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Monsoon in Mumbai
During monsoons, when it rains, it pours. This holds truer for some cities in India than others. But no matter what logic you apply to prepare and sort your list, you’ll find that Mumbai will always emerge on top. I have borne the brunt of Monsoons in Mumbai once – having checked out of our hotel to catch the 5:30 PM Rajdhani back to Delhi, we had once found ourselves stranded at the Station for over fourteen hours. But that was fifteen years ago and one would expect that either the rain gods or the city would have mended their ways; I found out just last month that neither have.

I was on a morning flight to Mumbai and it didn’t take a window seat to tell that I was flying at a time when monsoon is in its full force. Often the cabin would be engulfed in eerie darkness as the plane waded its way through tunnels of grey clouds. The seat’s tray-table and the contents placed on it would creak and rattle each time the plane negotiated a turbulent patch. When the plane landed on the soaked highway, I could see from my aisle seat that water was cascading down the plane’s windows in such abundance that it formed a redundant glassy layer over them, which under forces of wind and gravity strove constantly to muddle the view outside.

There was no aerobridge available for our plane so we had to get down the plane and hop into the bus parked close to the staircase. The maneuver involved fording a gushing ankle deep stream by placing at least one foot on the ground, while the other sought foothold on the bus. Surprisingly I spotted no school of salmons.

When I came out of the airport, the covered waiting area was brimming with crowd that was mostly comprised of placard holding drivers from hotels and travel agencies, waiting for their clients to arrive. I spotted mine who courteously beckoned me to come out of the covered portico under a flimsy umbrella that he held open for me. Given the intensity of downpour, that umbrella would have hardly covered my driver’s broad frame so there is no way it would have kept rain away from me and my backpack. Fortunately, Bangalore has taught me to carry an umbrella in my backpack wherever I go. It was pulled out with much élan – like He-Man pulling out his sword from his backpack scabbard (“by the power of gray-skull”), and unfurled in the glorious rain. My driver, happy to see me adequately equipped, smiled and told me to follow him.

Mumbai airport is undergoing construction. A lot of work is going on at the parking area as well. As I plodded through the water riddled road, I figured that most construction work had been abandoned temporarily – heaps of concrete mixture and columns of neatly stacked bricks had been left unattended under sheets of tarpaulin. My driver, while moving through the maze of cars and construction material, ran into a half-finished wall. He climbed the wall without looking behind, thereby subtly suggesting that I was supposed to repeat the feat too. Reluctantly, with my suitcase in one hand, umbrella in other, and with a heavy backpack bolstering my back from collarbone to hipbone I scaled the wall in the clumsiest possible manner. I am sure there are documented species of sloth that have demonstrated better skill, grace and agility in climbing 3-feet unfinished walls.

By the time I was inside my car, it was obvious that the umbrella had been only marginally effective against the forces of nature. My backpack was wet so were my arms and as for my shoes, it could be that I had worn aquariums to work.

After much honking and jostling the driver successfully steered the car out of the parking. The roads right outside the airport looked reasonably free of traffic but as we drove deeper into the city we realized how messy that ride was going to be. Traffic in most places was crawling at a precise rate of 100 nanometers per minute. I was certain that at this rate, by the time I was at hotel, the sun would already be looking forward to its red-giant days. Even that modicum of detectable velocity ceased at one of the traffic junctions. The rain picked up. Most people had realized the futility of blowing their car-horns or keeping their engines on so all I could now hear inside the car was the pitter-patter of hundreds of drops hitting the car’s metallic roof. The driver demonstrated remarkable optimism in keeping the car-wipers running. “He thinks that the traffic before him will clear any moment and he would drive away” I said to my cynical self. The wipers would sweep an arch every thirty second and provide a wonderful accompaniment to the monotonous drumming of rains – “khudak khat”.

Then, as is wont of “things”, “something” unexpected happened. A good Samaritan who had gone on a reconnaissance mission to estimate the outreach of traffic, returned and informed us that this stretch had been building for over three hours and would take at least as much time to clear. Our driver, in a rare demonstration of good judgment put the car in reverse gear and took a turn into the opposite lane. The traffic here was moving well though I was hoping that the detour would not involve looping Cape of Good Hope to reach my destination which on a good day would have been just twenty minutes’ ride away.

What happened after this, only my driver can blog about. I knew that I had fallen asleep and by the time I had opened my eyes we were entering our hotel gates – well within time for the presentations I was to make here.
posted: 2.7.05


"Surprisingly I spotted no school of salmons."
Every other word begins with an "s"!

By Blogger Ink Spill, at 2.7.05  

The rains in western India have been rather heavy and there have been floods in Baroda. Plenty of inconvenience, as can be expected, with no running water and electricity...I hope the city can recover soon.

By Anonymous tech, at 2.7.05  

Can imagine your ordeal. I had a pretty similar experience a couple of weeks back though it was the other way round. Was taking a flight out of Mumbai to Bangalore and got stuck in a terrible rain induced traffic snarl. Made it just in time and whats more... even got my favuorite seat 25A. :)

Talking of the monsoons, another place that comes very close to Mumbai is probably Cochin. Though it doesn't get as messy but man does it pour here.

By Anonymous Avis, at 3.7.05  

Flew into Mumbai today and got sunny skies, no traffic and no turbulence!!!!

By Blogger thotpurge, at 3.7.05  

Is that airport ever NOT under construction??

Nice to read you again, Deepak. Lovely piece.

By Blogger granny p, at 4.7.05  

Nice find Ink spill, though I'll admit it was coincidental.

Yes Tech, I've been hearing about loss of life in Gujarat floods, I hope the city is back on tracks again soon!

Hey Avis, I was once at Cochin for a short stay during monsoons and I loved it! Sadly it all happened during night and so I got no photographic opportunities.

Well Thotpurge, it cannot be the same forever :). And in a way I am glad that this is how the things are - this should bring the much needed reprieve to Gujarat.

Hi Granny! That airport these days is due for a major overhaul so this time the scope of work is much broader. I hope the work finishes during my lifetime :)

Thanks for reading Granny!

By Blogger Deepak, at 4.7.05  

LOL whoever told you that a puny umbrella is sufficient cover during a Mumbai deluge? :-) Chaotic, and crazy, messy and mucky it may be, but I love them Mumbai monsoons and miss them sorely!

By Blogger Geetanjali, at 6.7.05  

Ah! The rains! :-)

By Blogger ash, at 7.7.05  

BTW Deepak - We again missed "Mocha" and yes - Mumbai will never let u forget it. Atleast not TechED@Mumbai. :)

By Blogger Hardik Shah, at 8.7.05  

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