Ordinarily, during the monsoon, whenever heavy rainfall (eight inches or more) coincides with high tide, it is sufficient to bring Mumbai to a standstill. Low-lying areas get flooded, and railways, buses, taxis and rickshaws, which are the lifeline of Mumbai, come to a grinding halt. Hence, the disruption and destruction which occurred following 36 inches of rainfall, accompanied by high tide, caused unforeseen devastation.
But, regardless, Godrej moved on. While Nature showed her fury, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. did not rest. CHANGE salutes the spirit of Godrej and all its employees who showed extraordinary determination, zeal and camaraderie in the worst of situations.
Electrical & Electronic Division
Despite the heavy downpour, with almost all the roads in the Pirojshanagar complex flooded, substations and transformers drenched with tonnes of water, and water falling on our switchgears, busbars, power cables, communication cables and other indoor switchgears, we are proud that our manufacturing units at Pirojshanagar did not suffer a single short circuit or a single minuteís power shutdown.
The Tata power supply to the entire factory was uninterrupted not only on 26 July but also on the days following the deluge, with 100 per cent availability throughout. Although there was heavy water leakage in many Plants and manufacturing sheds, with electrical systems, cables, wires and bus distribution systems drenched with water, the power supply to the Plants remained uninterrupted.
We are pleased that our rigorous pre-monsoon check-ups and the maintenance we carry out on our power distribution systems yielded positive results. However, there were a number of emergency calls that needed attention.
There was total power failure from Reliance Energy to all our three colonies, viz. Hillside, Stationside and Creekside. Our engineers had to rush to these sites to help people during the power failure. We had to provide emergency services at various locations, where our employees or their family members were stuck in lifts following the sudden power failure in the colonies.
However, in the midst of all the chaos there was an area where power was available ?i.e. the buildings supplied by the Tata Power Company Ltd. Beyond these few buildings there was total disruption and chaos with no power available for hours together in the Reliance Energy network.
Unfortunately, Reliance power to the 100 HP water pump at Stationside quarters was interrupted for three days, resulting in no water supply to the Stationside and Hillside colonies for almost 72 hours. Further, when the power was restored at the Stationside quarters, we were shocked to find all three water pumps submerged in water. Fortunately, one pump that was unaffected was pressed into service to provide water to our licensees who had been without water for three days. Two other defective pumps were repaired within 24 hours and pressed into service immediately.
The Godrej Memorial Hospital, the pride of Pirojshanagar, was provided uninterrupted power by Tatas throughout the crisis and all other utilities, namely, air conditioning, gas supply, communications, etc. were not disrupted.
Our engineers worked non-stop for 48 hours. Many of them put in 18 to 20 hours of work daily and slept in the Division itself, so that they could provide services to our customers both inside and outside the factory.
Despite our best efforts, we were unable to help and provide any relief to the buildings connected to Reliance HT Substation No. 1 in our Hillside Colony. These 22 buildings, B1 to B4, C1 to C12 and E1 to E6, were the heaviest sufferers, as they remained in darkness for six days until, finally, partial power was restored to them on the night of Sunday, 31 July.
But our problems did not end there, as Reliance power interruptions continued on and off thereafter, because the HT cable providing power to this Reliance Substation had developed a fault somewhere between Kurla and Vikhroli. During this period we were able to provide power to these buildings only at night. There was also an LT cable fault, because of which power supply to Buildings E1 to E6 and C12 underwent almost nine days of power shutdown.
With external communication links totally disrupted, our engineers faced a Herculean task contacting Reliance Energy to make power available to our residential colonies.
Out of 174 core machines in Godrej, only 13 machines broke down due to heavy moisture. The remaining machines worked well, as adequate precautions such as sealing of panels, checking panel air conditioners, timely repairs of defective spares, checking of motors and drive modules, etc. are taken in our preventive maintenance programme.
Despite the heavy rain, our Division had 80 per cent attendance on 26, 27 and 28 July, 2005. As it happened, the audit for our external recertification for ISO 9001 was conducted by M/s. TUV India on 28 July, and we have been recommended for ISO 9001 without NCR. This was possible only because all our documents and systems were in place and all the engineers turned up for work despite the calamity.
Though external communications totally failed, our internal communications continued without any interruption. We continued to supply uninterrupted compressed air to all the manufacturing plants during the deluge. Finally, when normalcy was gradually restored after seven days on Tuesday, 2 August, our engineers at E&E Division took a breather and returned to their homes and families after ensuring that all systems and facilities in our Pirojshanagar complex were healthy and running at their desired efficiency.
Homi N. Daruwalla
The existing storm water drainage system was unable to cope with the intensity of the downpour. This was further aggravated when one of our compound walls adjoining a neighbouring industrial complex collapsed due to water that had dammed up on the other side. The collapsed wall virtually opened up a floodgate of water resulting in our roads, especially those near Plant-19 and along the railway line leading to the subway, becoming fast-moving streams of flood water. This resulted in drums, LPG gas cylinders and loads of debris being washed into our subway almost 400-500 metres away. The subway itself was like a river flowing from the west to the east of Pirojshanagar.
