And still, every day, a month after the proclaimed “arrival” of the monsoon, heavy, ominous, grey thunderclouds drift over the city. The sun has been vanquished from the heavens and in its place are the implacable layers of monsoon clouds. Their bulging bottoms lower to the earth till they seem to be almost within touching distance; yet their lofty white heads stretch languidly into the heavens, beyond reach of any mortal being. In a leisurely fashion they drift across the sky, pushed along by the merry breeze, as cool and grey as the clouds themselves.
Every day, it seems as though it must rain; those bathtubs of the gods must surely empty themselves on us today. But no – they drift along in the breeze, going their own lazy way, making space for occasional glimpses of blue sky and brief spells of welcome sunshine before being replaced by yet another blanket of warm, grey clouds.
Monsoon. Monsum in Deutsch. Mausam in Hindi. The season of rain, in any language. You love it, you hate it and you have to admit life wouldn’t be the same without it. It’s going to mess up the city roads and drainage; it’s going to catch you unawares and give you a solid drenching; it’s going to cause floods and loss of life and property and crop and livestock; it’s going to create mud slicks and traffic jams of gigantic proportions; it might even bring a mighty city like Mumbai to a standstill, keep its people away from home overnight, shut down all public transport and ground aircrafts.
But, even though we love to hate it, wrathful as it is, we also love the blasted creature. This is the respite from the summer heat that we all have been waiting for. This is the season of leisure and rejuvenation. Forests regain their greenery, reservoirs are refilled, the parched earth gets a new lease on life and humanity waits, humbled again by the power of nature.
Despite the disasters that inevitably accompany the monsoon each year, the rains signify so much to us.
Adventure: Even going to the neighborhood grocery store becomes a major undertaking as you negotiate overflowing drains, rivers gushing down the streets, stranded vehicles and ever newer potholes and uncovered manholes.
Romance: Bollywood caught on early and has made the most of it. How many movies can you think of featuring a damsel in a sexy, wet sari? How many songs of the “Ek ladki bheegi-bhagi-si” genre? But it’s not just the movies – how many memories do you have of luxurious, warm, wonderful hours spent with a special someone, watching the rain over a cup of something hot?
Joy: Think of children sailing boats in lakes that used to be the back yard; or returning from school a sodden, grinning mess of mud and water; or darting out from under a protective umbrella to splash and prance in gay abandon in the freshness of a sudden downpour. Think of dogs, chasing each other, laughing and rolling in the mud.
Beauty: Standing at the verandah door, or maybe at the window of some tall building watching it come down in sheets, blankets, curtains. Not mere buckets or tubs, but entire oceans of water descending from nowhere – dismal though it might be, there is an indisputable beauty in the sight.
Camaraderie: Who hasn’t been caught unprepared in a sudden monsoon shower? Whether you’re tackling a flooded road or cowering under a tree or temporary shelter of some kind, it’s an experience guaranteed to build instant camaraderie with your fellows in misfortune.
And there’s something spiritual about it too. The benevolence of the rain gods, or their wrath – whichever way you look at it, when the monsoons arrive, the gods are implicated in one form or another. Surely nothing short of the Almighty could be responsible for a phenomenon as incredible as the monsoon?