Mumbai families who were stranded in flood-ravaged Kashmir return home

It was a long road home for the Apte and Divekar families from Mahim, who found themselves amid the ravaging floods in Kashmir until yesterday. They abandoned their luggage and covered a long distance on foot through flooded areas. But they returned to Mumbai filled with gratitude for Kashmiris who assisted them in spite of their own suffering and helped them at every juncture

The images of flood-ravaged streets in Kashmir, homeless people and destruction everywhere, are likely to haunt the Apte and Divekar families from Mahim for a long time. Though these memories will ebb, the two families will remember the generosity of the locals, who offered them support at every juncture, for the rest of their lives.

Also read: Mumbai man anxiously awaits wife, son's return from flood-hit Srinagar

The Aptes and Divekars finally made it to Mumbai after a harrowing experience in Srinagar
The Aptes and Divekars finally made it to Mumbai after a harrowing experience in Srinagar

The Divekars Gaurish (40), Neha (39), and their son Om (15) had left for Vaishnodevi on August 29. While Gaurish returned to Mumbai after two days, the mother and son stayed back, while the Aptes Mihir (39), Shweta (36), and their son Ishan (12), joined them on August 31. Both the families were supposed to stay back in the valley till September 7 and then return to Mumbai. On that very same day, there was knee-length water in the hotel.

The Apte family
The Apte family

“The driver told us he cannot come to drop us at the airport, as he himself was taking refuge on the roof of his two-storey house, which was already submerged in water. On the suggestion of our hotel owner, we decided to go to another hotel at a higher altitude,” said Neha. The moment she left the first hotel, she called her husband in Mumbai and informed that she was moving to a safer hotel, after which, her mobile network gave way.

The Apte family (top) and the Divekar family (above) were to return on September 7 originally. Pics/Satyajit Desai
The Apte family (top) and the Divekar family (above) were to return on September 7 originally. Pics/Satyajit Desai

It took them nearly an hour to reach the hotel, which was just 10-15 minutes away. At the new hotel, the families realised that Mushtaq, the hotel owner, had lost his home in the floods, but was still offering them food and accommodation.

“Mushtaq told us that his house, where he had kept the jewellery meant for his sister-in-law’s marriage, was washed away. Despite his huge loss, he focussed all his energies in planning how to feed all the guests at the hotel. He chalked out a plan wherein he would feed everyone only dal and rice for a week as he had adequate stock,” said Mihir.

The Aptes and Divekars headed to Raj Bhawan after learning that tourists were being rescued from there. They had to trek as the roads weren’t visible due to the floods and were unable to carry their luggage. They handed their bags to an old taxi driver and told him to deliver it at the hotel. After reaching Raj Bhawan, they learnt that around 10,000 people were waiting to be rescued for more than two days.

The Aptes and Divekars decided to return to the hotel. On their way back, they saw a man, who offered them a ride instantly. “He dropped us to the hotel for free. At the hotel, our luggage was safe. We didn’t expect this generosity,” said Shweta. They even met a couple, who took them to their home, offered them tea, and noted down their relatives’ numbers in Mumbai so that they could call them whenever they would get network.

On September 11, the families decided to leave for Leh as they learnt they would be able to return to Delhi and eventually home from there. After a 15-hour journey, they finally reached Leh where they were taken to a transit accommodation in a local school. On Saturday with the help of Dr Zahida, the local administrator, the two families left for the capital and then flew back to Mumbai in the evening. Mihir said, “The whole experience has changed all of us. We now look at life differently.

15 hours
The time taken for the Aptes and Divekars to travel from Srinagar to Leh

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