Working against the odds, the Construction Divisionís contract workers created openings in some masonry walls to help discharge water wherever the water level was rapidly building up, so as to prevent water from entering into low-lying habitable areas. But, as the heavy downpour continued late into the night, there was little that most of us could do except watch the situation getting worse by the hour.
The next day the Construction team, along with other essential support service providers, were back in action to clear the subway of the accumulated debris, using fork trucks and dumper trucks to clear away the muck. Traffic on this railway subway, which is the lifeline between the east and west side of our industrial campus, was restored by noon the following day.
The attendance at work was below normal for a few days. However, those who stayed on at night and most of those residing in Company quarters helped to bring back normalcy to Pirojshanagar. In hindsight, we at Godrej were spared a major disaster as compared to most other parts of suburban Mumbai. Some of the corporate clients occupying large office premises in the Godrej & Boyce complex called to thank the Construction Division for all the assistance provided to them during this crisis.
Some of the people stranded in the Udayachal High School who could not be approached earlier, were later shifted to the Godrej Memorial Hospital. As there was a power failure in the School, the Security Department provided candles and other necessities to the School. Some of the school buses carrying students of the Udayachal Pre-Primary and Primary Schools were stranded at L.B.S. Marg due to waterlogging and the resultant traffic jam. The Security Department provided escorts to guide the buses to their respective destinations, a gesture which was highly appreciated by anxious parents.
Due to heavy water flow from L.B.S. Marg into the factory, a number of LPG cylinders from Plant-19 were washed away and were later tracked down to areas as far afield as the Construction Division and the Creekside Colony. The retrieval and safe storage of some leaking cylinders was a major challenge.
At the Hillside Colony, a driver got locked
inside a Maruti car and was unable to get out
Lt. Col. (Retd.) K.S. Prabhu
Catering Services (erstwhile Canteen Department)
The second shift immediately sprang into action. The Catering Services have a total of 73 workmen placed over three shifts. Due to incessant rains, only six of the nine workers on the second shift managed to report for duty. Unlike other departments where production may go down at times such as these, for the Catering Services, the number of diners shoots up as people do not go home for lunch, do not bring tiffins and dabbawallas do not turn up! Over two days, the Catering Services?attendance fell by 40 per cent, but production increased. It was impossible for suppliers to deliver vegetables, milk, bread, etc. This unavailability of perishables continued through the week. In addition, being the month-end, our stocks were as good as nil.
It was a daunting situation but, as usual, the entire Catering Services team rose to the occasion. Not one person on the factory premises went without food. This was a matter of immense satisfaction, keeping in mind that there were hundreds of people without food throughout Mumbai. All this would not have been possible without the cooperation of Godrej employees.
Khushnuman P. Patel
Through this Great Flood II of biblical proportions ?with water, water flowing everywhere with not a drop worth drinking ?the show went on at Godrej showrooms. Remarkably, all five showrooms ?Fort, Godrej Bhavan, Vikhroli, Thane and Dombivili, were open from 26 July to 2 August, except for the Godrej Bhavan and Fort showrooms, which were closed for a day on 27 July since most of their staff did not reach their homes till the wee hours of the morning. However, most of the staff were in attendance at the showrooms on 28 July. In fact, at both these locations there was a "cloudburst" of large orders ?not seen normally. The Fort showroom received an order on 29 July from Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd. for 53 executive chairs ?their largest single order for chairs so far.
During the floods, the human spirit triumphed, with several workers offering shelter to their colleagues who had to commute from great distances. The employees of our Plant-10 showroom, which was in pitch darkness, went about their business with the usual aplomb. They also somehow managed to keep other showrooms abreast of what was happening.
For most Mumbaikars, the days from 26 July to 2 August would read like a diary of gory details. But for the Godrej Retailing Division, there was no room for gloom. Despite the rage of Nature proving that not all the money in the world can stop it, the Retailing Division and its band of gritty men and women proved that it takes a crisis for the human spirit to triumph.
Our senior management provided us with all the resources and a free hand to enable us to efficiently plan, launch and execute a free service camp in the worst-hit areas of Mumbai and its surroundings.
With the media giving more than adequate coverage to this catastrophic event, it was not difficult for us to prioritise our plan of operation.
We adopted a three-pronged strategy:
Channel 1: Deploy a team with a fully equipped van (for Mumbai territory) with the necessary service equipment, spares, senior technicians and a team leader with a dedicated cellphone. On reaching the afflicted areas, distribute handbills and put up banners to inform customers about the camp in their area.
Channel 2: A similar team with a van for territory outside Mumbai.
Channel 3: Activate our Call Centre to proactively screen all incoming calls every day, determine customers?needs and mark these calls in the FSFA (Free Service Flood Affected) Category. The respective Authorised Service Providers then take care of such special FSFA calls by deputing technicians to attend to these calls on the lines of a Free Service Camp.
The period of this activity, undertaken in a phased manner to cover increasing areas, was roughly two weeks (the second and third week of August).
Right from day one, the response was overwhelming. Customer calls poured in, not only at our Call Centre, but also at the camp locations where our vans were stationed. Since we had planned our activities well, we were able to deal with more than 80 per cent of the calls on the same day. The remaining calls were attended to on a priority basis the following day.
