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The monsoon backlash

You can take monsoons out of Mumbai but you can?t take 26/7 out of a Mumbaikar who?s been there and seen it all.

india Updated: Jun 05, 2006 02:47 IST

You can take monsoons out of Mumbai but you can’t take 26/7 out of a Mumbaikar who’s been there and seen it all. And with the first downpour of the season, this truth came crashing down on me. What started as joy at the sight of the first rains of the season soon turned into paranoia as I drove down the same lanes that had borne the brunt of the rains that fateful day last year.

Having spent most of my life (barring the last year and a half) in Delhi, the first shower of monsoon was always a welcome sight. It spelt the end of the heat, which, for all Delhiites, is sun’s fury. It also heralded the season that covered the city in a pleasant shade of green, with freshly washed leaves and gardens plush with flourishing trees and plants. For years, the first drop of rain sent me scurrying to the phone to call my best friend, Bhawna, over to soak in the rain. She would rush to my place just as eagerly.

‘Monsoon music’ (a special collection of cassettes) would be put on full volume as we stood out, getting drenched on my lawn, soaking in the rain and the spirit of the season. We would stay out there in the rain, splashing in the puddles till our skin started to wrinkle. The session would end with my mother begging and pleading with us to come in, tempting us with piping hot pakoras and garam garam chai. Mumbai, alas, proved different.

The tales of horror that followed last year’s Mumbai rain onslaught left an indelible mark on my psyche. And unlike the pleasant memories of rains in Delhi, which were almost always forgotten in a day or two, 26/7 was revisited several times during the year. It often seeped into conversations and small talk, in the months that followed.

And with the first pre-monsoon showers, the horror was relived. As I drove from Juhu to Bandra, I recounted the stories of those who never made it home and those who lost their lives saving others. As the rain thickened and I saw little stretches with half a foot of water, I feared that the roads would be flooded and I would be floating somewhere. The sound of water swishing under the foot of the car reminded me of my husband’s colleague, who had drowned when water burst into his car. I pushed harder on the accelerator in an attempt to reach home faster. The drive lasted 25 minutes but not once did the joy of the first shower in Delhi cross my mind, even as black memories of 26/7 flooded it.

Once home, I realised it was nothing but paranoia. But I also realised how the memories of one dark day seemed to have erased a whole decade of lovely memories. And as the countdown to the monsoon begins, I pray to God that Shubha Mudgal’s ‘Ab ke sawan’, my friend and mom’s pakoras stay in my mind.