It started like any other rainstorm, but what took everyone by surprise that Mumbai never saw rain at this time of the year. At around 3pm, I started from Dadar to head back home fearing water logging if I waited any longer. But it turns out I was already too late. The maddening downpour coupled with heavy winds never seen before had wreacked havoc on the transport system already. Roads were blocked and trains were struggling to stay on track. The Borivali fast I took was stranded somewhere between Mahim and Bandra. After an hour of wait, we were marooned. There was knee-deep water on the tracks, and then one strong gust of wind brought down one of the metal pillars holding the overhead electric wires. That was it. There was no way the trains would start again. Seeing this, some passengers tried jumping into the water, not realising those wires that just fell in the water carried 25,000 volts of electricity. They were electrocuted and died a painful death before our eyes.
I was trying hard to contact someone to rescue me, but all cellphone networks seemed jammed. It is then it stuck me what I had learnt in my engineering days- in times of trouble, never call, always use SMS. I did that and luckily managed to get in touch with a friend driving home in his Tata Safari. I instructed him to come on the Mahim flyover. After another hour, the wires were now devoid of electricity and so was the water. Slowly, we managed to jump on to the tracks, now submerged in waist-deep water. As I was plodding my way, I experienced the ground beneath me giving way. The tremors were stronger than I ever experienced. It was an earthquake. Bigger and stronger than Mumbai had ever witnessed. Within a minute, as I looked back, I saw the old railway bridge over Mithi river collapse into the swelling waters with a huge splash, taking with it few coaches of a stranded local train with it. This was just the beginning. As I looked west, the sight I saw was terrifying to the core. The western pillar of the Bandra Worli Sea Link collapsed on to the eastern pillar and both of them came crumbling down in to the Mahim bay with a ear deafening thud. The sight reminded me of 9/11/2001, New York.
I somehow climbed on to the Mahim flyover from the embankments and got into the Safari waiting on the bridge. We tried to dash through water-logged streets as quickly as possible. The tremors had brought down most of the hutments in Dharavi. I instructed my friend to drive east and out of the island as fast as possible. I knew if we wanted to survive, there was only one road to take- the elevated Eastern Freeway, if it had survived the quake, that is. As we dashed towards Wadala, through tire-deep water, we found the Monorail was still intact and in a position to run, except that the electricity was not available. The passengers stranded somewhere near IMAX station in the tiny coaches were trying hard to break the windows to jump out, which would have been suicide anyways. The Eastern Freeway had survived, so far, and we joined the other fleeing Mumbaikars to reach the Vashi creek bridge where another horror awaited us- the old bridge had collapsed and the water level in the creek had gone up so far, it was hardly three feet below the railway bridge, a few more feet below the new road bridge.
As we were stuck in the traffic, I tried reaching out to my girlfriend, Rhea, who gave me the grim news- she was stuck in the Ghatkopar bound service of the Metro, somewhere between Versova and D.N. Nagar stations on the elevated Orange Line, surrounded by water all around. The electrical systems and the computers in the train had failed and there was no way the jammed doors would open too. There was no option but to wait, forever. As we tuned in the radio, all the FM stations, still up and running using whatever resources they had, giving a yeoman service to the city like they had done in the past during 26 July 2005 floods and 26/11/2008 terror attacks, had the same series of bad news- the bridge carrying metro tracks over the Western Express Highway had collapsed on the highway flyover, which in turn collapsed to the ground, killing hundreds of stranded passengers, on the metro as well as on the roads; a huge tidal wave had lashed into movie star Shahrukh Khan's bungalow- Mannat at Bandstand, killing everyone, including the star; Shreepathi Arcade, once India's tallest building was now a pile of rubble on the Tardeo ground, superstar of the previous century Amitabh Bachchan had died of suffocation in his residence after a 10 floor building fell straight on his bungalow. There was destruction everywhere.
After an hour, we somehow managed to crawl, alongwith six lanes of other traffic, across the 2-km Vashi Creek Bridge even as water level continued to rise and the sea turned violent. In this scenario, it was pointless to take the Palm Beach Road, which would have been flooded by now for sure. We drove ahead to CBD Belapur where army personnel directed us, like everyone else, to abandon the vehicles and climb up the Parsik hill following strict instructions from soldiers positioned all along the route. By now it was beyond dusk and when I reached the top of the hill, all I could see to the west was darkness, all I could hear around me were screams and wails of stranded residents. The night was long, and spent without food or water. When the sun rose next morning over the eastern horizon, what I saw to the west was impossible to believe- the sprawling metropolis that lied beyond the creek was nowhere to be seen. All that could be seen was water, extending to the horizon, with the hill once protecting BARC now rising like an island in the middle of nowhere. That was it, The End. The Apocalypse we always feared. The date- December 21, 2012.