Monday, August 02, 2004

The Rain in Spain, we are informed (by somewhat unreliable sources who break into song at the drop of a hat - or, perhaps, a flower), stays mainly in the Plain. No such generalities exist in the Indian subcontinent. The rain doesn't stay in the plains. It doesn't stay anywhere. In fact, it just plain doesn't, so there. That's the thing with rain here... the total unpredictability of it.

For the last 2 months, the rain gods at the met offices have been crying, "Lemuh-nade, Lemuh-nade..." from their towers, and been answered with replies of "nothing but a lemon". And finally, 2 months late and not in the least bit apologetic, the rains roar up, revving up their engines, growling and belching at the world at large, running amock across the country.

As with most things in India, there is no sense of moderation. Either it's dry as a bone, or there's a sea of rainwater through which you have to wade, morning and evening, to get to and from work (or, if you're among the blessed few, through which you watch people wade as they try to get to and from work).

This sort of meteorological uncertainty can lead to some rather desparate, frenetic, oscillatory activity for some people. Say, for example, you need to go buy cigarettes. You carefully observe the behaviour of the rain, put in some sophisticated analysis to test for the periods of rain and the periods of non-rain, check your hypotheses, run random number simulations, all to test when the next 20-minute break will be, when you can run out and buy cigarettes. Of course, you neglect to factor in the error caused by your never having attended a single stats class at college, which puts your analysis off rather badly: by the time you get your cigarettes, the rain has begun again with renewed fury, and both you and your cigarettes contract pneumonia.

Which brings us up to date with my condition. No, not the stepping out to buy cigarettes - the pneumonia. Bombay is the worst possible place in the world to get stuck in the pouring rain. To begin with, you have to brave streets which are rivers of flowing water (there's actually an undertow, a side-tow and every other type you can think of - including tow trucks). You try stepping gingerly through this seething, frothing channel into an auto - realising, only after you've sat down, that the seats are carrying at least half the water that could fit in your bathtub.

You resign yourself to a wet posterior, and get to the station, ignoring all the speculative looks cast in your direction. You don't sit while you wait for the train - hoping to... ummm... air yourself out, as it were. On the train, you realise that all your airing has been in vain - the train seats have absorbed the Ganga, and bring it gushing forth each time you attempt to sit on them. And did we mention that somewhere along the way, your umbrella turned itself inside out and broke into splinters in the howling wind? And that some road hog splashed your auto with a sheet of sludge, making you not only wet, but into the sort of thing your mother wouldn't allow inside the house?

And then, there's the office AC. I don't know how it is in other offices, but following the truly Indian ideal of "all or nothing", the AC in our office has only 2 settings: off (= muggy, claustrophobic) and Arctic (icicles start forming on our persons, and little penguins emerge from the drains and start sliding around the floors).

And the final cut: braving rain and storm, battling your own mortality to come into work, your boss tells you when you arrive, "But why did you come? You'll have to swim home."

So this may be my last post for a while. I'm striking out for sunny Espana, where there ain't no rain except on the plains. I'd stay, but they might find the boss's body.

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