Saturday, June 7, 2008

The monsoon revisited

While attempting to de-clutter my laptop, I stumbled upon an article I'd written on the monsoon for Travel & Leisure mag a couple of years ago, and I still feel exactly the same way about the heavenly rainy season, so have duly pasted it below:

The people of Mumbai are, perhaps, India’s most enthusiastic rain-worshippers. In the run up to the rains, Monsoon reports bag front-page headlines, relegating political storms to the less important inside pages. Please, this is more interesting than the state of the nation! The Met Department is quoted more frequently than Bollywood stars, even if Bollywood stars have been very, very naughty. Good-natured bets are taken on the arrival date, and when the first pre-monsoon shower breaks, whoops of joy drown out angry rumbles of thunder. Children rush outdoors to do their versions of the Bollywood wet sari dance, and I have to shame-facedly confess that I do like-wise, though in a more refined and restrained manner. After all, the building watchman may not respect me thereafter.

When the earth turns to slush, mine isn’t the only brain that turns to mush. Romance lingers heavily in the cool air, and sentimental rain songs top request lists on radio stations and at pubs. Astonishingly enough, even songs from the Palaeolithic Age like Raindrops keep falling on my head are revived. Popular sea fronts like Marine Drive, Worli Sea Face and Bandstand are dotted with couples, some huddled under umbrellas, others unabashedly flinging themselves under the arc of muscular waves that soar gracefully like dolphins out of the choppy sea. Policemen who happen to catch them in the act flash spontaneous smiles; it’s obvious that they’re yearning to do the same.

But for me, nothing but Marine Drive will do. I can sit on a soggy bench for hours under a heavy downpour, tasting the salty ocean spray, inhaling the aroma of corn on the cob roasting on the promenade, chuckling evilly when fierce gusts of wind turn umbrellas inside out. Oh, you just have to see the faces of the stodgy umbrella-wielders when that happens! It’s only when bolts of crackling lightning rip the skies apart that I duck for cover. I could, of course, let myself be burnt to a frazzle, that’s one way of ensuring that I die happy, but that defeats the purpose. The whole charm of the Monsoon is that it makes me feel gloriously alive!

On weekends I make my way to the neighbouring mist-shrouded hill stations of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani or Lonavala and Khandala (they come in pairs!). The ubiquitous couples are here too, enjoying romantic walks under sheets of rain, families picnic on damp grassy slopes and the more intrepid (usually alarmingly large gangs of college students) literally do what their rival gangs beg them to: take a hike!

Floods, squelching shoes, ticklish throats and runny noses notwithstanding, there’s one rain song Mumbai will never ever sing. And that is, Rain, rain, go away.

1 comment:

Rash said...

oh yes...marine drive...and the obligatory marine drive photo of waves splashing against the boulders...I love Bombay...sob..:(