Drops of rainwater falling over a pond and causing small ripples are an enchanting sight. And if one is to watch these whilst listening to the crickets and the plonk plonk of the drops, one would be filled with an overwhelming desire to be out walking in the drizzle. A boat in the lake in soft drizzle is another picturesque sight.
In a city like Mumbai or for that matter any Indian city facing perpetual water shortages, rains signify the abundance of this scarce commodity. Many people just walk in the rain to have a bath they had promised themselves long back. Many leave buckets and pans in the open to fill these up as never before.
Rainy season is a favourite for unplanned holidays or breaks from work. It is because Mumbai’s transportation system comes to a halt with anything but light rains. Schools and colleges are closed and offices are forced to let off their staff either early or for the days when it rains heavily. Walking on the roads is the most dangerous exercise one can indulge in. As you gingerly find your way on the flooded roads and you only manage to find your foot in the pothole you have luck on your side; you manage to return home with minor injuries. However, if your foot finds an open manhole (such manholes are often left open by the municipality to add to the adventure of being in Mumbai) you are instantly one with God.
Rains are also a good excuse for not doing anything or for postponing things. After you have chosen your furniture at the neighbourly shop and paid the advance and you await delivery, the rains break out. You are left high and dry, nay, low and wet. “Let the rains get over”, your friendly shopkeeper informs you, “and I will make sure your sofa set is delivered promptly”.
Rains in Mumbai also result in essential cleanliness of our squalid surroundings or at least some of the muck is hidden in the waters. The perpetual dust settles down. Since we have this compelling urge to litter, rains instantly carry our wrong-doings away from us. Since a large number of Mumbaiites are used to urinating, spitting and defecating in public places, rains promptly absolve us of the guilt of our irresponsible conduct. In this way we can continue to blame the authorities for not making our areas hygienic and mosquito free whilst assuring ourselves unrestricted use of the freedom we won so dearly.
All other seasons you face on your own but there is great togetherness in the rains. Don’t believe me? Well, try being the only person who carries an umbrella when it starts pouring and see how many people will engage you in close conversation under your umbrella. You suffer together waiting for the BEST (named so that you won’t call them WORST) buses to arrive, shifting from one end of the bus stop to the other as the rain changes direction with the breeze. A kind of kinship is cemented that you had never dreamt of. In one of the Mumbai ads, a man instantly marries his son off to a girl whose father was kind enough to provide him shelter in pouring rain.
And then there is family-togetherness. Rains are the best season for the lady of the house to be making and serving maalpuras, pakodas and other fried stuff whilst the rest of the family watches TV in knee deep water. No guests are expected during this weather and you can have all the goodies to yourself. Conversely, you can avoid going to grouchy friends by the handy excuse of rains, “ All of us were ready to come and be with you for the bhajan-kirtan (hymn singing) and then it started raining”.
Rains are thanked profusely by our local milkman; in other weathers he has to depend upon the unreliable municipal water to make his fifty litres into eighty, but, during rains he does not have to do much to increase his earnings. Many Mumbai families stash the raddi (old newspapers and magazines) during other seasons and sell these during the monsoons when they absorb moisture and their weight increases.
Rains are loved by the Mumbai media ever starved to break news. During other seasons there is nothing much to report. But, during rains the media can forever indulge in such populist topics as trashing authorities for being insensitive to people’s basic needs.
Our dog Roger loves the Mumbai rains. The duration of his walks increases and he just loves to wade through pools formed on the walkway. If he could write he would write to the Mayor thanking him for having such pools everywhere. The Mumbai media would hate him for doggedly taking on their watch-dog role.
With all this, there is nothing like Mumbai rains. If you have stood under the shelter of a tree with a paper cone holding singdana (roasted peanuts) or bhutta (corn roasted on coal), you are bound to break into song, “Ai dil hai mushkil jeena yahan; Yeh hai Bombay, yeh hai Bombay meri jaan (O’ my heart, it is so difficult to live here; it is Bombay, my love)”.
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