The Godrej Home Furniture Service team also played an important role in this camp.
In the span of two weeks, we attended more than 1,700 customer calls from Kalina, Kurla, Andheri, Goregaon, Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Ulhasnagar, Badlapur, Panvel and Thane. We even got requests from customers using appliances of other brands and these were also attended to promptly.
We received plenty of gratitude and accolades from customers who appreciated the fact that Godrej had responded to them in their hour of need and that they would always remember this. We succeeded in our main objective of bringing smiles to our customers?faces in their time of distress.
Personnel & Administration Department
In spite of being filled to capacity, arrangements were made in our Transit Quarters to accommodate a number of our senior personnel. We are grateful to those upcountry guests in the Transit Quarters who volunteered to move out to lesser comforts to accommodate the stranded people. Arrangements were made to provide food to all those who needed it.
Exhibiting excellent comradeship, some of our colleagues accommodated fellow employees in their homes at our Hillside Colony.
In the wake of the serious epidemic alert in Mumbai following the floods, the Companyís Housing Department undertook a survey of all our residential colonies and identified areas for immediate attention. Arrangements were made on a war-footing to keep the colonies disease-free. All areas were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to get rid of mosquitoes. Our Construction Division deserves to be congratulated for the effectiveness of the cleanliness drive in our colonies.
Under the aegis of our Factory Dispensary,typhoid vaccinations were administered for our employees and their families at all three residential colonies of the Company. In an overwhelming response to the vaccination drive, a large number of the residents got themselves immunised against the dreaded disease.
Social responsibility being an integral part of Godrej, we undertook relief measures at nearby localities such as Vikhroli, Bhandup, Ghatkopar, Kurla, etc. To begin with, for the first few days, meals were distributed at severely impacted areas under the leadership of senior staffers from Personnel & Administration ably assisted by office bearers of the Godrej & Boyce Shramik Sangh.
The distribution of relief materials such as buckets, utensils, blankets, tarpaulins, etc. to a number of flood-hit localities, including a badly impacted village in Pen Taluka, continued for days.
Rising to the occasion, the Godrej & Boyce Shramik Sangh also distributed cash relief to a large number of severely affected employees of the Company. In response to a call from Personnel & Administration for voluntary contributions, the Management of the Company also pitched in and contributed generously.
Precision Components & Systems Division
In Plant-16, there are several deep pits for various types of equipment. Thanks to the Construction Divisionís robust design and good waterproofing, except for sweating on the walls, we had no difficulty. All the resources were protected. Rainwater coming in through the roof forced us to stop two machines and once again plastic sheets were used to prevent any further damage.
Our Divisionís R.M. Shinde and S.R. Ranade, who were transporting a Cryogenic Engine assembly, were stranded at Kurla and witnessed Natureís rudra awatar and, at the same time, experienced the true spirit of hum sath sath hai. Luckily, both our engineers survived their ordeal. After the rains, we got back hardware worth Rs. 30 lakhs and now have to reassemble it after proper cleaning. This task took two weeks to complete and resulted in an overall delay of one month in our schedule.
Attendance in the Division for a few days after the deluge was poor, as employees tried to rehabilitate themselves. With trains and road transport disrupted, it was difficult for many of them to come to work. Overall, the Precision Components & Systems Division lost approximately 6,400 man-hours and project schedules have been delayed by more than 15 days.
On the family front, my son walked all the way from VJTI, Matunga to our Hillside Colony, covering a distance of 14 kilometres in five hours. At Pirojshanagar we were not much affected, but the stories of the plight of people outside Pirojshanagar should be an eye-opener to every individual to protect Nature.
Finally, I am pleased that we have made a speedy recovery and that production is back on stream.
However, the Tooling Division did not accept defeat. As soon as the attendance reached "acceptable norms", production began in full swing. Operators put in extra hours on machines, engineers were stretched to cope with the backlog, and back office personnel put aside their boredom and looked on their mundane tasks as a challenge! The priority system on which we work immediately showed the extent of the damage caused. Countermeasures were taken to expedite delayed projects so that the impact is not transferred to other projects. Engineers suggested alternative routing, loads were shifted from overloaded work centres to alternative work centres. Workmen cooperated, too, by working longer hours. Material shifting was expedited to minimise the wait time between jobs. This has ensured that projects have made up a good part of the delay and have been brought to a level acceptable to customers. Thus, we have been fortunate enough to give our customers the pleasant surprise of undelayed projects in spite of adversity.
Rohinton K. Patel
Security Equipment Division
We immediately contacted the Construction Division. Little did we know that the Pirojshanagar complex was beginning to get flooded. We soon found out that the subway was completely flooded, so there was no way we could get help from the Construction Division, which is situated at the other end of the subway.
It had been raining very hard, at an even pace, for about three hours now. As a group of senior managers watched, some brave hearts actually took it upon themselves to do something about the leak. By climbing on to the roof, they were able to reach the opening of the pipe, and after a gruelling hour-and-a half, managed to plug the pipe, and the deed was done.
