Finally Janavi Pawar decided to close her clinic. She decided there was no point in waiting as no one would venture to come out of their home in the heavy downpour. Only when she pulled open the main door of her clinic to come out did she realize how heavy the downpour was. It was incessant rain, in July as never before in earlier years. In 2012 she was caught in heavy rains and had to leave her bus as it could not move any further due to knee deep waters covering the Ghod Bunder road, the old name for Swami Vivekanand Road from Bandra to Dahisar. The incident remained stuck in her mind for over two years.
A dozen or so passengers on the upper deck at that time were surprised to hear the conductor call the main road by its original name. Many of them may not have known the new name though they travelled on the route at least twice a day. Passengers of long route bus services rarely bother to know the names of roads through which their bus passes. Suddenly the psychologist within Janavi brought her to the harsh realities before her. She instantly knew that her mind was recalling memories from the past as she did not want to face the reality staring her in face.
The downpour had been incessant for four hours. All the roads were logged with knee deep swirling dirty water. No car or bus was visible in the immediate vicinity of Juhu-Parle where her office was. Calling a cab was out of question. Only a few three wheelers were seen on the roads. She realized getting one to accept her as passenger would not be easy.
From past experiences she knew that an umbrella was more of a burden than a protection in heavy rain and strong winds. She rolled a plastic bag into a cap like contraption, put it on her head to cover her hair and walked in the knee deep water to reach the main road. After two or three attempts she was able o get a rickshaw driver to agree to take her as passenger though he continued to grumble in a loud tone. He confessed that it was against his principle to leave a single girl stranded. But their move forward was very slow. Water was racing past. Walking in knee deep water was dangerous as no one could be sure when his or her leg would slide into a pothole hidden under water. Walking was an effort .
Though there was no vehicle traffic, their move forward was halted every two minutes as the force of swirling water made the rickshaw driver be extremely careful for fear of water stalling the engine. As they were approaching the Ira Bridge that was closed to vehicular traffic and also for use by pedestrians due to collapse of a part of a bridge a week earlier disrupting the suburban train movements for nearly twenty four hours, Janavi noticed a young boy in fully drenched clothes standing on the road side. He seemed completely oblivious to the pouring rain. Only when any person came close he waved them away.
Psychologist Janavi got curious to find out what made the boy stand in the open rain. It took nearly half an hour to come close to where the boy was standing. From her vehicle she beckoned him to come to her.Initially he appeared reluctant to move but the face of the young woman finally broke his reluctance. Janavi asked him as he came closer whether he wanted a ride home? The boy took almost a minute before declining her offer. He pointed to the open sewage where water was rushing with full force. Anyone could have fallen down and gone down floating into the sewage hole. The boy was standing there to warn everyone. What an amazing child!
He was hardly 12 years old and probably worked in the tire shop that was seen just opposite on the other side of the road. He was at his watch post since morning though no one had assigned him duty. Janavi looked around if she could find an open food joint so she could at least organise food for his lunch. She opened her purse to take out two fifty rupee notes to give but the boy sensed her intention from her gesture. He waved his hands furiously to say no to the money she was about to offer. He told her his lunch was in the shop and as soon as water stops gushing through and when there was no need to warn anyone, he would have his lunch.
Janavi was able to reach her home three hours later in the same vehicle. Ram Khilavan, the rickshaw driver initially refused to accept any fare though he had stayed with her for four hours to ensure that Janavi reached home safely. Probably he had seen her humane gesture of offering money for food to the strange young boy. Janavi thrust a five hundred rupee note in his hand said, ‘Chacha, Yeh paisa lehilo, apne liye nahi, par apane bachchoke liye.’( Uncle take this money, not for yourself but at least for your children.) Her words brought tears to the eyes of Ram Khilavan. He put his hand on her head as blessings and said ‘Dilki badi achhi ho tum beta.’ (You have a good heart my child.)
I am unable to pass judgment. Here were three characters caught in nature’s fury that descended in Mumbai on July 18. All three behaved in exceptionally different manners but underlying all their actions was their humanism. The young boy who worried about the safety of unknown strangers; Janavi who worried about the young boy and the vehicle driver who wanted no reward for his humane approach. Who says humanism is dead?