Wednesday, July 29, 2009

*Pitter patter*- part two

(Pleasant weather when we were going to my Uncle's house. No hint of a stormy weather.)

(Here you can see a part of a big scary truck and a white car stuck in traffic jam. By the way, that car broke down a little distance away.)

(Here we are stuck in traffic jam with our car swimming in a water-logged road)

(A picture taken while stuck in traffic jam. The car wipers were busy sweeping away the water, but since it was raining so much the windowshield was always this wet.)

(My apartment building is usually dry during normal rains. But when we got back that night, we found the floors covered in water. The kids were playing and cycling in the water.)

Part 2: Sinking in water

We had a couple of more yummy treats at my Uncle’s house: roast sandwiches, gulab jamun, kheer (a sweet dish made of rice and milk, somewhat like a milky pudding) and gole gappe (delicious hollow balls that are filled with sour n’ sweet syrup, yoghurt and chickpeas). Yummy! However, while we were munching on all these goodies inside the house it suddenly started raining cats and dogs. Worried that it may become worse and water-log the roads, we hastily left his house and hit the road- but not before getting heavily doused with a bucket-full of water as we left!

We decided to take the wider roads that were less likely to fill up with water. But to our dismay and shock, the widest road we took was completely water-logged and jam-packed with traffic. Many cars had broken down due to the intense rain and people were scrambling out of them onto the sidewalk, soaking wet and searching for any sign of shelter.

The problem seemed to get worse as the rain continued to pour down and the road turned into a small swimming pool. Waves were lashing at the side of our car, at times, even making it sway and float. A couple of more cars broke down around us (including a police patrol vehicle) and the wide road did not seem that wide anymore. Then we got stuck in a line of traffic for a very long time and the water started to seep into the doors. I only realized it when I heard a ‘splash’ near my feet, and looking down, was stunned to see a pool of water. Frightened, I shared a look a horror with my sister sitting next to me. The rain would not cease, cars were breaking down left and right, we were stuck amidst scarily big trawlers and trucks and now… water was flooding our car! *Panic attack* It was getting pretty tense in the car. No was talking. My father struggled with the steering wheel and the whining engine (it was making all sorts of sounds. No wonder since we later found it drenched in water). He looked worried. All of us were quiet and saying our silent prayers to God. We were all praying for a safe return home. My sister- as we later found out- promised to offer ten prayers as soon as we got out of the mess.

You might be wondering why we were scared of getting stuck on a water-logged road. After all, the worse that could happen was that we would have to spend the night on the road. Or we could always get out of the car and walk all the way to home. Right? Well… no. In Karachi, you have to worry about one major thing which comes along with water-logged roads and streets: electrocution. Yes. That is very scary. Electricity transmission lines in the city are not always installed and maintained properly so that they are usually dangling here and there, and break loose when the slightest bit of stormy wind hits the city. The kunda system (a method for stealing power from the mainlines by hooking a piece of rod and wire to it) also creates a nasty web of wires that easily short-circuits in stormy weather. Therefore a lot of people die due to electrocution in the monsoon season. You can never be sure of walking safely in a water-logged street here. It is very risky. Tantamount to suicide…

I knew my father was worried because of that. He did not want us to have to leave the car at any cost. So he kept pushing the engine to its limit, forcing it to go on and on. Every time it would show any sign of breaking down, he would accelerate and urge the car on through the traffic. I was greatly impressed by his driving skills that night. Even in this tense situation, he kept his nerve and calmly drove through the storm.

And so, finally, after much difficult driving (and praying!), we reached quite near to our home. Thankfully, there was a road there that was not that deep in water. The car waded through it easily and we felt happy as our home got nearer and nearer. As we turned the corner *sigh* *thank God**Alhamdolillah* we saw our apartment building. I had never been more happy to see it. How had we made it out of there? How had we made it out of there? The whole thing seemed like a very bad nightmare now… very surreal.

The experience greatly reminded me of another such experience we faced while doing our Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). I’m sure everyone has heard of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Millions of people attend it every year. The Saudi authorities do take steps to keep their number under control, but somehow, despite taking many measures, a lot of people sneak in illegally and this creates a lot of problems. The places where you need to perform the necessary religious acts become very congested.
One of those acts includes the circumambulation of the Holy Ka’bah. It was there that we got caught in a rather sticky (literally!) situation. The whole place was flooded with people – seemed like a sea of people- and while circumambulating, we suddenly got stuck in the crowd. There was no space to walk and we were caught like a bunch of sardines in a sandwich. The crowd buffeted us on all sides, pinning our arms to our bodies. There was absolutely no gap left. If the crowd would happen to sway a little we would all fall like pieces of dominoes and that would be the end of us.

Previously, a lot of people used to perish this way during Hajj, crushed and scrambled under the feet of the crowd. It’s something neither they nor you can help. The individuals in a crowd cannot control their actions, just like the waves in a sea cannot help crashing against a rock. It just happens. But (thank God!) the crowd miraculously started to thin away in a few minutes; the people around the perimeters decreased and in the small place that was created we quickly got out. We decided it was better to complete the rest of the circumambulation on the roof - which does take longer time but the crowd is much spaced out over there, so lesser risk involved.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that such incidents really shake you and remind us that we don’t have any control over our lives. We don't know when death may knock at our doorstep. Today? tomorrow? -we have no idea! Needlees to say, we must be prepared at all times. Your baggage consists of nothing else but your own deeds. Make sure you have enough of the ‘good ones’ to tip the scale to the right. Cheerio.

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