Monday, May 29, 2006

Mumbai Monsoon.

The rains are here! Of course, they've been here for a while now, but I was tempted to write it off as one of the quirks of Bangalore weather... but the constant cloud cover, the drizzle, the chilly mornings - it can't mean anything else!

And that reminds me of another city which has a distinctive monsoon - Mumbai.

The rains in Mumbai took me by surprise, to put it mildly. It is an entirely different culture out there. Coming from a place where people take shelter at the hint of a drizzle, here I saw a city that does not stop! What is amazing is the attitude of the -

People. They walk nonchalantly in pouring rain through knee deep water. They cheerily walk into office in casual clothes, drenched to the skin, and then change into formals in the changing rooms, as if it is the most natural thing in the world. They don't put off any business, or any visits. They just treat the rain as a minor inconvenience, and go about their business, unfazed.

Another thing that amazed me is the nature of the -

Rain. Continuous. Sometimes pouring, sometimes drizzling, but raining all the time. Initially, after a day of incessant rain, I said, "God! It's been raining for 24 hours non-stop!" My colleagues rolled their eyes at me with a "You ain't seen nothin' yet" expression. Sure enough, the rains continued round-the-clock for a week! Roads were flooded, trains stopped, but Mumbai went on.

One distinctive feature of the Mumbai monsoon - the ubiquitous -

Tubs. Or buckets. Outside shops and commercial establishments. Where you dump your dripping umbrella, before going in. Very convenient. The watchman doesn't have to take the risk of offending a customer by telling him to deposit his umbrella outside. And the owner of the establishment doesn't have to endure the agony of seeing rainwater dripping over his newly polished floors. But you need to have a knack of depositing your umbrella in just the right place in the tub. If you dump it right in the middle of the tub, then it will get entangled with the other dripping umbrellas, and you will have to move heaven and earth to retrieve it in one piece. Or if you place it on the periphery of the tub, someone, in the process of looking for his dumped-in-the-middle umbrella, will displace yours, and it will land ten feet away from the tub. You have to place it just so. And yes, if you have a distinctive umbrella, and if you place it in the tub all tied and folded, you have a better chance of getting it back. In one piece.

Then of course, is the major matter of -

Shoes. After the first major rain, I tried to skirt puddles daintily, trying to protect my footwear. When I realized that daintiness doesn't really work on the streets of Mumbai, I waded through ankle-deep water, and promptly spoiled my shoes. My room-mates guided me to Andheri to buy footwear suited for the rains. I duly landed in the market, expecting to see cheap plastic monstrosities, and was stupefied to see rack upon rack of "Rainy shoes"(sic), some really elegant. I bought a cool brown pair, which served me beautifully even as .. um... non-Rainy shoes.

And then, you cannot expect to survive the rains without an -

Umbrella. I had brought a tiny three-fold umbrella with me from Bangalore, which would fit snugly into my handbag. I disregarded warnings that I would need a sturdier two-fold umbrella, claiming that mine was very strong. A week of enduring the rain and winds and the Tubs of Mumbai, my dainty turquoise umbrella was a clump of rusty spokes and muddy fabric. The next weekend saw me again in Andheri, bargaining for a hardy two-fold umbrella. I picked up a light blue one with white raindrops... that somehow made me feel like a Powerpuff girl, but which, I was sure, was pretty resilient to withstand the winds, and unique enough for a life in the Tubs. A month later, though the white raindrops had turned brown, the umbrella was intact. It even accompanied me back to Bangalore as a prized possession.

And I just cannot stop talking about the -

Sights. And the experiences. A walk down Marine Drive in the rain, biting into hot, spiced, corn on the cob. Or looking out towards Powai Lake. Or a drive on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, through Lonavala and Khandala, in the rain. One of the best experiences ever. Endless green hills and valleys with drifting cottony clouds. Black roads, dark tunnels. And the chill. My only grouse is that I had no one travelling with me to share the moment with, and I did not have a camera. Aaargh!

Of course, everything is not hunky-dory in the Mumbai monsoon. Cancelled trains, stranded passengers. Clothes take forever to dry, and attain that musty, sour smell that no perfume can mask. Grease gets on your clothes when you wade through water on the streets, and no amount of scrubbing will remove it. And if you are not too careful, the clothes in your cupboard develop fungus. And worst of all, if you are feeling lonely or if things are not going too well for you, the Mumbai monsoons have the immense ability to hurl you into the depths of depression.

But nowhere else is the monsoon an event in itself. And the way the city and it's people have adapted to this necessary evil(?) is a joy to observe. How can Mumbai possibly not endear itself to you?

35 comments:

Shreyas said...

Gulp!

Now you have me all scared and fearful of the Mumbai rains! I enjoyed it last time around, it being first time and all, but this time I am quite wary of it!

vidya said...

I'm all J ;). No rains here as yet.

bellur ramakrishna said...

