It rained hard that afternoon. I watched the rain coming down in sheets, and thought that it would probably stop by the time we left office (ITPL) at 5.30 to catch our shuttles home.
It did. Except for heavy traffic on the roads, the journey home was uneventful. Three of us got off and crossed the Ring Road to Ashwini Layout, near Koramangala. As we went down the narrow lane, we met a flood. My colleague also met his roomie, who was on a bike. He authoritatively told us that the drain was overflowing and flooding all the low-lying areas. The only way I could enter National Games Village would be through the gate that was on the Vivek Nagar side. And for that I would have to go into Koramangala 6th block, skirt around the National Dairy Board and the National Games Stadium and then head for the far gate. Not a pleasant prospect. I opened my umbrella (it was still raining lightly), and set off determinedly.
The going seemed good as long as I followed his advice. I took some inner roads and kept myself fairly clean and dry. But when I exited these safe bylines and encountered the main road, I could see that the water-logging was for a very short stretch, close to the National Games Stadium intersection. I decided to take the narrow, muddy, high footpath that seemed to offer a chance of making it to the stadium entrance to National Games Village.
This muddy path was at an elevation, because several months ago, some “civic” body had started to excavate a drain at the side of the road. The mud had then been piled up on the edge of the road, and there it stayed ever since. When the rains turned the rest of the road to slush, the mud offered a highway through, albeit a rather unpleasant one. But this time this muddy embankment had itself got washed away in parts. In some places, people had placed blocks of stone that you could step over and this I proceeded to do, whenever the path broke down. At last, I was only a few steps from the turning to National Games Village. Almost home and dry.
Almost. But not quite.
At the corner, I saw a man slip and disappear into the mud up to his waist. I stopped, watching fearfully. He was too far away for me to do anything but watch. He scrambled up, out of the drain, onto terra firma. That could happen to me, I thought. I better watch my step.
But I knew this path – I walked it every day, twice a day. To the left of the mud, road. To the right of the mud, uncovered drain. Still, better be careful, I thought.
My next step forward had to be straight into the muddy water – there was no more path and no more stones. I tested the water gingerly. Yes, there was ground under there, and it would hold. I took my next step. The ground gave and suddenly I was up to my chest in water. In a second, from Nike shoes, to Sony Ericsson cell phone, to IBM laptop to Levis jeans and pretty pink Allen Solly top – everything was full of mud.
I screamed. I could see myself becoming another statistic:
15 People and an IBM Laptop Washed Away in Open Drains in Separate Incidents
I got a helping hand – someone pulled me. I put a knee up on the road. I was kneeling, then standing. Dripping wet, but out of the drain. I was pushed roughly but kindly to the centre of the road and exhorted not to venture to the side again. Not that I was inclined to, anyway.
As I walked the rest of the way home, I was struck by two things:
I was now so wet, I didn’t need the umbrella anymore.
I still had to use the umbrella in the hope that my precious IBM laptop was not yet completely useless.
I reached home, stripped and put myself and everything that had been on me, even my shoes, straight into a bucketful of hot water. But not my laptop, of course, which I took out and inspected carefully. It seemed to be dry, much to my surprise and relief, and when I turned it on, it worked. I could not say the same for my cell phone, which had been in my pocket. Its display was blank, and a red light was flashing. I opened its battery compartment and found water under the battery and sim card. I kept it out to air, but I don’t have high hopes for its chances of recovery.
But the important thing was that I was safe and dry and so was my precious laptop. And I had learnt two very important lessons:
Don’t carry your cell phone in your pocket.