Wishy washy monsoons
Wishy washy monsoons
Sweltering and sweating away the month of May, a typical Mumbaikar couldn't wait for the rains. The sound of rain on dry earth, the cascading water from the skies washing the dusty trees and the city clean, the verdant greens that pop up as if overnight and the cool windy days after the hot humid months, was so looked forward to, that every conversation before the arrival of the monsoon built up to a crescendo of voices waiting for that first splatter of rain.
The first rains were a cause of happy and smiling faces, dancing children and moony looks but slowly as the rains continued and showed no signs of abating, cheer gave way to apprehension in every heart. 'Will Mumbai drown again? Will I be able to reach my office on time? Are the trains running at all?'And the most dreaded of all, 'Will I have to wade tḥrough the waters again, dodging unseen dirty open manholes and deep potholes?'were some questions in most minds.
TVs were hurriedly turned on,first thing in the morning to see how catastrophic the rains have been during the night. And then began the story of a typical common man of Mumbai for the next three months. The endless wait for taxis, Olas, and Uber included, was just a start., adding to the mayhem of a typical rainy day!
The train option didn't even exist, as the trains stopped during the night somewhere due to flooding of tracks. Countless people on the roads looking for transportation; adding to the chaos were the overcrowded buses braving the flooded streets and dousing anyone within a meter of their route with filthy muddy water.
Walking on the roads swirling in knee-deep waters brought its own perils. Ubiquitous potholes littered all over Mumbai, generally taken in stride on a sunny day by walking around them suddenly acquired menacing proportions. A walk to the local grocer for something as banal as eggs and bread could end up with a twisted ankle or something more lethal, depending on the depth of the said pothole! With the skies opening up, more and more potholes sprung up on the roads to give it a pockmarked appearance, filled with muddy dirty water.
BUT and this is a very big BUT, all this was in pre-COVID era. The dread of a typical rainy day is now seen in sepia-toned hues. People jostling in crowded areas, rush hour mob in the trains and buses seem so distant in today's reality, that it is laughable. Social distancing being the new mantra and with the world covered in masks, one almost looks back longingly on those days of muddy roads, packed locals, peak hour traffic woes, and Oh! those blinding potholes.
It is so difficult to believe that it was just a year ago that "Mumbai submerged" was our main concern ……now it all looks so trivial as compared to today's scene. Just to worry about splashing rain paralyzing the city seems like a dream compared to the nightmare of this terrifying minuscule virus spreading fear and danger in the entire world.
Lockdowned at home, washing hands instead of dirty legs and feet ,this monsoon will be very different for most of us from all monsoons experienced earlier. No more worrying about being hijacked by a pothole, or getting drowned in a downpour, today's post COVID worries are to remain safe and survive the day.
Many will be just seeing the rains through their windows and last year's monsoon will seem like a different world, almost Utopian, where this now new normal of social distancing and fear of someone sneezing or coughing in your vicinity was never ever envisioned.
Breathing down some one's shoulder through a mask and seeing their accusing and suspicious look will be the norm of the day for people going to work on a office day. Maintaining social distance in a bus or in crowded places will be a challenge for commuters and visitors alike. Spending a day just window shopping or lazy lunches on a blissful rainy day will remain just that, a dream.
Washing hands has assumed a ominous meaning in this new normal. A task which most of us took so lightly is now first on the agenda after getting back from somewhere. And of course, careless washing wont do, it requires a concentration that will do a aspiring IAS student proud! Half the fun of having street side food was in carelessly wiping hands on the tissue and carrying on with the taste of spicy and sweet pani puri still lingering on your tongue. And let's not even go into the fun of having mouthwatering bhel on a windy day on a beach, and what to speak of those hot sandwich toasties drowning in cheese…..seems so far away now, AND never ever worrying about those hands which dished out these delicacies.( and have they been washed thoroughly?) A world gone by.
Life is going to change irrevocably after this COVID phase. And this is just the beginning ..this monsoon season will be our first tangible experience of the change. The worries of yesterday will seem so insignificant in the face of today's peril;.and to think we worried about choked drains and waterlogging ;so inconsequential in today's COVID filled world.
Let's just fervently hope that this year is just a blip in our lives and we get our future as rosy (with all its rainy aberrations) as our past back soonest.