It is raining in Mumbai - again. This is not headline news, of course, for rain is what you get in Mumbai during July. The whole country sighed with relief when the rains began in earnest, three weeks late, a record of sorts. You will not believe how very, very critical these three month monsoon period is for this city and country. All the water the city uses throughout the year collects at various lakes during this period. Add in the cleansing effect to the grime and filth the city accumulates over a year and the heavy dependence of farmers for agriculture, the importance of an on-time, adequate rainfall becomes apparent. Even then, I read and heard in local media that rainfall will be 25% less than average so get ready for water cuts during the year.
Still, these are trying days, for everything is messed up. My running, of course, is most important. There is a small park right next door to the building I live in, a really nice one. The ten volunteers that man the park are constantly upgrading facilities to make it more pleasant and modern. When I first began running there, it was just a brick track around a grass field with reeds and smelly rot all over. Now, in about a year, there has been a children’s playground, a couple of sheds for warming up and stretching, a shed for yoga and most interestingly, a shed where middle aged women exercises and laugh. Yes, laugh. A loud, infectious and prolonged laughter that seemed startlingly peculiar in the beginning but now makes much sense as stress buster therapy. So, the rain is playing havoc to my running and that makes me sour all day as I have to refrain from eating the stuff I can't burn off the next day. So I decide to take the plunge and run come what may; I do that today and it is really fun! The skies open up midway and everybody runs for cover while I keep on running. They must think I am a nut, soaked silly and still ruining, sloshing water all around. But it is really fun, I have the track to myself, the rain cools me off and I actually clock in an extra lap in the same time I allocate for the running routine.
Then there is the chaos with traffic; it is pure madness, I say! I must go to Dongri, near central Mumbai, every Friday for official work related to the humanitarian agency I head and it usually takes me a good hour and a half to two hours to get there. Well, it took me three last Friday; imagine! Three hours to drive about twenty two miles, I feel like shedding a couple of tears just thinking about the tension during these hours. My driver, bless him, must be the coolest man on earth for he takes all the impossible situations that Mumbai monsoon traffic demands in stride; I would have either had a massive heart attack, a massive stroke from hypertension or simply freak out. There are so many potholes with the rains, it is futile to try an ignore them. Avoid one at the risk of hitting another vehicle or a pedestrian or a beggar or a motorbike or a bicycle or a dog or something and another pothole right next door will be there to greet you, guaranteed. More alarmingly, few of these potholes are gigantic enough to nicely accommodate a small vehicle. I exaggerate, you say? You are welcome to visit the street immediately outside my building, drive maybe a hundred yards and you will find one side of the road entirely caved in. Someone had the good sense to fill the cavity with a trunk of a dead tree else there will be sure tragedy during heavy rains when virtually all streets and highways in Mumbai flood, like it did July 13 and 14. It is beyond me how Brinhanmumbai Municipal Corporation (
Talking about superstition, Imam Jaffer Sadiq (A) day fall during these rainy days this year and although I have no problems with people having kheer puri in his blessed name, even though there is no authentic hadeeth to even remotely support the traditions and culture attached to the whole business, the zealous attitudes that comes with it puts me off. You get invited to friends and relatives to partake the kheer puri in this awful traffic. The kheer puri is awfully rich with tons of fat calories but you simply must have it else you offend the host and create the impression you are faithless. Then, watch out, you may be the unlucky one to actually swallow a silver ring or two thrown in the kheer for good luck; I wonder what good luck there is in choking on a ring. I unknowingly move a platter of kheer from its original place to make it easier serving Maaha Zainab at a friends home only to find Tasneem staring at me aghast. Put it back this instant, she hisses, it is bad luck to move any of the dishes from original place once served. Eh? When I thought I had all the kheer to last me a lifetime, Tasneem makes some today and insist we all partake some "fateha". When I complain that we had enough from all the friends and relatives, none of that was from our home, we must make some ourselves is her logic.
Its pouring as I finish writing this piece; I have a flight to catch this afternoon; can modern airplanes float?