Any way, the monsoons have arrived now (albeit imba delayed!) and have since been making fun of our municipal corporations. Joyful as the government seemed by the promise of the rains, we've had more fatalities since the coming of the rains than since the failure of their timely arrival.
Yesterday, I stepped out to pick up some cigarettes. It had been alternating between heavy drizzles and pouring rain over the last day and a half here in Hyderabad, so you can imagine the amount of water that must have been involved. Nevertheless, I was stunned and awestruck within a minute of firing up my Bolero. Our place is situated quite near a catchment reservoir that acts as a feeder tank for the Hussain Sagar lake. There are a few canals that drain water from other places and feed this lake of ours. It's called the "Bon Cheruvu" by the way, and was the one shouldering the greatest responsibility for the massive and supremely destructive Hyderabadi foods of 2001.
The road (the only real escape from our current location) Goes over a bridge kind of a thing that spans one of the above mentioned canals. There's usually about a foot (or sometimes less) of water running through this particular channel. The bridge has a clearance of about 8 feet (I think?) from the bottom of the canal. It was turning dark already, and the street lights were flickering in a slow, eerie strobe like manner. I could see people up ahead near the canal. The strobe lights, the dark and the rain made it a little difficult to make out, but it looked like there was a commotion up ahead. My mind ran over a series of possibilities. The most likely of which, was that the bridge had collapsed or something on those lines. When I got closer though, I was taken completely by surprise..
I was still about a hundred feet from the edge of the canal and there was water everywhere! I immediately switched to a lower gear and crawled forward. There was no chance of turning around since the road was way too narrow to make a U-Turn on. I could go into reverse, but there were a couple of vehicles behind me. Normally, it would not have been much of an issue. I could have stopped and reversed.. But their exhaust hoses would have been touching the water and I don't have much faith in unknown (I could'nt make out who they were through the rain) drivers. They would likely have staled their vehicles and I'd be sunk.
I noticed that the water was already more than half-way up my wheels and a creepy feeling began to tingle through my spine. When I arrived at the canal, I was taken completely by surprise. I was already expecting something along the same lines, but what I saw still took my breath away! I'd earlier figured that a tree or something must have collapsed into the canal and other flotsam might have gotten stuck between the branches and caused an obstruction to the canal's normal flow. Instead, what I saw both amazed me as well as brought on a respect for nature. The canal had too much water flowing through it. so much in fact, that the water was flowing almost three feet above the surfaced road over bridge!! The bridge had effectively been turned into a causeway! With no railings on either side, I was certain that a smaller vehicle would have been swept away with the force of the water.
We all know what Indian roads are like. Craters everywhere, potholes where you'd least expect them to be, trenches dug across the road in varying depths, speed breakers designed by unthinking infidels (these speed breakers look like someone placed a pipe on the road and then dropped a bit of cement on that to make sure it does'nt move too much). Luckily, I have a vivid map of all these obstructions etched into my brain from regular usage. It was a little disorienting trying to pin-point potholes and other life-threatening obstacles through swiftly flowing, deep, opaque water, but I managed some how.
Skill and technique meshed themselves together in a powerful symphony like that of tungsten reinforced steel bonds, matching molecular structures notch for notch, bond or bond. The raindrops froze as they fell from the sky, the touch of the wind turning wet hair into wax-like structures. My fingers coated in a mixture of sweat and the wetness of rain, I grip the wheel with a power not fully understood. A moment ago, I was in control and was rapidly losing it in the face of nature immense power. The little trickle of a stream had turned into a raging force worthy of respect and admiration of the highest order. My instincts reached around me in that frozen moment in time when the raindrops stood till and gleaming in the night. They reached in and took control just as my brain slipped into the background. The liquid smoothness of the entire procedure would leave me thinking back in awe at what had happened, but just then, I was a savage beast fighting for the survival of my species.. for the survival of my planet!!
Before I knew it, I'd crossed over and was safe. the car behind me was swept into the lake with the screeching of metal against asphalt and concrete. The car behind that one turned on its side and spun taught into the water. They were lucky that they were'nt deep enough yet.
20 minutes later, I'd bought cigarettes, I'd bought vegetables, I'd bought Redbull (needed for survival!) I'd bought chips.. There were cars lined up on either side of the road already. People using ropes to try and save the hordes who were mad enough to try the trip across the bridge. I laughed at the terrified faces and told them I would go on without heeding their warnings of death and destruction. I represented the hope of mankind and the eternal struggle of man against himself. I smiled into the closest face. "I've been through once, I'll go right through again, just watch me!"
I was amused by the sudden change of expression on the poor guys face. It was a few meters away that I realized what I had seen.. He thought I was a dead man. I was confident, having done my trick once.. I was absolutely certain I'd manage again. It had been drizzling gently since I had crossed over 20 minutes ago, so I had not expected what I saw in front of me. I heard it before I even saw it actually.. The gurgling of swift water.. I could hear the grinding of stones and pebbles as they hurtled around the bridge. By the time I reached the middle of the bridge, I was horrified! I could stick an arm out of the window and paddle in the water!! It must have been almost 4 feet deep over the bridge! Instinct failed, and never came back. To my alarm, I could feel the wheels sliding in tiny jerk as the water continued to massage me off the bridge. The rocks and stones being carried on by the force of the water pummeled the side of the car and haunting scrapes and chinks echoed through the huge black metallic body of my craft.
Then something flashed past my headlights.... It took a split-second for me to recognize it, and another to formulate a plan in my head. It was the streetlight from the opposite side of the canal. Determined and suddenly free of fear, I stepped on it. Part boat, and part car, I took advantage of the flow.. I launched forward when the wheels touched the ground, the low gear ensuring friction and dead-weight. Bouncing along the bridge at an angle into the flow, I followed a haphazard parabolic path to the opposite side of the canal.
I was glad when I got home. I put on a brave face and acted like it was nothing. Frankly though I was so damn terrified, I could have died of fright if someone had merely coughed behind my back, I was that close to the edge of the world!!
I learned the next morning that 4 people had been swept away before my first trip through the waters, 8 more were swept away after that episode. I was the only person to do the cross over a second time. All in all, two cars were lost in the lake, and 6 people are presumed dead. 2 bodies remain missing. 4 people survived the deep waters.
What have I learned from all this? A hell of a lot! But one thing is for certain, I don't intend to do this ever again, and I don't recommend anyone to ever even try it. It's foolhardy and stupid, if not outright suicidal!
I've been a bad boy, and it took me a while to get used to what I've done. I've beaten myself about it enough, so please, spare me the reprimands and stuff. This post is to make the best of a bad thing. Please deal with it as gently as you can permit yourself to. :)
Save a Life, Plant a Damn Tree!!