Rains bring a lot in their wake.
While they bring hope to the farmer, a question mark hangs. Would it rain through the season, and rain enough, and rain just in time for the sowing, to promote good crop growth and later a good harvest? A bit more at the wrong time, or a bit less for that matter, and the economy can go for toss.
The smiles sported in June and July, depending on where one lives on the Indian subcontinent, may quickly disappear. The monsoon’s sweep, starting from Kerala normally on or around June 1, is significant in India. Its progress is diligently marked daily by the by the Indian Met.
The idiotic but hackneyed pictures of a farmer, generally old with a wrinkled face, his hands shading the eyes, looking skyward in May when clouds are a rarity, go off the newspaper pages. The first monsoon pictures of people scurrying for cover caught without umbrellas, or someone dancing with joy hit the morning news.
Suddenly the trees appear new, squeaky clean, the dust accumulated through the Indian summer washed away, the green appearing refreshingly, well, green. Even the buildings – towers and squat bungalows – seem they have returned freshly laundered. Even the tiled roofs and the shanties take on a glow, at least their roofs do. It is literally entering a new season.
A week into the rains, and frogs find their lungs and the rhythm of croaking commences just as a couple of days’ lull is enough to unleash swarms of stinging mosquitoes making people sick with malaria and much else. The sneeze and the sniffle, the cough and the phlegm, the plunging of the thermometer in the mouth of adults and the armpits of children are routine.
The vegetable prices, having soared like the summer temperature, obstinately remain high for the vendor insists that if it rained in the city, it had not on the farms. If it had, then roads were not easily negotiable and a lot had perished on the way so your lunch and dinner continues to cut a bigger hole in the pocket.
It is about time for the school year to start, new uniforms after having outgrown the previous years. Play has to be indoors, friends seen only in glimpses when you are out briefly. Playing with raincoats on or umbrellas held up is trying to be circus acrobats. And no mother is going to let the kids play in the rains. The temptation to go play though, is hard to resist.
It is about the time to also curse the motorist who swishes his car past as you walk, spraying, in fact drenching, you with slush. Indian roads, in best of cities, are never devoid of slush because they are never without dust. Your laundry bills and tempers both go up for this one single reason. It is time to check your car brakes and ride bikes with care.
It is time to start asking the autorickshaw drivers why they cannot pin down the flaps on either sides to keep you drive as he bounces along the potholed roads to your destination. You are already irked that only about a foot of the seat, if you are lucky, is dry and there are two or three of you wanting to travel together. Bus windows, especially the ordinary ones, both city and long distance, have not been designed to keep the rains out.
Rains are a good excuse for reaching the offices late. The trains run late in Mumbai and its extended suburbs. Traffic snarls habitually develop and the gush of the wind and the splatter of rain ensure the day’s work starting off late. The railways, unlike the farmers, are annually unprepared. They believe it is monsoon time only when they see the rains.
The tracks have to flood and submerge the signalling links to stir them up. Their cousins in the city government realise they should have filled the potholes much earlier in the summer but then, the contractors were on holiday, the officials secure in their office from the sweltering heat outside and the politicians making deals on the expensive cell phones.
Not just Mumbai, but elsewhere too, the cities comprehend they have drains that can’t carry the rain water away because all along they thought they were a huge garbage can. When the water refuses to flow and inundates the place, it dawns on them how uncivil their behaviour was. As the next monsoon approaches, the previous year’s discomfort is forgotten – back to square one..
It also the time to remember the pits on the roads and the broken tiles on the footpath and avoid them, They were there in the previous monsoon too and during the intervening period was not even a faint concern of the city. A stumble could be expensive. You think you care when you curse, but who else does? So every year, you take to the roads with some caution. You never know what lurks when the next step is taken.
As with Jagannath Naik, a 16-year-old Wadala boy who drowned while playing cricket yesterday because for the past three-four months, several pits were left unfenced and the rains filled them with water. He did not remember it was there and turned to be his watery grave. The police filed a case against an unidentified culprit but we can guess who that would be.
Like said earlier, the rains bring many things in its wake, inconvenience, a personal or larger disaster to a bigger community. Sometimes it could be floods because rivers break their banks, sometimes, brings boulders crashing down and in case of Mumbai’s slums, the shanties down from the slopes on which they are built. But rains have to come, except that we have not learnt how to cope with it.