Thanks to the courage and zeal displayed by our Division employees, things were immediately cleared. Three hours later, with everything cleaned up, it felt as if nothing had happened.
Production was also affected due to high absenteeism and delay in supplies to and from vendors, in areas that were waterlogged or had no power supply. The production loss on account of these factors was Rs. 1.3 crores in July.
An emergency meeting was held after the heavy rains. It was important to ascertain the well-being of our job workers and vendors, who were based in low-lying areas. The Division chalked out a course of action, especially for the loss sustained at the Bhiwandi warehouse and production losses both at the factory and at the vendors?units. Our Purchase head rushed to China to meet our suppliers and explain the situation in Mumbai and to request them to expedite supplies. Realising our predicament, they immediately agreed. In fact they had seen the devastation in Mumbai on television and expressed their sympathies for the major losses in the city.
It was understandable that employees could not come to work for one or two days due to waterlogging and disrupted train/bus services, but what is significant is that these employees have rallied together and made up for the lost production. Man-hours of production that were lost in Mumbai have been made up by working three shifts in August. Our manufacturing team and vendors bridged the gap in August and September.
Moreover, in order to help alleviate the suffering of people in the flood-affected areas of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane and Kalyan, Godrej Locks Division, through our Dealer network, offered free service on locks damaged by the rain and floods. Spare parts, too, were replaced free of cost to customers. In addition, for the replacement/upgradation of all locks damaged by rain, a 50 per cent discount was offered on new locks purchased.
They say that water always finds its level, be it over rocks, mountains or other such hurdles. But it also finds a way to teach us lessons about compassion, bravery, resilience and perseverance, so that we too may overcome obstacles like it does.
& Interiors Group
26 July or "Terrible Tuesday" did not spare FIG. Apart from water getting into our Plants, production, despatch and attendance figures were also affected on the days that followed. At the first sign of the flooding, our team plunged into action by shutting off the electricity wherever required to avoid electrocution and began putting the material out of harmís way at a height. Sadly, the worst damage was to our Bhiwandi warehouse where traded products worth crores were completely submerged. We were all left gaping since communication lines too were crippled and most of the networks were down.
It was only after two days of torrential rains when the Gods gave all of us a breather that our teams ?Manufacturing and Materials coordinated with Marketing and Logistics ?got into "catch-up" mode (thanks to the never-say-die spirit of Mumbaikars) to make up for the lost time. Our vendors also reacted with a bounce-back spirit. What is creditable is that our field teams understood the gravity of the situation and rose to the occasion by proactively talking to customers and exchanging stocks among the Branches/Dealers to ensure that our customers are not inconvenienced. Even our international suppliers have agreed to ensure that the flow of material continues.
Closer home, some of our staff and ex-staff too reached out to those who could not go back to their homes by putting them up for the night. In the midst of all the chaos, some of us braved our way back home.
Anil S. Mathur
The Prima Division wakes up to new challenges every day. Over the past two years, the Division has striven hard to keep afloat and has had to fight on a month to month basis. The deluge of 26 July affected our business severely as we lost the entire monthís stock in the Divisionís main warehouse at Bhiwandi. This has been a setback for us in terms of the top line and profitability. Despite this we believe we will meet our annual plan.
This experience has taught us the invaluable lesson of standing by each other in adversity.
Godrej Memorial Hospital
Our team of doctors, nurses and other staff swung into action to meet the needs of patients and their relatives. Sufficient reserve stocks of dry and wet rations ensured piping hot meals for everyone on board. Areas reserved for extensions were opened up and Hospital stocks of linen ensured a comfortable night for around 40 staff members who did not venture home.
Stranded members of the public were not only given shelter, but also offered refreshment in the Hospital cafeteria. Everyone staying in the Hospital was provided with boiled water for drinking to protect them from waterborne diseases.
It was the foresight of the trustees of the Godrej Memorial Trust while approving the design of the Hospital, which made it stand like a rock while so many other institutions were in disarray. Some special features of the buildingís design include gradients for quick water drainage, two emergency backups for electric power, a heavy-duty ambulance that conveyed both doctors and patients, and no basement, which would have otherwise been flooded.
Coordinating the efforts of the young Godrej Memorial Hospital crew was Dr. A.M. Joglekar, Chief Executive Officer of the Hospital, a former naval submariner and a specialist in underwater medicine. Quite appropriate under the circumstances, perhaps!
Rohit M. Deshpande
The Godrej Hillside Club
Our housekeeping staff, along with the pump room staff, bravely climbed up to the roof of the Club to clear the drainage pipe, despite the heavy rain and strong gusts of wind. Everyone chipped in to clean the mini flood at the Club. Through all this mayhem there was a power failure, with electricity eventually restored at 10 p.m. However, after learning about the waterlogging in the city, staff members were allowed to leave at 6 p.m.
Although the Colony had erratic power supply throughout the following week, the Club had no power problems. Members took advantage of this and came to the Club instead of sitting at home without electricity. Of course, our facility was available only for members and at that point I wished that the whole Colony were our members!
