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?