On Friday night, as we headed out of the office after work, moderate showers greeted us at Nariman Point as we took a taxi to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), from where we could catch a train that would take us to Badlapur and Neral. Little did we know what was in store for us.
Trains were running on time, till 10 pm, which was when we boarded a Khopoli-bound train from CSMT. Surprisingly, the train, which is usually delayed everyday, was going faster speed than usual. However, at Dombivli, it halted for more than seven minutes. Gradually, all the passengers from the adjacent compartments began alighting from the train and the women started panicking.
Minutes later, we heard an announcement that our Khopoli train had been cancelled due to waterlogging between Ambarnath and Badlapur. This was at 11 pm. What followed was much worse. All services between Kalyan and Karjat/Khopoli had been suspended due to waterlogging, we learnt. This meant one of us could not go home to Neral but instead, stay at Badlapur. Easier said than done. Reaching Badlapur proved to be another ordeal.
For company, we had a reporter from another publication, who too lives in Badlapur and we decided to go to Badlapur by taxi. After several attempts to book a radio taxi failed, a kaali-peeli first asked us to hop in. But the minute we told him to go to Badlapur, he refused, saying it was 'too far' and promptly cancelled our ride. Luckily, we found an autorickshaw driver who agreed to take us there, but for a price – Rs 600. It was already 11.30 pm and it was raining continuously. It was an emergency of sorts, so we took his offer and agreed to split the fare.
And what a ride it was! As soon as we reached the Kalyan-Badlapur highway, also known as the Pipeline Road, we saw both corridors of the highway were flooded. As our autorickshaw bravely carried on, water splashed scarily close to our heads. And this scene was playing out in complete darkness, as the streetlights along the highway were not working. How would the driver know where the potholes were, we agonised. On dimly lit roads further ahead, there was no way to assess the level of waterlogging. Luckily, some local youths turned good samaritans and shut down the part of the road which was submerged in the water.
As we skipped from pothole to pothole, it felt like a roller-coaster ride, leaving us with achy sides. Finally, we reached the Badlapur highway, and we hit a really rough patch -- the rickshaw tyre got punctured. We were forced to complete the rest of our journey on foot, as far as Badlapur station, getting there at 12.45 am.
This story would not be complete without a mention of how we were touched by the kindness of strangers. Many motorists slowed down and offered to to drop us, but we had already called a friend to pick us up. Finally, it was 1.30am when we reached home safely.