Don't judge a book by the cover!
July 26, 2005 is a date which will remain etched in the memory of every Mumbaikar. It was a day when the metropolis was washed by unprecedented rains. Every person, who happened to be in Mumbai on that day, must have some experience which they are unlikely to forget. I have mine.
It had been raining since morning. Fortunately, I was working in the night shift and didn't have to step out of my warm cozy home on such a wet morning.
Living alone in a strange city, I felt fiercely independent and took life as it came. I cooked myself a lunch and looked out of the window. It was still raining but appeared to have slowed down a little.
"Great!" I thought to myself. Looking down from the balcony I saw rivulets of water flowing over the road; I shuddered at the thought of having to wade through this mess. But at 6 pm I could no longer stay indoors; I had to leave for office.
Picking up the umbrella I stepped out. The rain had intensified. There were few people at the bus stop. All the seats in the bus were taken excepting for one. Only one person occupied the seat which was intended to accommodate two persons. I could sit next to him. But the man was burly and seemed to take up the entire seat.
"Will you please move a little?" I requested.
The man looked at me haughtily. “Harrumph,” he grunted and made a show of shuffling his feet but, actually, moved very little.
"Oaf!" I muttered under my breath and adjusted my thin frame in the available space.
The rain had intensified and was now pouring in sheets. The bus had to pass through a low-lying area. There was knee-deep water on the road and the bus could not progress further.
Commuters who were bound for nearby destinations alighted. But my office was still eight kilometers away. My companion too seemed to be heading for some far-away destination and he also remained seated.
The bus remained stationary all through the night. Late in the evening my tummy growled and demanded food. I had my meals in the office canteen and, so, wasn't carrying any food. My companion opened a food packet. I looked at him from the corner of my eyes and saw him wolf down the food. He did not offer me a bite.
It was in the early hours when the bus driver thought it safe to restart the vehicle. The rain had stopped. The bus inched slowly and covered almost six kilometres when it spluttered and stopped for good.
Like it or not, all the commuters had to alight now. The water was almost waistdeep here and we had to wade through.
While wading through the water, I suddenly lost my footing and toppled. I felt a strong hand grab me by my shirt and help me back on my feet.
"Are you hurt?" It was my bus companion.
I was more scared than hurt.
"Thank you," I said feeling ashamed of myself. "No, I am not hurt."
"Be careful," he cautioned and sallied forth.
I stood sheepishly watching his receding back.