Archive for June 8th, 2008

Scenes from the Pre-Monsoon

June 8, 2008

Commuting homeThe snack stand near my office

The rain has arrived in Mumbai.  It’s technically not the monsoon rain-that’s scheduled to arrive in 2 or 3 days.  But this week we had our first rain showers in Mumbai, and also the first cloudy day, since I arrived here in November.  Mumbai’s residents have been talking about the monsoon season with a mixture of anticipation and dread.  The last couple of months have been oppressively hot and humid, and the coming rains promised at least a break from the heat, if not the humidity.  As one of my colleagues commented, though, “Monsoon season is hell.”

The first rain began falling on Tuesday night in Mumbai.  I was just getting into an open-sided auto rickshaw (which I quickly found out offers very little protection from the rain), as children were running around in the raindrops shouting with joy.  The relatively cool breeze that followed the rain was a very welcome relief.  Two days later, the second storm hit right at evening rush hour.  My half-hour trip home became two and half hours through barely moving traffic and flooded roads.  I didn’t see any children shouting with joy. 

Last night the rains came again.  My neighbors reported that water was knee-deep in the road in front of our building.  While there was too much water outside, it was the second day in a row with no water in the taps in my building.  Flights were delayed (in part by a loose dog on the runway that took an hour to catch, in part by the heavy rain), a portion of the highway near the airport caved in, and traffic again ground to a halt.  Plastic tarps are stacked up for sale on street corners, while the old tree next to the snack stand by my office collapsed overnight, altering the whole look of the familiar street.  The fire department has trained 120 of its staff to swim in strong currents in preparation for rescuing people in flooded parts of the city.  Many of Mumbai’s slums are located in low-lying, flood-prone areas with poor drainage and few to no sewers–they’re in for a particularly long few months as the monsoon rains increase in volume.