Sandhya K. Shah
Udayachal Primary and Pre-Primary Schools
It began as a regular school day at Udayachal. No one could even have dreamt of what was to come. Until 3 p.m., although rain poured down incessantly, the gravity of the situation was unknown. Gradually, the School ground started filling up with water. When it was time for children to leave for home, only a few vehicles were able to reach the School to collect them. Many could not reach the premises because other areas around Vikhroli were already under water and had massive traffic snarls.
Several teachers residing in the Colony stayed back in School with the children who had not been collected by their parents. They sang songs and played games with them. All the children were safe in the secure environs of the School, the Pre-Primary ones unmindful of the devastation outside. Some Primary children clung to their teachers, refusing to get into the vans/jeeps that would take them home. Telephones were constantly trilling ?one per minute as our Principal, Binaifer Chhoga, and teachers were doing their best to allay the fears of anxious parents. The last Pre-Primary child left school at 10 p.m. after her parents reached the School with great difficulty. In the torrential rain, some children who had left at 4 p.m., reached home (Ghatkopar) at 11 p.m. Vehicles breaking down, fathers carrying children on their shoulders, peons trying hard to keep classrooms dry became the order of the day.
For some of our office staff and helpers, Udayachal became a home away from home for the night. Principal Chhoga and clerk Firdosh Bacha stayed on too. Since the ground-floor level of the School was flooded, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) offices on the second floor served as a refuge. S.D. Puranik, Executive Director, CII Naoroji Godrej Centre of Excellence, generously allowed us complete access to and use of two rooms for our stranded staff. In complete darkness, our staff members maintained a candlelight vigil through the night. Nagendra Singh of the Godrej & Boyce Shramik Sangh sent us a few candles and mosquito coils. For our helpers residing in far-flung areas of Mumbai, reaching home was virtually impossible due to the complete breakdown of transport services. They were in the School for three days. Firdosh Bacha also stayed back in School to assist them.
A few teachers who tried to reach their homes on the day of the floods ended up taking refuge in their colleagues?homes. Desperately waiting for the downpour to subside, they longed to be with their near and dear ones. The wait, however, lasted for two days. Our teachers, Bernadine Bangera, Rebecca Shinde, Priya DíSouza, Jalpa Doshi, Hetal Gada and Tanuja Kantak and their families took other teachers into their homes, ensured their comfort and safety, and tried to make their stay a pleasant one.
The School incurred a few losses as a result of the heavy rains. The Principalís office, the auditorium and the Pre-Primary classrooms were waterlogged. The basement was completely submerged in water and all the furniture and equipment was badly damaged. The homes of our teachers Meenakshi R. and Anita K. were also damaged. The School remained closed for four days, as per the State Governmentís directive.
It has been an unforgettable experience, but we have emerged from it wiser and stronger. The emotional bonds and the feeling of togetherness, which have always been unique features of the Udayachal staff, have withstood another trying test. Today as we look back, each one of us bears in our minds a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty for protecting us and our loved ones in the face of this calamity. It is with His grace that all the children and teachers of Udayachal are safe and back where they belong.
Udayachal High School
A brave Binaifer Chhoga waded through knee-deep water and zoomed off in her car to the Primary School, the concern and safety of the little ones at the Udayachal Primary and Pre-Primary Schools uppermost in her mind. It was then that we at the High School realised how blessed we were that our children were in the safe confines of their homes.
The swelling waters didnít drown our spirits! It was a race against time. With the water level steadily rising, the teachers residing in the vicinity formed a human chain and successfully waded through waist-high water with the help of physical training instructors!
With transport and communication coming to a standstill and the cutting off of electricity supply to the School, the staff residing in far-flung places decided to spend the night on the School premises. With us were Pheroza Godrej and Smita Godrej Crishna, embodiments of simplicity and concern, pillars of strength through out our ordeal. In the midst of the anxiety and uncertainty of the situation, we were reassured by their presence ?two intrepid ladies who roughed it out with other staff members without any fuss, without making any demands, but offering practical solutions. They helped us attend to phone calls, and cautioned us to use candles, mobiles and torches judiciously.
As we spent the night walking through the corridors of Udayachal watching the waters rising to unprecedented heights, we learnt a lesson in humility. All through the night the one thought that confounded us was the sheer power of natural forces and how powerless we were in comparison. Yet the indomitable spirit of Udayachal saw us through the night and made us aware of the reserves of inner strength each of us can draw upon in times of calamity and come out a winner. Udayachal truly is our second home.
G.J. Pai / Amin Chetna
It was the worst traffic jam I have seen in years, cars clogged, deathly still, right from Dadar to Mahim. Shockingly, there was not a policeman in sight, not a single one, to give guidance or help. At last, in a baniyaís store on a high rise and, therefore, dry, I found a telephone that worked even if by fits and starts. The baniya was gracious enough, seeing my plight, to dial the number for me, offering me glucose biscuits, even a cup of tea. His assistant brought out a stool for me to rest on. My faithful driver Shabir was with me throughout, and of course my Maruti.
What can I say of this Maruti? It roared, in second gear, up the Bandra
flyover, triumphantly passing Hondas and Audis stalled by the wayside. It
was only when we approached Mount Carmel Church around which the waters
were so high that the bonnet was submerged, splashing water wildly on the
windscreen, that my Maruti gave several gasps and then just gave up.
