The day the city stood still

“Where are you Lata?”  asked my friend Kavita on the cellphone.  It was 6.40 pm on a weekday.

“I am in an Auto going to the railway station,” I responded anticipating a long chat.

“Do you know what has happened?  Don’t go to the station.  There has been some bomb blasts.”  I sat up straight, alert.

“Really! People are so normal on the road,” I responded.

“Just shut up, Lata.  They are showing on TV.  There has been bomb blasts on the Western railways near Jogeshwari, Matunga.  The stations will be in chaos.  Don’t go there.  Go to your mom’s place.”

I agreed and asked the auto driver to take a u-turn and go to my mother’s house which was just a few minutes away.   The roads looked normal with no signs of chaos as the news had not yet spread.

Courtesy : Internet

It was the 11th of July 2006.

At 6.50 pm, I reached my mother’s home and started watching the TV reports.   The ‘Breaking News’ was in a loop screaming ‘Bomb blasts in Mumbai trains’.  All the bombs had been placed on ‘Virar Fast’ trains or ‘locals’ as they are called.  All of them were placed in the men’s first class coach.

The lifeline of Mumbai, the locals, had come to a halt completely crippling the city.  The city that never sleeps, stopped.  The phone lines were dead,  the cell phone towers were jammed.

We, me and my husband, take the Virar fast local everyday between 6.15 pm to 7.15 pm which is the peak time.   The trains are inhumanely overcrowded.  I board the ladies coach and my husband takes the men’s first class coach.  I started fearing the worst.  Everybody started to call each other, taking stock of who is safe.  After many attempts, I could get a call through to my in-laws and informed them I am safe and to let the children stay with them till we get back.  We had no news on my husband.

We spent the next 3 hours frantically dialing my husband’s phone.  There was complete panic at my parents’ and in-laws’ homes.  Finally around 10 pm, my husband walked into my mother’s house, looking dazed. I rushed to hug him with tears of joy.

Later, he told us that he had indeed boarded one of the trains which had a bomb in it.  It went off when the train reached Borivali platform.  He was in the first class coach too.  But as luck would have it, he was in a different first class coach which was at the end of the train.    I asked him how come he was in a different coach that day although I am very glad he did.  He said, when he reached Andheri station to catch his normal train at 6.20 pm,  he saw this 6.08 pm train on the platform.  To reach a few minutes earlier, he got onto this train and since he had entered the station from the south side,  he boarded the last first class coach which he never takes otherwise.  And I said a grateful prayer for all the Gods who watched out for us that fateful day.