One of my fondest memories from childhood was going to Imphal during the months of May, June and July. I still remember whenever it rained, I would take off my clothes and go out and enjoy getting drenched. The rains also meant enjoying steaming hot pakodas or other fried snacks, while sitting on the porch and watching the frogs frolic in the puddles.
Cut to thirty odd years later. The sight of rain clouds on the horizon does not fill me with delight. So how did it happen? How did something which brought me joy now fill me with melancholy? And why is it just me who dislikes the rain? Everyone I speak to loves the rain and wishes it occurred more often.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish for droughts. I have experienced the summer months when the rains are delayed, and when we have to ration our water. I know that our farmers depend on timely rain for growing their crops. The first rains which come at the end of a long summer fill me with relief and comfort. The aroma of the earth from that first shower is among the sweetest smells anyone can experience. And having chai and pakoras is something best experienced when it is pouring cats and dogs outside.
But I definitely dislike being outdoors when it rains. I look at the weather app on my phone, plan my trips just so I can avoid being caught in a shower. I never leave home without an umbrella, for whenever I have decided to go without it, the rain gods have seen it fit to drench me for my insolence.
There are many reasons for my dislike of the rain, and they all center around responsibilities. When I was a child, I did not have any responsibilities. I could enjoy being outdoors and getting drenched without worrying about the consequences. Growing up, however, meant that there were always consequences for getting wet.
For one thing, I had to now wash and iron my own clothes. Getting drenched meant having to wash your clothes as soon as you got back home, otherwise they would start smelling. And if you had washed clothes hanging outside, you had to rush and get them in, lest your hard work be undone. Also, rain water is not really good for leather, which is a problem when you wear leather shoes, like I do. Plus sometimes the water gets into the shoe and your socks get wet, which is one of the most unpleasant experiences you can have. Unless you have a spare pair of socks with you, you are now stuck with a squelching sound you make with every step, plus the frigidity that comes with a wet pair of socks.
I am someone who uses a lot of public transport and walks for his commute. Whenever it rains in Bangalore, it inevitably results in a traffic logjam and trips take twice or even thrice as long. The buses get overcrowded even more than normal, your fellow commuters smell like wet dogs, and good luck getting an auto or cab in this weather. Given that it usually rains in the evenings in Bangalore, it means commutes back home become even more of a headache than normal, and sometimes take forever. The longest record was when I started back from office at 06:30 pm, just as the rain clouds opened. I waited over an hour for a relatively less crowded bus, had to change the bus mid-way due to the roads being flooded, got another bus on an alternative route after another half an hour, and managed to reach home around 10 at night, wet, hungry and irritated. Actually, I could have walked back home in less time than that. But I couldn’t because it was raining.
Which brings me to the issue of the roadside puddles which remain long after the rain has subsided. These puddles are filled with a mix of rainwater, mud and the sewage from the roadside drains. Vehicles will often drive through these puddles at speeds high enough to kick up a good amount of the water onto you, the unsuspecting pedestrian, leaving you drenched and smelly. Nowadays I am very vigilant whenever I walk and when I notice a puddle, I make sure I stick close to the inner side of the pavement, closer to the buildings, to avoid being splashed upon.
One reason why people love the rains is that it provides a respite from the searing heat. The coolness which the monsoon brings is manna from heaven after a long hot day. It is rather different in Bangalore though. Bangalore’s weather never really gets as hot or uncomfortable as other places, which is why whenever it rains, it does not just get cool, it gets cold. I would say that the rainy season is when Bangalore is at its coldest. Winter may have lower temperatures on paper, but the rainy season is when one really feels the chill. This cold is not a pleasant cold. It is often accompanied by strong winds, and this ‘wind-chill’ makes it uncomfortable to be outside, especially if you are already drenched from the rain showers.
I am someone who likes sunny weather. I like seeing the sun rise in the morning, filling the day with energy and hope. The phases of the sun in the sky gives my day structure. The setting of the sun marks the end of the day for me. Rainy weather and in general, cloudy skies, strike me as gloomy in comparison. When I wake up in the morning and see gray skies, it does not feel like the day has properly begun. Gray skies throughout the day makes it difficult to appreciate the passage of time. There is a lethargy and sluggishness which is pronounced during such weather. The lower temperatures also contribute to the feeling of laziness. I guess this is the reason why they call Bangalore ‘the lazy city’. The cold, gloomy weather makes it very appealing to simply huddle down in a blanket and go to sleep.
I realize that many people will disagree with my views, and that's fine. Most of us do love the rain, and it serves an important function in human survival. For me, however, the rains will continue to be my nemesis. And it is a nemesis I cannot defeat, but only propitiate. And I do that by always carrying my trusty umbrella when I step outside, a talisman to keep the rain clouds away from me for that moment.