Shruthi,
Interestingly, you have stopped the 'Marriage' series as rains set in. You might know that no marriage in Shravana masa due to practicla reasons you see.

I liked the interesting bit on how to place the umbrella outside the shop. There is a short story by RK Narayan on Umbrella(You might have read it, if not, do read).

Both the rains and rumours caused havoc in Mumbai last year. But nothing stopped the Mumbai spirit. The highest-ever rainfall recorded in a single day in India shut down the financial hub of Mumbai, snapped communication lines, closed airports and forced thousands of people to sleep in their offices or walk home during the night.

With water to drown in but not to cook with, telephone lines down, and Reliance Energy switching off the electricity supply, thousands lived in a nightmarish limbo. They had access to nothing; no one had access to them. After the rain deluge, one truth emerged. Those in power had failed, while those without power — in more ways than one — proved that Mumbai survives despite its leadership, not because of it.
No one can ask governments to prevent a flood. What citizens can demand is that their representatives competently respond to it. Must the city pay with its blood every time a government servant neglects his duty? A road is shoddily constructed, a drainage system not allowed where it is needed, an expert’s advice is ignored. All in favour of profiting a few?

Want to share this: It once rained on Double Road('80s) in Bangalore and only one stretch was wet. People on this side were amazed. Heard a similar thing happened in Madras long back.

Shruthi said...

Shreyas: Come on!! I have been praising Mumbai to the clouds, err.. the skies!
If you have lived through one monsoon, especially the last one, then have no fear :)

Vidya: Shall I make you even more J? Bangalore looks absolutely beautiful!! And the weather! Wow! ;)
Just hang in there, Vidya :)

Bellur Ramakrishna: Coincidence huh? :)
Those in power failed, and those not in power, proved their strength - good one! You have summed it up very well!
Yes, I have had this experience too - once, while driving down a road, I could see that it was raining two crosses away. Even as I watched, the rain approached us - one cross away, and then few meters away from us... and then finally it rained down upon us! Surreal, to say the least.

Inder said...

Nice post :)

Rain... It brings smile in almost everyone’s face at my place, Pondicherry. Well, infrequent visitors always receive a better reception. One distinct difference between rain in Pondicherry and rain in Madras is that – drenched Pondicherry looks prettier and fresher whereas, drenched Madras looks a lot dirtier and repulsive, except a few places in Madras.

I missed the heavy subway and first-floor drowning rain last year in Madras. None expected such heavy rain in Madras. I think that a lot of people don’t bother to buy umbrella/rain-coat in Madras. Rain is something they tend to forget. Such a heavy rain in the dry land Madras was a real shocker. Along these dry years, the lakes and ponds in and around Madras dried up and people built their homes there. Last year’s rain flooded those once-upon-a-time lakes and ponds. And then, people had a firsthand experience of how it feels like to live in an aquarium.

Here in Holland, a large part of the country is below sea level. Rains are accompanied with heavy wind. Raincoats and jackets are clever options than umbrellas.

Kalyan said...

got cold + cough for getting wet in bangalore rains :)

one request: can you configure your blog feed to dish out entire posts, than just excrepts?

alz said...

me here in dubai.... ummmmmmm... u making me miss my mumbai:
good blog though!

bru said...

In mumbai as well as in malnad areas, the people just cant afford to use rain as an excuse to escape from their daily routine. Rains there are so continuous that they will they have to stop for weeks and months. But we here, can find an excuse not to go to colleges, schools, even for work and sometimes to paraties too, and prefer to sit at home eating hot spicy pakodas and sipping hot tea or coffee :)

it is good that shruthi, after going to mumbai learnt how to get well equipped to face the rains, and walked in knee deep water.... the one who as a chubby two year old made a big fuss and demanded an umbrella to protect her new raincoat from getting wet! :)

raj plus said...

Shruti, I liked the narrative style that you have used to seamlessly move from one para to another.

Supremus said...

Now rains are something I hate. And I hate humidity even more - unfortunately, mumbai packs a punch of both hehehe :D - I dont know if I did ever survive in mumbai, rain or otherwise.

That saying, even Hubli-Dharwad was like that - all the years we stayed there, minus the humidity, it always used to drizzle and rain continuously. At times we used to sit on a betta watching the drizzle and catching a smoke - it had its own charm .. I am getting carried away hehe!

Beautiful post!

Suyog

PS: Which version of parva are u reading - English or Kannada? I know that the original Kannada one has its own charm hehe :D

Shruthi said...

Inder: :)) Thanks! :) Pondicherry is one place I really want to visit, but somehow it hasn't worked out!

Kalyan: Ohho.... bad!! 'Bout the request ... hmm.. will get back to you.

Alz: Oh! Thank you :) How long is it since you've been in Mumbai?

Shruthi said...

Bru: Ohhoooo bad, bad!! You should not give out family secrets like this! :))

Raj Plus: Thanks a ton! I was experimenting ;)

Suyog: See? See?? You don't hate the rains :)) Thank you!
Oh, and about Parva, I just came across the translation in my Uncle's house. ABout reading it, I would love to, sometime :). [The original, hopefully!]