Shabir tried pushing the car, but he was as exhausted as I was and there
was nobody around to help. We decided to again wade through the water to
reach my house just five minutes away. Then, as if my cup of misery werenít
already spilling over, the watchman at the gate informed me that the lift
I may now laugh it off, but the experience was harrowing. It was a touch of hell. Somehow, by Godís will, I survived to write this tale of the "maximum city" having once again failed its devoted citizens. But I was blessed too; that night I slept more soundly than I have done in a long while.
Kudos To Our Heroes
"Unfortunate events, though potentially a source of anger and despair, have equal potential to be a source of spiritual growth. Whether or not this is the outcome depends on our response."
The Dalai Lama
The Mumbai Branch Appliance Division had organised a SmartCare Service Dealers conference on the afternoon of 26 July at Pirojshanagar. Since the agenda for the meeting was to evaluate the performance of each dealer and find solutions to any problems, the discussions were intense and involvement high.
It was only at around 4.30 p.m. when we took a break for tea that we became aware of the situation outside. Within 15 minutes it was decided to call off the meeting since people had come from as far away as Vasai. Although most of the participants left, most of them got stuck at different places en route.
Two of our team members, however, displayed tremendous courage and presence of mind, and managed to save the lives of people.
In the first case, Bhushan C. Rege, one of our Senior Officers, was on his way home on his motorbike and had managed to reach Goregaon West. Somewhere near Unnat Nagar, while passing a residential area, he heard cries for help. He looked around and saw a family stranded in their ground-floor flat after water overflowing from the nearby nallah had forced its way into their house. Observing the water level inside the house rising dangerously, Bhushan immediately took the decision to save them. Wading through waist-deep water, he reached their house. One by one he managed to save the family of four (husband, wife, son and elderly mother) and helped them to the first floor of a nearby building. He organised fresh clothes and food for them before proceeding to his own house.
In the second case, the good Samaritan was one of our SmartCare members, Sudip Saha, owner of M/s. Koolmart at Kandivili. Stuck in his car at Ghatkopar, with the flood waters rising and darkness descending, he was getting anxious. He decided to get out of his car and, as he opened the door, he heard faint cries of "Bachao, bachao". He looked around and in the torrential rain and flooding he saw a hand emerging from under the gushing stream of water. He moved forward immediately and tried to grab hold of the hand. With great difficulty he managed to balance himself, and gradually pulled an old lady to her feet. She had fallen into an open gutter, which was not visible due to heavy flooding. He held her firmly and took her to safety at a nearby shop.
In the course of the night that he spent stranded on the road, Sudip managed to rescue four more people in the same locality who would have otherwise drowned.
We salute our brave team members who showed extraordinary courage and presence of mind on that fateful day.
Kamal S. Bhagwanani
After waiting for the downpour to abate, 10 of us from the Locks Division set out for home, little knowing that we would have to hold each other firmly (as in a human chain) to cross the strong current flowing from the subway to the Eastern Express Highway. We did make it to the end safely. On the way, we came across a man who had fainted. Two of our youngest employees ? Abhishek Khandelwal and Mahesh Agarkar from the Marketing and Design Departments, respectively ? struggled to get the man out of harmís way. The victimís head was barely above water, and both Abhishek and Mahesh were straining, doing their best to keep him alive. Milind Kale, another Locks Marketing employee, who had already crossed over the subway to the Pragati Kendra, heard their cries for help and rushed back into the current. Together, the three of them managed to save the victim who was roused to full consciousness once they had safely reached the Pragati Kendra gate. Recognising their brave act, the Division gave the three heroes a letter of appreciation.
"You too can make a difference with your small contribution" was the slogan of the ladies of Pragati Kendraís Mahila Manch, who launched a collection drive to provide relief for those affected by the deluge.
Along with a local non-governmental organisation, Sahyog Parivar (based at Ghatkopar), the Mahila Manch of our Hillside Colony made provisions for 150 food packets to be distributed as part of relief work. Each packet containing rice, dal, sugar, soap, wheat, salt and tea was distributed personally by the ladies in Tukaram Vadi village, located in Pen, District Raigad. The Mahila Manch of Stationside and Creekside colonies collected 100 similar packets and distributed them in Nerul. Clothes were collected and distributed at the Pragati Kendra.
Kudos to the Mahila Manch ladies, who waded through knee-deep waters to personally distribute the packages. In all, 250 families in two districts received aid, proving that even a small contribution makes a big difference when done at the right time and for the right cause.
Susmita R. Singh
Is Mumbaiís better lifestyle a trade-off for a higher risk of Natureís fury? With the freak phenomenon of 960 mm of rain in just six hours on the afternoon of 26 July, it certainly seems so. This was the highest rainfall in 6 hours in Indiaís history!
As a result of Mother Natureís fury, Mumbaikars were stranded in offices, on roads, in vehicles, on railway platforms and airports for more than 48 hours without food and water.
In that one week, I personally experienced how an opportunity to play host to my office colleagues made both the giver and receiver feel good.
