Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Goodbye Rains!

It had to happen. This monsoon (the word is derived, so I read, from the Arabic/Urdu word “mausam” meaning “season”) I had taken a solemn vow to not let the forces of nature, in this case: rain, defeat me. So apart from losing two umbrellas and similar other minor catastrophes, I had come to the end of this monsoon, untarnished and untrammelled. So when the dry spell came I heaved the necessary sighs of relief and said a prayer to the Almighty for having spared me. The monsoon disappears usually around mid-September, and here we are nearing end of September. So, I had got rid of the unwieldy umbrella, trusting it not to rain. But yesterday something happened that was to shake that firm resolve, i.e., that I would be unfazed in the face of the onslaught from heaven, and all that.

It rained!

It rained rivers, streams, seas, oceans. I sought shelter in a South Indian restaurant and sat over hot tea to let all the watery hell pass. But when it rains in Bombay it rains for hours and days. One hour passes and the rain doesn't show signs of subsiding, so I come out and try hunting for a taxi to take me Victoria Terminus train station.

Bombay taxis won’t stop for you when it rains!

They see this desperate-looking, bald man soaking wet and up goes all their noses. Their preference during the best of their seasons, the monsoon, is the posh areas of Cuffe Parade and Malabar Hill where madams in sheer chiffon with feather boas tip hundred rupees in addition to your choice of taxi fare! Bastards!

I don’t wear chiffon and am a man, what to do? So I tie a kerchief around my head and walk. Proud head erect, and all, I walk so as not to appear fazed, not leaning forward, straight, so as not to lose all self composure now that it was a last of all showers, the very last burst. I walk in ankle-length water, the shirt starts clinging after a few paces, the shoes squelch, the glasses mist, I am slowly losing... losing my, what shall I say, avoirdupois.

The journey to CBD Belapur takes one hour and I sit and shiver in the cold of the sudden wetness deep into Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” which details the privations of the Buendia family in the godforsaken village of Macondo. It says it rained for four years in Macondo. God forbid! The story narrates the hopelessness of life in this South American hell and it depresses me. But I am seated erect, backache and all, and unfazed.

Then I reach CBD Belapur where I live. Damn, it’s raining here too! There’s a long queue for the rickshaws, the omnipresent small beetle-shaped vehicles that would take me home.

When it rains rickshaw drivers don’t drive!

So I join this long snaking queue. A boy around my son’s age is holding this big multi-coloured umbrella above him, in front, and he deliberately turns it away from me, so I get wet all over, also the water flowing down his umbrella tumbles on me. Who says kindness is a middle-class virtue? Or, maybe, I am seeing things negatively. I stand straighter, hold my head higher, the rain pelts, the rivulets flow. I am as wet as a dish rag by now. A few rickshaws arrive and the queue grows shorter, the rain falls continuously, no respite, no abatement.

When you need a rickshaw you won’t get them!

Yes, no one, none. Other days they would all be tooting-teeting-cursing-lolling around with their bodies twisted in varying shapes on their front seats. Today, guess they have all gone to sleep or are drinking their moonshine hootch in their shabby watering holes.

I am at the head of the queue!

Yes, it takes half-an-hour. But I am at the head of the queue and the availability of the god’s-gift-to-Bombay rickshaws drops to the nadir of all known extents, meaning the absolute of absolute zero. Then one comes puttering out of the rain and darkness and I board its wet interior and it takes me home. I am on my way.

I walk the few paces to my house, my head erect, my pride still intact. Yes, I kept the promise: I wasn’t fazed a bit by the rains. Goodbye rains!

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