It is that time of the year again when more than 1 billion people look skywards and reassure themselves it is going to be a great year. It is the time of the year when gray and black are good and auspicious while blue and white are bad news. I wonder if there is anything else in the world that has inspired as many artists, writers, poets, politicians, economists, weathermen and the most important of them all, farmers alike as much as the Monsoons.
During childhood days, monsoons were always bad news. Not that I minded the rain, June was the end of vacations and the start of school. It was always symbolic with the smell of new books, brown sheets to cover them, new uniforms and the scramble to get them stitched for the first day. And then it would rain. It used to start bang around 4 with the smell of wet sand, as we made our way through the slushy pavements of Chamarajpet with aggressive friends jumping on puddles. Worries would be compounded when we forgot to carry the heavy raincoats and had to come home drenched to angry parents and grandparents.
During college it used to coincide with the even semester exams most of the time. Sitting in the confines of a cozy home, I learned to enjoy the monsoons as they pelted Bangalore with all their Arabian fury. It was always refreshing to sip a cup of hot filter coffee while watching the rains come down on empty roads devoid of man and beast. Living on a slopy road, I remember watching the road swell to resemble a river in full force out to meet the ocean.
But you really have not understood the rains in Bangalore unless you have commuted on Bangalore roads with them pelting you. If you are on foot waiting for a bus, that is when buses refuse to stop and auto drivers go for the kill charging one-and-a-half over the meter. If you are on 4 wheelers, you probably have the best time as the roads are generally empty except of course you have little idea whether there is a road under your tyre or how deep a submerged pot-hole is. The best (or the worst) is reserved for 2-wheeler riders. Sights of parked two-wheelers under trees or near shopping complexes welcome you as the rains gain in fury. You park and hurriedly make your way to the shelter. Even though you are fully drenched it takes a while to get over the fear of having the rains hit you with full force. Over a period of time, as you pass from tree to shelter and shelter to tree, as you get drenched to saturation, you throw caution to the rains and drive, no matter how tough the rains get. The pain is always with helmets. You shut the visor you can’t see through them, you open it and you have water blinding your eyes. Eventually you get to the adjust maadi state of opening the visor just a tad to protect your eyes and driving at the right speed to prevent water getting in.
And then, there are roads that disappear. You wade through knee-deep water praying that your vehicle does not give up. Most make it past and some stutter and choke and die down leaving the riders high and dry..err…low and wet rather, right in the middle of the road in the pouring rain. Miraculously there are never buses behind you when this happens. Along with all this, you deal with potholes. You never know if they are there, forget their depth. Eventually it becomes a matter of chance and experience. You see a vehicle navigate a section of road in front of you and you naturally gravitate to take that path, with an astounding accuracy of a foot or two. You see someone falling into a pit in the middle of the road, rest assured not many would fall in for the next half hour at least.
And then at the end of the journey is home and warmth. Believe me, you need to experience the fury of rains to reach home and enjoy it. You feel like Frodo destroying the ring and you even start looking as dirty and ragged by the time you wade through the rains, traffic and the roads.
The cup of hot filter coffee is almost life-giving. I have always loved sipping on it and looking out of the door at the lashing rains and reflecting about having survived this battle to fight another rain, another day.
With the monsoons it is always a romance. You miss them when they are not there and curse them when you are in non-moving traffic and they come pouring down, almost like an army surrounding a stranded and resigned enemy. The only option is to surrender. Although you think you fight them and think you have won, I guess it is mostly a matter of endurance.
It has been 3 years since my last monsoon and although am now in the Pacific Northwest where rains are never in shortage any time of the year, the romance is missing. I feel the rain around me and sense something alien. The passion and fury are just not there.
I guess, end of the day, not every rain is a Monsoon.