Before the slush, the sludge, the flooded roads, the infernal power cuts, the outbreaks of every communicable disease that mutating viruses can create, and before I start going down on my knees and begging the powers that be to send the sun out again, let me do a barf inducing round up of my best, held close to the heart, covered with gossamer type memories of the monsoon, the good, the bad and the very very ugly.
Running out of school, without bothering to put on the raincoat the mother has carefully and neatly folded into square centimeter size and packed into humunguous bag, and eating hot fresh corn roasted over a tandoor sigri, and basted till black and popped, rubbed over with lime and salt and chilli powder, a concoction which I could swear had some addictive substance added to it, which made one count out one’s petty change through the previous day in anticipation.
The heavens pouring down the day my graduation results were announced. And me, being me, reaching college to find out that I had been pipped as topper by single mark. And then realising, the road outside the college was a flood, I had no transport, and all my friends had already left for their residences, all within walking distance. This, of course, was the prehistoric era, pre mobile phones. Standing drenched to the skin, contemplating my course of action. And there comes my knight in shining armour. Also drenched to the skin, not due to lack of efficiency of umbrella, but rather, because he never carries an umbrella, and hand holds me through waist deep water and to a railway station where we find the trains have shut shop thanks to track flooding. So we sat on the platform bench and drank hot steaming chai from the railway stall, and didnt mind the wet and damp day, and went back to the beach to walk through the rain.
Me, working in the office at VT. Time to leave for home. When I realise the trains have packed up, the roads are flooded and I am in the middle of nowhere. I call the husband panicking. Stay where you are, he orders, I’ll come and get you. And I wait. And wait. And wait. And he comes, walking from Andheri. And manages to get us home, dry and in one piece, through a horrible night that saw more deaths by electrocution than I had ever known until 26th July 2005 happened.
Driving through the city, in our first car. A little white Maruti 800. Suddenly the skies opened up and rains lashed the road. The traffic swelling to anaconda proportions. And we content and happy to just be in the moment. No rush to get home. Soaking in the rain with our windows wide open.
Sitting by the window, watching the monsoon pour down on a verdant green Goan landscape, the sea rippling angrily, the little hacienda we were in alive with new sounds and fragrances from the rainsoaked garden. My husband’s head in my lap. A mug of coffee in my hand. Just a sense of calm and peace and being in the moment. A moment so tender and precious that we havent been able to replicate it since. And ofcourse, we have had no solo holidays after that, thanks to the precious fruit of my womb.
Speaking of which, a year later, sitting by a window, watching the rains pour down, the skies dark with thunder, and feeling a sudden sure sharp kick in my swollen stomach. Yes, the child decided to make his presence felt to much drama and thunder and lightning splitting the dark sky. Appropriate, I think in retrospect.
The rains pouring down, the news filtering in that the trains have stopped running, the roads are flooded, and all I can see from the window is a swell of brown muddy water slowly rising in the building compound. And the child is down with a fever, and I am beyond panic, I am hysterical. The husband is out of town. The driver is on leave. And sure enough it happens, the child goes into convulsions, and I run down, with him jerking in my arms, begging and pleading with taxi wallahs to take us to a hospital. His body goes limp, he had fainted. I didnt know that then, I was howling like a mad woman. I didnt want to think what I was thinking. No one agrees to take us. The roads are all flooded, they say. Save one kind soul. Thank you, Sardarji. Wherever you are, may the lord bless you and keep your children in good health.
Another day. The same year. A day no Mumbaikar will forget ever. 26 July 2005. I am in town, a good distance away from home in the far suburbs, and suddenly, the clouds literally burst on us. I can only see a black curtain of rain through the window while I continue my interview in my best professional manner. The husband starts calling frantically. Come back, soon. The roads are flooded over. We set out. The traffic crawls. Inch by inch. Afternoon turns into evening. Evening turns into night. I am stuck. The water laps at the windows of my Ikon. I was lucky, I didnt realise I could have been locked in and gased dead if the autolock had jammed. I spent the night at a friends place enroute. I barely slept. My child was home, just out of the hospital. I began walking at six am. Two minutes into the walk I realised I couldnt walk in chest high water with stilettoes and chucked them off. And walked barefoot. And like a woman possessed. I walked from Santacruz to Kandivali. I reached at 1.30 pm. Barely seven hours after I’d set off. I’d walked through washed away roads, pulled myself through makeshift rope bridges across flooded in roads, walked past floating corpses of bloated buffalos. The phone lines were down. The husband was going mad with worry. He had literally swum home the previous night. The water levels had crossed the level of our compound wall, and the area had been cordoned off by the police. He just jumped in and swam through. Ex-national level swimmer. The child was safe. The anticonvulsants had to be administered in precise dosage, at precise timing. My feet were bleeding, cut in a million places. I didnt feel the pain, just the unsspeakable, breathless joy of holding my child, safe and in good health.
And now, sitting in my bedroom, in my new home. Watching the breath taking expanse of sky and cloud battling with each. A luxury in this space starved city, where even glimpses of the sky are rationed out. Holding my son in my lap. And pointing out imaginary figures in the clouds. Here a lion, there a whale, there a dinosaur. And seeing a magical kingdom of myth where earlier I had only been able to see prosaic cumulus clouds.
Do I love the monsoon? I do. It is too much of a season of raw fury and unpredicatability not to love. And plus, I have been raised on a diet of Bollywood romance in the rains. How can I not love it? Anyone else love this season, despite it?