July 10, 2020
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Rhapsodizing Rains And The Over-Flowing Drains

Am I the only person who treats as a piece of annual fiction, those self serving articles in our morning papers about how we are all ready for the rains?

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Rhapsodizing Rains And The Over-Flowing Drains
File - PTI Photo/Kamal Singh
Rhapsodizing Rains And The Over-Flowing Drains

Sitting on my balcony with my morning cuppa, relishing the sound of the rain pouring down, life is good.

In general, of course, but specifically because it is raining.

The otherwise permanently-dusty houseplants are all lined up outside in serried ranks, getting a soaking, and suddenly there is a dazzling shiny greenness everywhere. The birds sound quite chirpy — pun absolutely intended.

Yes, life is indeed good.

I Instagram the moment, retweet the Instagram moment, and get back to my cuppa, happy that it is finally raining.

Every year in India, my joy at the arrival of the monsoons marks another step along that long road away from my British roots. Actually my Anglo-Irish roots, to be precise. Ireland a country which has rain, rain, and ever more rain to thank for its oft quoted 40 shades of green. And then there's God's own county, Yorkshire, where it is cold and rainy and windy and ee bah gum are we ever tough, gritty, no-nonsense people as a result. So by rights, this rain-infused DNA of mine should flee the very thought of downpours. And yet every year, like so many of my fellow citizens here in India, when that first fabulous downpour comes, out I go and stand in it and get fabulously drenched. And then squelch back inside the house with my Indian husband muttering sotto voce something about bloody fools and growing up.

The arrival of the monsoons here in India always makes me realise just how far I have come along the serendipitous path that brought me to India...but yes, you are absolutely right, that is a deeply personal moment and of limited interest to anyone. One thing though is for sure — India does not need another romantic outpouring about the monsoons, now, does it? Let's be realistic here, you have enough of a fabulous body of literature and music celebrating this annual wonderful-ness, and a monsoon-struck firang can add little new to the rhapsodic outpourings, except...well...except...

Except that the monsoons also serve as an annual reality check to this whole booming India-industrial powerhouse-Make in India-Indian tiger seeing off the Chinese dragon rhetoric which we might otherwise believe.

You see, when it rains, so much of India stops. As all we city dwellers know to our cost, the monsoons bring untold horrors, flooding, water logging, traffic lights that go on the blink the moment it rains...you all know the drill only too well.

I recently read a lovely novel called Inspector Singh Investigates A deadly Cambodian crime spree in which, discussing the monsoons in Phnom Penh, the good Singaporean Inspector muses on the nature of rain. And I quote:

“…he would not enjoy wading through flood waters but this town looked like it could use a good wash. He remembered, with an unexpected wistfulness, Singapore in the aftermath of a thunderstorm. The air would be sweet with the smell of rain and the trees would glisten in the half-light of the sun breaking through the clouds. It had never occurred to him that the entire spectacle depended on good drainage.”

Think about it and the same applies to India. Good drainage — or the lack thereof.

Am I the only person who treats as a piece of annual fiction, those self serving articles in our morning papers about how yes, of course, all the drain desilting has been done, and yes, of course, we are all ready for the rains, shipshape and Bristol fashion?

And then the first cloudburst takes place and our cities are flooded, and our roads are water logged. The next day, sure as eggs is eggs, the very same papers that uncritically printed the desilting articles, now print their annual raging-about-infrastructure articles. Photos galore of people wading through ankle-deep water, of rickshaw wallahs pushing their stalled vehicles through roads that resemble small lakes.

And so it goes on, year after year, the dialogue and the photos hardly changing, as we all soldier on, wading through the dirty water, maneuvering through flooded streets, waiting in interminable traffic jams because the traffic lights aren't working.

Yes, yes, there is nothing quite like the rain pouring down to make one appreciate the absolute basics in life, which so many Indians still do not have — simple things like a roof over one's head. Dry clothes. A warm cup of tea.

But for the rest, quite honestly, we are all victims of a system that is, mysteriously caught out, year after year after year, by the rains.

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