Many moons ago, there existed a popular nightclub called Fire 'n' Ice in Mumbai. It met a sad end. Well.... I underwent a traumatic trial by fire late last night, when an airconditioner in the health club downstairs caused a short circuit and started an electrical fire that created acrid, thick smoke which engulfed the entire complex.I awoke with a start at 03.30 am, certain that my own a\c was about to explode ( I live in mortal dread of that happening ). I rushed out of the bedroom to check where the sharp, searing smell of burning wires was from coming from, only to be met by toxic fumes creeping in from a narrow slit under the front door of the living room. I woke up the rest of the family ( and Kiara, our adorable female dog), and worked on an instant plan of action. The stairs were not an option, the elevators are never an option in such circumstances. That left - what?? By then there were three fire brigade tankers, police cars and other security agency personnel hard at work. The smoke was getting thicker and blacker. My eyes were watering and my throat was on fire. My daughter Arundhati was about to faint. I recalled the old fire drill - wet towels under the door, soaked towels covering the face, blankets over the body, and as quick an exit as possible.
That's exactly what we did, gagging all the way. But once downstairs, we were able to better assess the seriousness of the situation (the state- of -the-art health club has been reduced to cinders) and wake up to the reality of how poorly manned most building societies are in Mumbai. No fire alarm was sounded, no intercom alerted residents, no call was made to evacuate the building. Nothing. I find that scarey and disgraceful. In any other big city, residents would sue and claim damages if this was the attitude of irresponsible committee members. Lives could have been lost, property destroyed. What is the outcome here?? Nobody bothers to initiate action. Everybody is thankful, even grateful, about being safe..... being alive. No real investigation is ever done as to the cause of the short circuit. It is business as usual, with neighbours laughing stupidly about how they slept through it!! We call ourselves a megapolis. This building society represents one of the most expensive real estate properties in India. And this is the level of safety, awareness and accountability!
With barely a couple of hours of sleep (no electricity), I had to rush to inaugurate a plants and trees exhibition, now in its 10th year, thanks to the initiative taken by the citizens' association spearheaded by Nana Chudasama - 'I love Mumbai.' My lungs were still burning, as I spoke about global warming and other environmental issues . Sweet irony! But the plants were gorgeous.... and I have fallen in love with a full grown ficus. Determined to go back and buy it, along with a graceful, delicate black bamboo from Kolkata. These are my true friends... they respond to love, ask for nothing, but give everything - like Kiara, and .... and.... oh dear.... how sad.... can't think of a single name!!