It is 5.30 a.m when suddenly the phone rings, waking me. I do not pick up on the first call believing it to be a false call as my name is alphabetically usually at the top of the phone-book. However, the caller is insistent;he calls again. I pick up.
“It is flooding in Surat. If you want to run to Baroda to your relatives, you still can.”
“Are you serious?” I ask, as there have already been two flood scares this year.
” Shop-owners have already started started shifting their stuff elsewhere.I have personally shifted stuff for two houses.” This makes me sit upright on my bed.
This sets my pulse racing. I live in Adajan which is low lying as compared to the rest of the city and the river is just two and a half kilometres from my home. The duplex house I am living in had gone underwater in 2006. If a flood actually came, I would have to shift all my stuff downstairs to the first floor, and it is a lot of stuff I am talking of.
I decide to go on a reconnaissance mission immediately to the Tapti. I wear my raincoat as it is still raining like it did all day yesterday.
The signs of unrest are clear almost immediately. The milk booth has 30 people standing in front of it. Traffic seems unusually high at 6 in the morning. A hundred metres ahead, there is a mini traffic jam with all vehicles queuing up behind each other. Coming closer, I realize, the vehicles have been purposefully lined up in front of the closed petrol pump so that they can tank up as soon as the pump opens in the morning ( it is still dark outside).
The newly built flyover is littered with vehicles left on it in the night by people who got the news early.It has now been closed by the police. I continue onwards to the bridge; I decide to go to the ‘Makai Pul’ which is the lowest bridge among the river bridges of Surat. The sight is overwhelming. Two days ago, the river was a narrow strip in the centre of the bridge and most of the massive river bank was just black mud pockmarked in portions by rain water. Now, there was only water from end to end with the religious sites at the river banks already under water. The river water is moving underneath at a frightening pace, one that brings to mind the Ganga of Haridwar.
I have uploaded a brief video at Youtube of the water flowing at Makai Pul at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzPOK_QT2bQ (pardon the video quality, it was taken by a basic phone)
The bridge to the other side to of the city is still not affected that much by traffic but jams occur nonetheless as Surti public, true to its kind, is motoring on the ‘wrong side’ on the bridge after witnessing the spectacle of the overflowing river. Making the long U turn is something they simply cannot do( there is something in the Surti air I guess).
I am unable to make the return on the same road on the way back as it has been blocked due to excessive traffic. I thus use the road running parallel to the river. I keep to the right side of the road as water is pouring onto the road on the left. At current speed, this road will be unmotorable within two hours (the pics show this road. it is called the Bapu Nagar Road)
As I return home at 6:45, I find that the kilometres long traffic jam has begun and milk booths have run out supplies. Neighbours ask me whether I have enough stock of food. Fortunately, I have enough food to survive for several weeks.I curse myself for not filling up additional water yesterday from the municipal supply. I set my mobile immediately on the charger.
Local news reports that around 5 lakh cusecs have been released. This is a lot more than the 2.5 lakh cusec releases that had created the earlier scares of this year or the minor flood of 2012 in which water had entered the city through the gutter. This time, the river itself was entering the city.
One line from the Lord of The Rings:Two Towers seems pertinent: “So it begins.”
Update 10 a.m: I do another hour long reconnaissance. The situation is now truly alarming. Water has flooded Hazira Road in Adajan and the parallel road i talked of earlier has indeed gone underwater 3 hours ago. The river has moved inwards by around half a kilometre from its banks in all areas.
Vehicles in houses near the river are standing in water. Police have cut off traffic to major bridges leading to the Adajan area of Surat becoming almost cut off. Many provision shops have run out of supplies.
Let’s hope electricity lasts.