It is not for nothing that we call nature ‘mother’. Like Mom, it does seem that she is primarily preoccupied with the survival of the race. One of her many wonderful gifts to us, is the ability of one part of our brain to keep ticking in cold clarity during times of peril.
Right up to that eventful day in the summer of 1995, I had read an entire Reader’s Digest Manual on “People in peril” and had watched several survival movies like ‘The Towering Inferno”, “The other side of the mountain”, “The Edge”, “The thin red line” and more. But it is only when the water came charging into our home, catching us sitting ducks, shell shocked, right in the middle of a Delhi cantonment, one regular, unusual morning that I fully realized the wonder of this gift.
Subroto Park is nowhere near the Yamuna banks. It did not boast a teaspoon of a water body sixteen years ago; the present swimming pool came much later. Its central location, adjacent to the Airport Highway and a few meters beyond Dhaula Kuan made it a candidate for dust at the most and a little bit of envy, if pushed. It is, let’s admit, one of the smartest, tightest and neatest cantonment pockets of the capital. But a flood, a rain water inflow some two feet high, into a carpeted, decorated, settled home, caught in a lazy morning stir five minutes to the maid’s appearance….
I had just gotten to the kitchen range, in the process of placing the lighter to the burner. There was a light swoosh! I turned around in the direction of the sound and stood stock still, rubbing my eyes. A growing film of muddy water was stealing up from under the pantry door leading out. I moved closer as though in a magnetized trance. A potted plant having overturned, the garden bucket springing a leak, the hose may have come unhinged…these were the possibilities blinking at me. I reached the handle and yanked open the door. Big mistake. Big big mistake!!
It was a race thereafter. A fight to save what we could, from the unholy barrage swirling into every corner of our home. Albums, oh God, albums ! The carpets. The curios. Before long, the extra gas cylinder was floating ‘dug,glug,dug’ in the water, like a catamaran. Our house slippers floated away. While the help calls were being placed, water was beginning to push through the car doors of the Ambassador parked outside. I frantically dialled a friend. The response, “Calm down. Just take a broom and sweep the water out!” It would have taken a particularly imaginative person to comprehend what I was trying to describe on the phone. In Subroto Park? No way!
The house was a mess, onions and potatoes were bobbing all over, some heavy duty pans had gone into sail, and kids were by now wide eyed and awake. With the man in uniform struggling to switch off the mains, and an outfit not equipped to deal with a surprise like this, my cold and clear cranial nerve kicked in. I picked up the camera and began clicking!
Of course we survived. It was not a high scale catastrophe to begin with. An evacuation to friends’ on the fifth floor of Arjan Vihar followed. There was a mission clean up and fumigation taken up. It turned out that a highway drain had cracked, diverting all the storm water into this particular house. Friends joked for years afterwards, about dropping food from helicopters.