Colaba’s billowing smoke


Lately I have been interning at Gateway House: Indian Council for Foreign Relations, situated at Cecil Court, Colaba and was witness to the Metro building fire, on 2nd of June. This article aims to share a bit of my experience of the same.

A day in my office is usually accompanied by this view. I changed my position in office merely for the sunlight. Our daily encounters include the evening sounds from causeway. Colaba causeway is a liberally populated area as a shopping and tourist destination. The honking, traffic, and fifty people trying to hail a cab, are sounds we were rather used to. Majestic Aamdar Nivas once even had a celebratory drum procession we weren’t invited to, but were subject to the music nonetheless.

Yesterday too we heard people and the noises, but in a larger proportion. And the sound wasn’t of a crowd in rush, it was of a crowd in panic. We could see smoke rising from the neighbouring Metro building.

A never ending crowd ran out of causeway. Watching shopkeepers scurry with bags of sunglasses and scarfs was watching Mumbai’s local entrepreneurs running for their lives. With the smoke billowing into the sky and no sign of settling down, the fire spread faster than we could imagine. Soon people rushed out of Cafe Mondegar. At that point everyone watching from Cecil Court knew we must leave. It got worse with every second as we could see nothing but grey smoke from the windows.

My CEO’s window can look right into a window of the parallel building, with a beautiful white curtain flying in the wind. But right before I left the office I saw that curtain burnt. That was a symbol of impermanence we were shocked at.

(picture taken the next morning)

Upon reaching downstairs I witnessed chaos with all of causeway’s materials piled at the feet and parking of Cecil Court. It was the first time that I saw this route cordoned off. Soon we all left, however the fire went on till (approximately) 6 hours after. The old buildings with massive wood work fuelled the fire. Once it settled, the news informed us that all the loss caused fortunately did not harm any body, and began with a short circuit. The structure’s glory may change, but lives can’t be restructured like buildings.

Watching water pipes being directed at the burning building, knowing that most of Maharashtra is in drought, only added to the tragedy. Witnessing such a life threatening incident only reminded me how impermanent every thing is.

To me it felt like a beloved old friend was deeply injured, when I witnessed the extent of the damage. The entire area was way older than independence, and having spent many birthdays as a child at Mc Donald’s, and primary schooling there (St. Anne’s High School) I feel especially attached to this vicinity which I only hope remains the same.

Greatest praises to the fire fighters of Mumbai, who with patience and courage made sure that there wasn’t a single casualty.

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