At 5:33pm one of my friend calls me at work and says, “Hey Raja, it’s raining bloody crazy outside and you should better leave now to avoid any flooding”.
Having braced so much of rain in the last 10 days, I took his advice with a pinch of salt and left the office sharp at 6pm with drenched clothes (the rain was so intense that before I could reach my car, I was soaked). My office exit was a trailer of what was about to unfold in the next few hours.
I hit the main road pretty soon and saw the traffic was already chaotic and the rain was intensifying by the minute. “Flooding” would be a slightly exaggerated word to describe what I saw in the first 15 minutes of my travel before I hit the signal. But the atmosphere around me and the tensed people on the road was slowly making me a bit grim.
Twenty five (25) minutes into my drive I hit one of the busiest market place in Chennai called Pondy Bazar. The scene I witnessed there made me to contemplate whether this was an illusion or reality. Vehicles were already under one (1) feet of water. Yes, now I could proclaim that this was flooding. Vehicles were moving at snail pace when I frantically rang my wife to check the news update. She confirmed that Chennai is being battered by very heavy rain for the last 1 hour.
Hundreds and thousands of commuters from all directions trying to reach home after work were taken aback by the cruelty of nature and its ferocity. I was quite cool listening to the radio, but not really within. Trying to take my usual route to home was the first mistake I did because it was through one of the subway. My mental agony started when I was diverted from there. This put me into a spin. I was already 50 minutes into my journey. By this time I am already home normally.
Pressure started to build in me gradually. Flood alert is something which I felt was a badly missed out feature in the GPS system, I felt like that WATER has invaded the city of Chennai and showing its absolute destructive strength. Continuous rains made the situation even more desperate. It was indeed so pathetic to see a lot of two wheelers pushing their vehicle in one feet of water and it was so sad to see the ladies going through this ordeal. I was exactly 95 minutes into the journey and still nowhere close to home.
Vehicle with boiling radiators, failed two wheelers, bemused and stranded public, chaotic traffic, helpless traffic police, desperate ladies, worried families, homeless people finding refuge, erratic driving, desolate street kids, confused cattle, disappointed shopkeepers, street vendors despair, some caring Samaritans, tensed long distance travelers, was what I could see all around me. But being inside the car did not absolutely make me proud, happy or safe at any time because of the non-stop rain and the rising water levels.
Kept broadcasting my location coordinates to my family every few minutes. 150 minutes (2.5hrs) into the journey, I was almost floating in 1.5 feet of water. I was at an intersection about to take the straight road when one erratic driver made me to take a right instead. Guess what? He probably guided me in the right direction (blessing in disguise). But my relief did not last long…I quickly caught up with the majority of them in the traffic jam. Slowly news started to trickle in that a lot of my family members and friends were stranded at different places.
I honestly felt that I might have to either stay put in the car or check in into a hotel to avoid further risk to my life and damage to my car. Almost 3.2 hours into the journey I was only 2 kms away from my house. All of us on the road wanted only one thing in common. “To reach the finish line (HOME)”
With the phone battery getting depleted every minute, I called my friend who gave the wise advice to leave immediately. The guy who promptly picks up the call took a while to answer, making me a bit worried. Finally he picked up the call and sounded very relieved. I was glad that at least he reached home safe. But he told me “Hey Raja, sorry da, I just peed in my water bottle as I was damn bloody desperate holding it for more than 4 hours. I am yet to reach my home.” I got a shock of my life and only then realized that this is one another dimension of suffering which people were going through at that point in time. I felt very sorry for the women, kids and others in their stranded vehicles.
After 4 hours and 42 minutes I reached home and was glad to see my well-wishers and my family waiting for me in the finish line and cheering me as soon as I entered. I will never forget this experience in my life time.