When the heavens thundered and the colossal cloudburst brought swelling floodwaters whirling past us, it was not surprising that most people put their own interests first, using their work, family commitments, fatigue, etc. as excuses. In times of crisis, we do not realise that other people also have similar or worse problems.
It was more by conviction than compulsion that I readily responded to the call of my conscience and welcomed my stranded friends to my home. This wonderful experience has given me a new sense of belonging and a feeling of personal responsibility for the welfare of our neighbourhood. The inner satisfaction that this gesture has given me cannot be measured.
All human beings have the power to be kind. It does not cost anything except a bit of thoughtfulness. Until this disaster struck, my dealings with my colleagues have been pretty formal at the workplace. We tend to take each other for granted and there is no personal bond. I realised that the unexpected opportunity thrown up by the whims of Nature was just what we needed to feel connected with each other. It is a great feeling! The lesson I learnt on 26 July has deeply touched and moved me, and has made me look at life from a completely different perspective.
Nariman D. Bacha
K.S. Chary, Precision Components & Systems Division, Mac-hine Shop, and his parents, along with colleague A. Raja Senthil from the PCS Quality Control Department, had a harrowing experience. They had taken Charyís father to the Tata Memorial Hospital at Parel for medical treatment. On their way back on that "Terrible Tuesday", they were stuck in a taxi at Matunga from 3.30 p.m. to Wednesday, 11 a.m., hungry and thirsty. All of them, including Charyís elderly and unwell father, had to walk from Sion-Matunga to Vikhroli in neck-deep waters. The grit and determination of Chary senior is to be admired. It took them a total of 27 hours from Parel to Vikhroli.
Another colleague, Anand Mahadik, from PCS Assembly Department, had a brush with death on the 26th when, on his way to the Company, he fell into an open manhole. Luckily, he managed to hoist himself out with only a few bruises on his legs.
Meher K. Guard
As a resident of Pirojshanagar, I did not personally experience the danger of this calamity and my family was safe. My brother, Prashant, however, reached home the next day, i.e. Wednesday, 27 July. The only thing lost to the gushing waters was my fatherís mobile, and my grandma slipped and injured herself near our house.
We often think that our problems are great and it is only when we look into other peopleís problems that we realise that we are lucky and safe. In this disaster, the death of a brilliant student of our school, Deep Bhattacharjee, was a terrible shock to us and to his family. He was my brotherís schoolmate.
I was at home when the rains came, so I could not help anyone. But Prashant helped three people who were struggling to reach safety. They could barely walk against the rising waters. My brother and his friends somehow got them to safety.
I wonder why Nature does this to us ?giving us sudden shocks at times. It is humans who destroy Nature and compel it to take revenge. The 26th seems to be an unlucky date as the Gujarat earthquake and the Tsunami occurred on this date. I pray for the souls who lost their lives in this disaster and also for those who are trying to put their lives back on track. Life has to go on. Mumbaikars always strive hard to get back to their usual routines. The courage and diehard spirit of our citizens is commendable.
A Big Thank You
n 26 July, my colleague S.R. Ranade and I, both from the Precision Components & Systems Division, left the Godrej premises at 3 p.m. in a Company-hired tempo with the subassembly of a Cryogenic Engine. The Extension Cone Unit Assembly was packed in a wooden container and was carefully loaded on the tempo by driver Harjinder Rajput alias Babloo.
The consignment had to reach the airport to be loaded on to a 5.40 p.m. flight to Bangalore. It was pouring heavily as we headed towards Ghatkopar. To our surprise, we saw a single-decker bus stuck right in the middle of the road. We decided to take the highway, and luckily the road was clear till Sion. But near Kurla we came across heavy waterlogging and a massive traffic jam. From 4 p.m. to 5.15 p.m. all three of us were stuck in the tempo. When the water level started rising, we tried to push the tempo back by a few inches in the chilling water but could not.
We took shelter on the staircase of a highrise building. Gradually, there were 22 people sitting on the staircase shivering with cold. At 9 p.m. a generous family residing in the building offered us tea. At around 11 p.m., another resident, Altaf Ansari, invited all of us to his flat. Altaf offered us tea, followed by dinner and then mattresses for sleeping.
At 1.30 a.m., we suddenly heard the screams of people stranded in a BEST bus in which the water level had risen up to the bus seats. Pankaj Nikam and two others tied a rope and managed to get the men out of the bus. The women and children stayed put in the bus.
Between 5 a.m. and 6.15 a.m., people carried tea and water to the stranded women and children. At 6.15 a.m. a navy boat arrived and rescued 11 women from the bus and took them to safety.
By this time, our tempo was completely submerged in water. All we could see was the hood of the tempo.
At 4.15 p.m. on Wednesday, we left the building. The wooden crate containing the subassembly, which had been placed in a horizontal position, had become vertical due to the force of the water. With the help of five people, we unloaded the box in knee-high waters and stored it in Pankaj Nikamís (we learnt that he is an Income Tax Officer) garage. Since the tempo would not start, the driver stayed with it, while Ranade and I set off to walk to our respective homes. It took me two hours to reach Dadar. It was a nightmare seeing corpses dumped on the hoods of vehicles.
Eventually, our consignment was brought to Godrej seven days later, because the area had been sealed off by the police to clear the debris.
