Bengaluru rains: Woes far from over for India’s 'Silicon Valley'

The following is a personal account of what has transpired for one of Bengaluru’s residents over the last 24 hours, and how the heavy downpour has affected startups in the city.
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Having lived in Bengaluru for eight years, I’ve realised there are two types of monsoons:

  1. The nice kind that’s bearable, doesn’t cause too many disruptions, and is perfect to curl up to with a nice book.
  2. The kind that turns the city into one giant lake.

We live in one of those cities where when it rains, it pours. Bengaluru has had pretty good weather and a strong rainy season this year, but the downpour over the last two days has wreaked havoc on daily life.

A myriad of reactions have poured in on Twitter: someone thanking their stars they don’t live in Bengaluru; a few blaming unplanned urban development and unchecked migration; while others putting the blame on politicians, and drumming up conspiracy theories of setting up huge tech parks in cahoots with IT companies, without proper zoning and planning. A person even said, “HAHA, so much for the amazing weather you enjoy all year round.”

A submerged car near my society.

However, the public outcry has done nothing to solve the issue—yet another scream in the social media abyss.

I live in one of the worst affected areas—Bellandur, which is also home to the infamous “fire-snow lake” (which regularly catches fire because of the hazardous chemical industrial waste being dumped, which turns the lake foamy).

My society is fancy. We have basketball, cricket and squash courts, two swimming pools, and a host of fancy amenities, including award-winning flora and fauna. It’s the kind of society you wouldn’t expect to crumble into pieces because of a downpour—but that is exactly what happened.

We were woken up at around 2 am on Monday by fire alarms blaring throughout the society. It had rained so much that not only was our basement completely flooded, the rainwater had entered the main electrical rooms, threatening a massive short-circuit. Obviously, they had to cut all electricity off.

Then suddenly, without any warning, the domestic water supply was cut off. Of the 400-plus people who live in my society, not a single person was prepared for such a disruption. We were left to make do with whatever we had.

The force of the water flow was so tremendous that it breached one of the walls in our society and opened up a literal floodgate, putting additional pressure on our already crumbling infrastructure.

Near Yemalur signal

The next morning—a glorious, bright, cloudless Monday—was when the gravity of the situation sank in. Not only was there no electricity or water supply, but the arterial road that takes us out to the main road was also badly flooded, blocking all of our exits. There was no way to get in or out of the society (unless you were ready to swim, which some people did!).

Bellandur lake overflow made the already bad situation worse. It was flooding gallons of filthy rainwater into residential areas because it is poorly silted. The situation persists today, and, with every single downpour, gets worse.

I could see a sea of submerged cars from my balcony; someone’s bike was floating away.

There were SOS cries on the community WhatsApp group for drinking water. People who had even a single bottle to spare, did so. Some good samaritans agreed to “swim” to a neighbourhood store to fetch five 20-litre Bisleri bottles late in the morning—which 400 of us shared till the evening.

By Monday mid-day, BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike—Bengaluru’s civic body) started the now infamous ‘tractor service’, which ferried people from all societies in our lane to main roads.

There were reports on the community groups of people trying to get into the IT parks near us, someone getting swept away and splitting their head open on an electric pole, and an elderly gentleman dying in one of the many luxury, upscale societies that dot our neighbourhood because he couldn’t get timely ambulatory intervention.

L: Car submerged in my building; R: BBMP officials deploying lifeboats near Yemalur

I spoke to a few startup founders in my society—most of them having offices in Marathahalli, Bellandur, HSR, Koramangala, and Indiranagar—who told me their work has come to a complete standstill because their Bengaluru-based employees were all facing issues. An edtech startup founder had to urgently fly out to Mumbai for an unmissable pitch meeting, but since all the exits were blocked, pleaded with the BBMP folks to arrange for a plastic lifeboat—and they did, much to everyone’s amusement.

Whether heads will roll or not remains to be seen, but BBMP officials in our area have been working relentlessly and round the clock to provide assistance. They’ve been corralling delivery services such as Swiggy and Dunzo to provide basic emergency supplies (and Dunzo very kindly agreed to do one single delivery per day of essentials), ferrying people back and forth on tractors, and evacuating stray animals in our area—going above and beyond the call of duty these past 48 hours.

Startup founders in Bengaluru—ones who don’t expect outstation candidates to show up for work in another city on a day’s notice—have been asking people to stay home and work as much as they’re able to within specific limitations. For once, they aren’t too focused on the “hustle or die” culture.

In fact, founders themselves are struggling to keep their heads above the water—literally!

Unacademy founder Gaurav Munjal recently tweeted a video of him, his family members and his dog being evacuated from their residence on a tractor.

His Chief Operating Officer, Vivek Sinha, tweeted a picture capturing water stagnation in his area, and joked that the next car he would buy will be a Mahindra Thar (the only kind that can truly survive Bengaluru rains).

Ishaan Mittal, an investor at Sequoia, tweeted that he, along with 300 other residents in his society, were living without water and electricity since Sunday night, and had to be evacuated.

The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has issued a yellow alert for Bengaluru, forecasting heavy rains till September 9, 2022. With the city’s infrastructure already reeling under the heavy downpour, the only hope is the next 48 hours aren’t as punishing.

Edited by Kanishk Singh

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