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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Delhi Monsoon - The Way I Remember It From The 'Then'....

I was a little off the news scene for the last couple of days and had missed many a headline. So it came as rather a shock and surprise when I called up my parents in Delhi to ask them how they were and the response I got war – “Pretty difficult this time, given that it is a first for Delhi to get flooded.” What??!!! Had I heard that right? I thought they were confusing things with Mumbai getting flooded in the monsoons or something - at least it sounded more normal. I shared my confusion and they told me it had rained heavily for a few hours and that all the roads and lanes and places were flooded. Was I not watching any news or reading any paper? I admitted I wasn’t.

So the next thing I did was to leave the phone and switch on the television. The TV screen now is flooded with images of a flooded Delhi!!!! There is water everywhere and people are going about with a dazed expression – ‘how did this happen in Delhi’ - they seem to be thinking. Not that it is a surprise though. Delhi’s roads and drainage system are not made to handle so much rain, actually hardly any rain. As it is more of a dry state, the little rainfall it has always received has been enough to keep its citizens happy. And the drains and roads have only got used to that till now. Till now…………now the rain gods seem to have finally changed their mind.

I have lived in Delhi for 25 years. That’s a long long time. And for all those twenty-five years I have experienced monsoon in Delhi as a mere trickle, now that I compare it to the monsoon in Mumbai. Not that I felt that way earlier, when I lived there that is. I have never seen Delhi this wet, grappling to come to life after the rains have flooded everything around, even the Metro tracks as well as normal rail tracks and other routes have been flooded and thrown out of gear and East Delhi cut off from the rest of the capital. It’s a really different experience for me, to see this chaos in a Delhi that has hardly ever received so much rain in any monsoon previously. Almost all news channels and papers are reporting the Delhi monsoon in the exact same terms – waterlogging, traffic snarls, stinking garbage, outbreak of water-borne diseases………. But I remember the Delhi monsoon in a totally different picture frame…..the rain drops on my forehead, the smell of wet earth filling up my senses…….

When we were small and the rains would approach, even a little amount of that water from the skies was enough to make us shout ‘monsoon’. Delhi was always the place of less rainfall. Its people complained about the heat and the dust and the lack of rains, and just as it would begin to seem there was no end to the sweaty torture of those pre-monsoon days, the clouds would break and the rains would arrive to soothe our burning skins.
A shout would go out in the lanes and by-lanes, with mothers running to pick up the clothes hanging on the clothes line, and grandmothers and aunts scurrying about, collecting the pickles that had been kept out on the terrace in the sun.
Children would begin to scream about in the gully, with young boys gathered to play cricket enjoying a match in the rain.
Students returning from school making a splash in the puddle.
Girls returning home from tuition would scamper for cover, their heads covered in dupatta, the ones in jeans trying to shield themselves with their books and hands.
Mothers would quickly return from the terrace with the pile of clothes in hand, dumping it on the bed and running to close the windows if there was any wind with the rain, else they would let the breeze fill up inside the house, and proceed to check where the children were, often finding them getting wet in the rain and bringing them in with a scold and a tug at the ear.
On the road, people driving the scooters would scamper for cover, huddling together at bus stops to escape getting wet.
On those wet evenings when the fathers returned from work, they would always bring a brown paper bag of hot and spicy pakodas, samosas and juicy sweet jalebi, handing it to the mothers who would keep it in the kitchen, to bring it back a little while later with a tray of steaming hot cups of ‘adrak chai’ (ginger tea) and a warm glass of milk for the kids to gulp down the sweet jalebi with.
The lights would invariably go off even with a little rain and some thunder, and families would sit together around the flickers of a candle, talking about the day, complaining about the electricity board’s inefficiency, mothers scolding children for not finishing homework before it became dark, and amidst all this, a cry going out through the neighbourhood again as the lights would return back to life……..almost always the kids from the mohalla would shout ‘aa gayi’ to announce that power supply was back again…..

It was a nice time as I remember it, those Delhi monsoons, filled with so many memories of those lovely days of my childhood. Now things are changing….Delhi is flooding!!!! I still find it unbelievable!!!!
But every time I will think of the monsoon in Delhi, it will always be about those cool green days, when the aroma of the earth would drift inside my pores, when life would feel so magical and poetic yet again.