Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rains continue in fits and starts

Mumbai's rains have always been unpredictable, and I remember days from my childhood, adolescence and youth before asserting this claim. There is a near consonance in the starting date, which is usually any time between the 4th and the 10th of June. We begin to read from late May that the rains have hit the Konkan coast. Once the rains are in Goa, the rainy season is but a few days away.

This year, though, something unusual happened. A cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal (Aila) and the El Nino effect upset the calculations. The monsoon advanced normally upto Ratnagiri, and then stalled out there for nearly eight days before slowly moving northward. We got our first rains around the 20th of June, and thereafter, rains have been playing a game of hide and seek, with the catchment areas of the five or six lakes that we in Mumbai draw drinking water from - receiving poor rainfall.

The civic authorities (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) have been forced to cut the water supply by 10, then 20, and now, 30 per cent in view of the near alarming situation. I admit, though, that in the housing complex where I live, there has been near normal water supply because we also draw water from a bore well.

In between, we have torrential rains. We had one such downpour lasting more than 3 hours yesterday morning, and many schools and offices remained shut as a result. We had one more such downpour today evening, with water collecting in many low-lying areas of the city. The civic authorities have a ready excuse for this, and I believe that they may be right about this: when it rains heavily at the time of an ongoing high tide in the ocean, water is bound to drain off slowly, and also, sea water will enter into the city.

Let's see how it goes ... it's fun for those who are passive observers, but for those who get caught in the downpour, it is an agonising experience indeed, as they have to wait endlessly for taxis, wade through ankle or sometimes knee-deep water as they make their way to their destinations, they have to get wet, and perchance fall ill later on, they have to ... oh, I guess you get the point.

More later.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rains in Mumbai

Finally, the day Mumbaikars were awaiting since the first of June! On the 4th of July, it rained and it poured from dawn to late at night with a slight let up in the afternoon. The weather bureau reported nearly 125 mm of rain in Colaba and almost 250 mm in Santacruz.

What really affects me is that once it rains like this, there is no escape from the wetness ... whether you are at home and the cool droplets fall on your hands when you hang out the washing or your towel after a bath; on the bus, where you attempt to close the window shutters and they are jammed, so you are wet all over before you decide to change your seat or simply brave it if there is no free seat elsewhere; when you are walking under an umbrella (these are getting bigger and bigger each year, and the unfoldable ones are returning to fashion!), and while your head face and upper chest maintains a modicum of dryness, your body's lower half takes the full force of the rain PLUS the spray from passing cars, trucks and what have you; on a scooter with a top 1/2 of the two-piece rain suit on, and bottom 1/2 still in the dicky ... and your thighs, with the handkerchief in one side pocket and your wallet in the other ... taking the full brunt of the rain; in your car, and when you step out, you can never coordinate the opening of your umbrella with the car door opening, or when you simply decide to run from the car to the entrance of wherever you are destined to go ... and you get all wet; or in a train ... and you get wet; or under a tree or some form of shade of a shop eaves or roof ... and you get wet; or, like a traffic policeman who wears those bright yellow or white raincoats ... and still ends up wet.

If this is the case, why not enjoy getting wet? This is exactly what I do when I return from work late in the evening. I deliberately stuff my rain protection gear inside the dicky (if I am on a two-wheeler) or on the back seat (if I am in my car) and then walk leisurely from the car to my building's life ... a good 15 feet!

Flooding occurred at all the usual places by the evening ... at Mazgaon circle, near St. Mary's ICSE, at JJ junction, at Null Bazaar and so on in my area, and at more than a 100 flood-prone areas all over Mumbai.

Even so, I think the average Mumbaikar is really, really happy that heavy rains have fallen, for we get our water supply from the catchment areas of Vihar, Tansa, Tulsi, Bhatsa and Vaitarna Lakes. If it rains well there, we will get water here .