I have always loved monsoons. They even have a name for the likes of me – Pluviophiles. Lovers of Rain. When I got a campus placement and first came to Mumbai and the monsoons started, it was like being in an imaginative world. A watery, windy dream world. I loved walking back home, under my big umbrella. I found the pittar-pattar on the umbrella musical and I have on many days hoped that it rained when I would be going back home. I loved watching it from my 8th floor office or even having steaming hot lunch in the 6th floor cafeteria while rains lashed outside. The huge french windows and tables facing them was a bonus. But what I loved the most was my hostel bed when it rained. My bed was adjacent to the window. From the 2nd floor, I could see the tree tops swaying around as wind possessed them and hear the sound of the rain droplets on the green canopy. It was a sound one could fall asleep to. If it happened on a Friday night, that would be the best thing ever!
In my bliss filled week, one Sunday I happened to travel to my mother’s cousin’s place for lunch – from Dadar to Kurla and then back. Since I stayed very close to my office, I hardly got any chance to travel by train. So travelling by the local train was another thing I was looking forward to in the journey. But standing by the door, on a Sunday rainy afternoon, with the cool breeze brushing through my hair, what I saw by the sides of the railway tracks wasn’t something that I was looking forward to.
There were these shanties on the sides of the railway tracks with blue-coloured plastic tarpaulins. I could see some white and brown coloured sacks thrown in between. There was no particular shape to these. I could not distinguish that the roof ended there and the walls started here. What I saw was a mass of plastic garbage with entrances. But these were homes. There were people living in there. Old people, teenagers, middle-aged people, babes. Families!
When it rains in Mumbai, the wind howls. If it is the mood, it may whistle but mostly it howls. In the multistories, you can hear it in the part of your house that is closer to the ducts but in the open you cannot hear it. You will mostly only see it. Blowing away things.
I saw what the wind that would on my normal days mess up my hair was doing. It was giving balloon walls to these shanties. Some places balloon roofs too. Though the plastic was being held down by many bricks, which form a unique design on the top and tell you that this possibly is the roof. But the wind was still managing to get inside and exert its power. It had started to rain by the time my train pulled into Kurla station.
While getting down from the foot-over-bridge, I noticed more of these plastic-roofed homes. I saw water had pooled into many places on the plastic and was poring down from all places it could find an outlet. One was right in front of an entrance creating a muddy pool right there.
When it rains, I have often put up statues on Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram, about how beautiful rains are, how much I love them, how they invoke the creativity in an artist…a story in the writer…a poem in the poet, how mesmerisingly magical they are. Many of my friends have done that too. I wonder if we did not have that cement roof over us and instead had a plastic sheet for a roof would we have described the pelting rain as music on our window panes and the pouring water, forming muddy puddles, as a magical sheet of drizzle.
No wonder the builders charge higher for the apartments that are farther from the ground. Must be the charge for alternative reality!
I am not saying that rains aren’t beautiful and all that they are; but now when I hear rain pelting down my windows at night, a thought goes out – How many in this city will make it to the morning without having to had got up from their beds because their roof dripped or broke?