Thursday, June 05, 2008


For the first time in three years I am in Bombay at the start of the monsoon. Late May has been unbearably hot and sticky, and the papers full of talk of an impending water cut if the rains came late this year. Three nights ago, with no warning, it poured. It thumped down rain. I, not knowing where I might be next year, went out in my pyjamas to soak it in. I understood why the weather is always a reliable topic of conversation, at least over here. It's a little like love; no matter how you brace yourself for it, it always surprises you with its intensity. It was like standing under a thudding cold shower.

Drenched, I went back inside and towelled myself down. Three days later I'm still dusting the pollutants that come down with the first rains off my hair.

This evening we took my grandfather to see some friends. It poured again. Our autorickshaw puttered to a stop in the middle of the road, which was dotted by several others in similar circumstances.

"Give me two minutes," the driver said. "The engine needs some time to get used to the monsoons."

My mother told my grandfather she was sorry to have chosen such an inconvenient time for us to go out, and wondered if he was cold. My grandfather huffed in disdain.

"I have risen out of the pools and tanks of my village," he told her. "Water is nothing to me."

We acknowledged this.

"I've lived a very rough life."

I agreed, soberly. Before going back to Kerala my grandfather spent four decades in Bombay. The summers then were kinder, perhaps, but there were no autorickshaws then, either; and none, in later days, that could be relied on to sputter back to life within minutes of temporary failure. His muscles may not have the fibre they once did, but his heart has grown old on the act of good faith it takes to survive these monsoons. Four months of rain are no longer anything to him.