives in Dadar. Naik had never met his family. He left his car behind, and walked through the waterlogged roads for a while before reaching the friend's brother's house. "They were so welcoming. They didn't mind our dog as well," he said.
Mumbai has always been known for the 'spirit' of its people. So when the clouds broke over the city, they had each others' backs. It didn't take very long for people to start sharing their addresses and contact details, offering shelter and food to anyone and everyone who needs it. People opened their homes to strangers, offering them shelter and food.
Offices, gurudwaras, restaurants volunteered to offer sanctuary to people stranded as torrential rain brought the city to a standstill.
For Anurag Pandey, it was a taxi driver who helped him and his friends get home. Pandey, a resident of Dombivili, had stayed in Dadar at a friend's place on Monday night. The next morning, they couldn't find any mode of communication to get back home. "The trains were shut, so we took a cab. But it broke down in the middle. It was a crazy situation," he said. This is when a taxi driver spotted them and asked if he could help. "Afzal, the driver, dropped us home," he said. Afzal told Pandey that he had been trying to rescue people and get them home all day.
While the story may not be about faith, but just humanity, Pandey has a point. "There's so much hate between Hindus and Muslims in this world. At that point of time, in the moment of crisis, there was no discrimination," he said.
As Mumbai is finally crawling back to normalcy, with train services have being restored, flight operations getting normal, and people finally being able to get home, the stories of how strangers helped each other keep emerging.
Vijyendra Parthasarthy, a Mumbai resident, put up his contact details on a Facebook group called 'Put me in touch'. He asked people to get in touch with him if they were stranded in any part of the city. He was flooded with messages.
Last night, at around 12 pm, he posted on Facebook, "Just got back home after dropping few stranded people, from different parts of the city (mostly from Andheri station) Their stories were painful to listen but, not a single person (whom I gave lift) told me they were without food or water. Ganpati pandals, gurudwara and local residents were constantly supplying food, water and tea to stranded people, be it on road or railway stations, #MumbaiCitizens made sure no one is hungry or thirsty."
Vivek Tejuja, an author, had also opened up his home those stranded because of the rains. Four people, who he had never met before, turned up at his place. "I didn't know any of them from before. Complete strangers. They came to know I was offering help through their friends who are on Twitter," he said.
While bonding over tea and the lack of action by the BMC, Tejuja had an experience of a lifetime. "I was overwhelmed that people trusted me and I trusted them to open my house to them. I have never done this before but we all need to step up I suppose."
Shreya Shetty had a heartwarming story to tell. When Shetty landed at the Mumbai airport at 12:30 am, there were no cabs to take her home. A fellow passenger, Jayesh, managed to get to his office in Goregaon. He then came back to the airport with his car to help the other passengers get home. He also dropped Shetty to her house.
For Puja Vaish, it was a night she won't ever forget.
Vaish was stranded on the Hindmata flyover in Parel for over 10 hours. She was inside an Ola cab. When Vaish got impatient after hours of waiting, she decided to get out and start walking. The cab driver Sikander Khan did not hesitate once before giving away his umbrella to her. Vaish couldn't walk too far so she went back to the cab.
"When I didn't get anywhere due to the chest deep water, he called me to come back and sit in the cab. He assured me he would get me home safe once the flood receded and the traffic would move no matter how long it would take," she wrote on the Facebook page of Ola.
In the afternoon, the driver went away for an hour. He came back drenched, with food for Vaish. Finally, at around 8 pm, he helped Vaish get to a hotel nearby.
While it is apparent that the state government and BMC failed to heed a warning of heavy showers issued by the IMD barely 24 hours before the deluge on Tuesday, the stories of how strangers helped each other in times of crisis, just restores your faith on the 'Maximum City'.
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