July 04, 2020
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Hard Rain

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Hard Rain
As most of India bakes under a blazing sun, we face a slightly different climatic challenge. For weeks now, unseasonable rains and hail have pounded the Kathmandu valley, flooding roads and homes, flattening crops and soaking us to the skin. The other night, two friends came to dinner. Rain was coming down as hard as any Kolkata cloudburst.

Being a charitable sort, I went to pick them up in my jeep. Of course, we each forgot to bring umbrellas and the courtyard of their house was awash. So, as the downpour continued, I reversed over the flooded lawn to a front window, opened the back door of the jeep and they climbed in, stepping on their landlady’s couch on the way out. I waved a cheery goodbye to the lady, who was watching bemused. Others weren’t so lucky. Kathmandu’s notorious potholes claimed many victims that night, cyclists and wet, bedraggled pedestrians floundered down roads that had become rivers. And then there was the hail storm! Icy chunks the size of golf balls bouncing off cars and tin-roofed shops and doing untold damage to budding fields of wheat and millet. Down at the tea shop, at the foot of my street, the old men say they’ve never seen anything like it. Just to add insult to injury, the Kathmandu valley—despite the floods and hail stones—is in the grip of the annual spring water shortage. Tanker trucks slake the thirst of the rich, parasitic pumps rip suck the pressure from the municipal pipes to fill middle-class cisterns, the poor bathe and draw water at communal tanks, all modesty forgotten in the arid conditions. Yet when the rain comes again, no one sets out a single bucket to get themselves some of this manna from the skies, not even the "experts" who work for water-rights NGOs or hydro-engineering charities. Water, water everywhere....

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