The rains that weren’t…

It was a cool, cloudy afternoon, bang in the middle of August. The usual precursor to rains – massive torrential rains. I parked my bike outside. Borewells being dug all over the place had left a thick coating of light grey dust all over it. No amount of manual cleaning would be enough. And being August it would be criminal not to use rain water for this. It rained. After it stopped I dragged the bike inside. But the cement was now a sloshy coating on the bike. Wasn’t quite the rain I had been expecting. And unfortunately that’s what I would have to be satisfied with the rest of the season.

BBMP, through a rare stroke of common sense, decided to ban boring wells in Bangalore unless some restrictive conditions are met, like no other source of water around. But then, BBMP being BBMP decided to enforce that ban from December, which left open a huge window of 5-6 months for people to dig all they wanted. This explained the sudden spurt in borewell digging all over Bangalore in August. Of all the months during which you could forgive people digging borewells, if you indeed can somehow, it would have to be August or September, mainly because the rains can clean up after the deed. The main ones happened in August – the two most painful ones as we had to clean up both indoors and outdoors after they left. It’s been close to two months now and I can still find the dust outside.

2011 was a watershed year, as in literally, for Bangalore. There were many nights I would wake up and have to close the windows to prevent the room being flooded. The one-man cane swing outside would have to be brought in at the first sign of clouds. Nayandahalli used to get flooded and I’d have to WFH four days a week. Thursday early evenings I would have to stand in the shade of sidey bars on Mysore road wondering why it had to pour only at that point and why it couldn’t have waited a few more minutes so that I could take refuge in posher Chandra Layout.

To give some brief stats, September sees around 200mm of rains in Bangalore. This year saw bright sunny skies till the 13th when it poured out 45mm over one night. After that, the clouds returned to envelop the mornings, raising hopes but dissipating into beautiful sunsets every evening. Except that there is no beauty in not raining when it should. There was some hope towards the end, but it was barely anything and this year would probably rank as one of the worst in terms of rains and Bangalore.

September also saw the annual destroy-the-lakes day this year which meant that the few spots of solace I have were strewn with smelly garbage. Again I wished for rains to clean them up. Again they deserted me and Bangalore. Combined with the garbage clearance mess, it has been one messy time in Bangalore history.

October is the start of the NE monsoon. This is the gloomiest month of the year more or less as along with the NE monsoons, it also sees low-pressure areas forming along the Bay of Bengal and cyclones hitting the east coast causing clouds and rains in Bangalore. This year, the nights are cold, with the temperatures dipping to the late teens. The days start bright and sunny, but I need a sweater to go to work every morning. The evenings are hot – 30+, something unusual for Bangalore. Average max is around 28. Combined with the lack of rain it’s an outpouring of dust all around.

I believe in seasons. This is one reason I love Bangalore, and non-tropical cities. With Seattle it used to be those light green leaves and cherry blossoms sprouting marking spring; darker leaved fuller trees for summer; yellow, orange and red ones to mark Fall; and the barren ones for winter. They mark the progression of time and indeed, are associated with memories for me.
There is the yellow and purple spring in Bangalore with a mild chill in the morning; the hot summer which starts off with the pleasant smell of summer holidays and the chirping birds by mid to late March; the pre-monsoon bursts of May to cool off the summer, the monsoons heralded by the heavy winds of June; the wet months of July, August and September, the gloomy months of October and November; followed by the cold nights and chilly but sunny days of December and January.

In a way it feels like a routine, and I love routines, especially meticulously made ones. Which naturally means it is hard for me to come to terms with routines being missed out. Considering that the monsoon months mean I can’t head out somewhere, I should be celebrating and traveling out. But the thought of looking upon starved fields, forests and animals has made me stay put. There have only been the bike rides to Bidadi and then through the villages to Magadi road, and the sight of Manchanabele, though still breathtaking(thanks mainly to the elevation from which you approach it), is depressing with the lack of water flowing in the Arkavathi.

And as expected, the Cauvery is drying up and the issue flares up again between the two states. Considering that the farmers along the delta are generally paddy and sugarcane ones and hence generally are rich farmers, the real loss is for wildlife and the environment. This would mark another year where the Cauvery would not reach the Bay of Bengal.

Whole eco-systems – natural and synthetic- are built around seasons and the timely arrival of the appropriate weather. As I say, it’s never good if it doesn’t rain when it has to. Oh well, let’s hope there is some salvaging from the rest of the months. Going to be a long, hard and dry summer next year otherwise.

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