We are deeply grateful to the Ansari family and Pankaj Nikam.
On 26 July it rained cats and dogs (or, should I say Godzillas?) and several of us decided to stay put in the office at Pirojshanagar for the night.
I worked till 7.30 p.m. My colleagues were trying to contact their relatives, enquiring about their whereabouts. Someone announced that dinner was being served at the workers?Canteen. Our group of five, viz. Rohinton Tampal (Corporate Finance), Shiraz Tampal (Appliance Division), Porus Mistry (Corporate Finance), Minoo Panthaki (Locks Division) and I hopped into the car of one of our managers to proceed to the Canteen from Plant-11. On the way, we saw many cars turning back because of the flooding. Determined to have dinner, our small Alto somehow managed to transport us to the Canteen. We had a sumptuous meal and, to top it all, I even shared a walnut brownie (which Kerman Photographer of the Corporate Excise Department had given to me in the morning) with my colleagues. Surprisingly, eight of us managed to enjoy a piece of it.
Meanwhile, back at the office some staff members decided to wait it out in the office, while some were put up in the Transit Quarters. Khushroo Master (Appliance Division) made arrangements for our group to stay at Nariman Bachaís (Personnel Administration) house at Pirojshanagar. Nari and his parents, Darabsha and Freny, immediately made us feel at home.
Next morning Nariís mom served us delicious masala tea. We were back at the office at 7.45 a.m. and the Canteen served us breakfast. Mahiyar Adajania (Appliance Division), our colleague staying at the Vikhroli Towers, brought a big box of Akuri (egg bhurji) with two loaves of bread. At noon the fury of the rain gods had still not ended. Trains were not working and road traffic was at a standstill. Some people started walking home. Worried about my parents and waterlogging at home, which is on the ground floor in the Hindmata area, Dadar, I took half dayís leave and headed home.
The adventure starts now. I reached Plant-18, Locks Division, where Minoo with Hutoxi Divecha (Locks Division), Porus Tata (Locks Division), Shyamsunder Nevrekar (Locks Division) and Binaz Siganporia (Thomas Cook, Vikhroli) were waiting for me. We all crammed into his Alto and headed for Dadar via the Eastern Express Highway. It took us three hours to reach Chembur. On the way we had tea and biscuits, which were freely distributed by some noble souls, purchased some bananas and farsan packets. By 4 p.m., tired of sitting in the car, I recommended walking. We parked the car in a safe place and started walking from Chembur. Although it was drizzling, it was not too unpleasant an experience until we reached Priyadarshini Building at Chembur. Suddenly, we were faced with a stretch of 200 metres from Everest Nagar to Sion, which was flooded knee-deep (for the shorties, waist-deep), with dirty water being splashed on us by passing buses. Hundreds of people were walking in both directions ?the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, all of us going through the same trial which God had destined for us. How I wish I had the powers of Moses who parted the Red Sea for his followers!
Being true Mumbaikars, our spirits were not at all dampened. Porus Tata (whom we fondly call "Gen. Manekshaw"), seniormost in our group, took the lead, jumped on the rim of the divider on the road which was 3 feet high and started marching ahead. The rest of us followed him. It was 5.30 p.m. and I was worried about getting electrocuted as there were many loose wires dangling from lamp posts and street lamps would soon be lit. Someone cautioned us that there were water snakes in the flooded areas. I proceeded cautiously, chanting the name of my Guru for our safety. At 6 p.m. we reached Sion Circle. We gobbled some plum cake from one of the Monginiís outlets, shared our biscuits with a stray dog, and hitched a ride to Kingís Circle in a Volvo bus. From there we took taxis to our respective homes. I reached home at 6.20 p.m., thanking God for the safe journey.
I will never forget this experience. Though I have expressed my experiences in a lighter vein, in reality, all of us were very tense. I extend my heartfelt sympathies to those who lost their near and dear ones in this ordeal.
Jasmine M. Merchant
26 July could have been a nightmare for many of us who were stranded in Godrej Bhavan, Fort, Mumbai, had reason not prevailed and we decided to bide away our time in the office until the rain let up. But, let up it did not. The bonhomie that prevailed at all levels is a lesson to remember for life, proving that Nature is indeed the great leveller.
Thanks to Jamshyd N. Godrej and Pheroza J. Godrej, who were so mindful of our needs, we had a comfortable stay ?bed, bath and breakfast ?other meals included, until some of us were able to leave for home the next evening.
I am particularly thankful to them while I await my baby, due anytime now.
Preparing For The Future
vayam, a community development programme promoted by the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation, concentrated its flood relief work at Badlapur a region badly hit by the tragedy. Badlapur is a town surrounded by a number of dams and earthquake-prone topography. It has a unique mix of residents who have a vast variety of talents and an acute sense of belonging to the town. Hence, Svayam decided to interact with various local groups to design a customised and self-sustainable emergency preparedness plan for the township.
To be prepared for future emergencies, the plan was designed in line with Svayamís motto of promoting self-reliance. It included the following:
Mugdha Shah / Jignyasa Yagnik
Compiled by Rashna Ardesher