Raj said...

I've never been to Mumbai but heard countless tales of the rain as well as seen it quite a few times in the movies. I would love to go there n experience it sometime.

iyer education said...

nice post and good observation reg the umbrella bucket/tub thing...

but there is one thing that people in mumbai dont miss in rains and that happens to be having hot cutting (tea) and hot batatawada under some thatched roof in heavy rains... batatawada and cutting never tastes so good in other seasons as in rainy season :D

Shruthi said...

Raj: Yup, you should live there for a while, and get under the skin of the city. It's an experience in itself :)

Iyer Education: Thank you :)
And slurp!
But have you noticed? ANYTHING tastes better when eaten or drunk while watching the rain :D

chandni said...

nice post...made me remember the years spent in Bombay...

the way u describe bombay monsoon is quite apt :)

Sachin said...

Shruthi, I hereby present to you this cap worn by all Mumbaikars!!!! :) Feels so good when you write about Mumbai.....

Just to keep you posted, we had our first rainfall last night. It was also my birthday yesterday so got a great ending since it starting pouring around 11 pm. Today the roads look clean and washed; there is a cool breeze blowing (haan bhai haan...don't look so shocked) and the humidity seems to have all but gone.

We're all getting our "all-season" footwear out along with those umbrellas you mentioned in your post. Andheri is just about starting to resemble an ant-hill with all those people, vehicles stranded in huge traffic snarls.

Great post!!! Wish I could write so easily as well.

RK said...

Shruthi,
I remember a couple of RK Laxman's cartoons on 'Rains'. In one of them, the Common man and his wife are on their house balcony seeing a single patch of dark cloud. And the wife tells: THERE GOES POWER, WATER, TRANSPORT....

In another pocket cartoon depicting a rainy scene, everybody is well protected against the pouring rain, except one gentleman who’s drenched from head to toe ‘coz he hasn’t even got an umbrella. He’s seen answering a fellow-bus stopper’s question. Says he “Yes. I work in the meteorological department. How did you know?”

By the way, I have followed your suggestion.

Shruthi said...

Chandni: Thank you :)

Sachin: Ohho! Thank you so much :)) And you are making me sharminda and all :D
Sigh... I am feeling senti listening to you describe Andheri!
And yes, A very happy birthday to you!!

RK Ha ha!! :)) Funny indeed! :)) [I think I remember that meteorological dept one].
Am really glad that you took my suggestion :)

RK said...

Started a blog of my own(as you had suggested). Completed the BLOG-PRAVESHA a few minutes ago.
Do visit http://ramblingwithbellur.blogspot.com/

Keep blogging

Swathi said...

nevr experienced the Mumbai Monsoon but yaa, i do love those summer showers we get in Hyd - itz worth tolerating the severe heat just to smell the earth during those first showers.

chitra said...

Seems to have fun time there. WHere the temperature is anywhere above 37 c and humidity above 90%.

Yes, jealous of bangalore, but just fr the weather!

Ashu said...

A Real good post!

Shruthi said...

Rk: Yup, visited it! Good going! Keep blogging!

Swathi: Isn't that scent heavenly? Sigh!!

Chitra: There are lots more things nice about Bangalore apart from the weather :)

Ashu: Thank you! :)

Emma said...

Shruthi, This is a beautiful post. You have captured the spirit of Mumbai and its monsoon wonderfully.

Anonymous said...

you have mentioned powai lake, but not vihar which is just behind powai lake and IIT campus! even tho' powai lake is good, i don't have words to describe the beauty of vihar lake and its surroundings..
i also will presume that you've not gone on trekkings/hikings in the sahyadris during monsoons. its dangerous many say but thats why its out of the world experience..
~S

Shruthi said...

Emma: Thank you :)

S: Oh, that's because I haven't seen Vihar lake in the rain :)
Yes, I have gone trekking near Pune - Sinhgad, etc., in the monsoon. One of the best experiences ever!

revati said...

hey shruthi!! great blog..so interesting. and what a way to meet again. its been far too long. glad to see you're blogging so intensely!

i was in bombay around the time it rained in the beginning of this month. i hate the rain in bombay. everything is damp and begins to grow all sorts of fungus and i hate to go out.

i love thr rain in bangalore though!

stop by my blog at http://haathime.blogspot.com/

Shruthi said...

Revati: Whoa! THE Revati? How on earth did you land here? :D
Great to see you!

mavinayanasa said...

good article

i had written an article on last year's mumbai rain - just see here

http://mavinayanasa.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_mavinayanasa_archive.html

Di said...

hey nice description..especially for someone who has not been to mumbai.. :-)

Shruthi said...

Mavinayanasa: Thank you! That's a good article!

Di: Thank you :)

life of pi said...

just stumbled upon your blog. its great!

Mythili said...

Well, then you must visit Seattle!

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