The first drops of rain kissed the city a month ago and we’re almost midway through the monsoon. And as on any rain soaked day in Mumbai, when I am not working, jabbering or clambering on to public transports, I am curled up in my living room with a steaming cuppa, Nick Drake crooning mournfully in the background, and trying to put my thoughts together into a coherent piece on my laptop.
It’s not just a common conversation starter or breaker (it’s used in many popular forms of entertainment as well), but the question — “What is the first thing that you identify with the rains?” — is indeed a thoughtful one, don’t you think?
Wet, wet, wet.
For many it is perhaps the watered, fresh, and live smell of earth — the one that makes you believe that the earth is indeed Gaia; it is alive with its heart beating just somewhere close by. For many others, it may be the sight of the greens, the greens everywhere. From the marshes close to the giant sewers, tiny patches of open land that your eyes long to see in crowded, bustling, big, bad metropolises like Mumbai, or your neighbour’s balcony garden, to the plants on the roadside looking alive after a year again, to the refreshing hills just outside your city.
The euphemisms are many, but the nostalgia remains the same.
It’s funny how one fine day we let our cynicisms and scepticisms take a back seat and become pure romantics at heart, letting loose the Wordsworths in all of us. But yes, just like the first rains that touch the ground, this one-day-long romanticism is refreshing. No matter how much I hate just about everything that is related to the rains, I cannot forget the first monsoons that I truly experienced here in Mumbai. Being from the northeast, I’ve been used to the heavy rains lashing the state from May to August, for every year of my life. I am used to the hills all around the city and towns looking green, inviting, and majestic. Even then I always used to detest the monsoons from the pit of my gut. But nothing quite prepared me for what rains do to our financial capital.
One word that describes Mumbai in this season is ‘muck’. That’s it. This is all you’ll get in and around the city during the rainy season. From mucky streets, to mucky railway platforms, to mucky office entrances, to mucky everything.
Yet, the best that nostalgia evokes of me is that late night two years back. Just 24 hours had elapsed when the city had its first showers, and I was with a couple of my friends at Marine Drive. We had gone for a couple of beers to that lovely old-school watering hole, Geoffrey’s, and were enjoying the sea breeze late that night sitting on the ledges of Marine Drive when it started pouring. And I make no bones of using the cliché “it was pouring like cats and dogs”, well, because it was.
And the beauty of those rains! I am very well on my way to a sigh of contentment even while writing about it. It was a scene straight out of a movie. Three slightly tipsy friends spending a late night next to the sea and getting soaked to the last thread on our bodies in the pouring rain on an almost deserted road. And yes, we did a little jig and threw our brollies around. Perhaps what was missing was a song-and-dance routine.
I don’t quite remember how long we stood there enjoying those drops on our faces, trickling down to our lips, and tasting them. After what seemed like an infinitely long time, we hailed a couple of those good old yellow cabs, and made way for home.
The rains this time have made me do something that I haven’t done for the past 25 years of my life — reminiscing about the rains. Sitting here, having my coffee, an absurd thought occurs to me: I’ve become the unlikeliest person I ever thought I’d be — a romantic for the rains!
I guess this is what Mumbai does to you. Having lived for a few years in the city, you start to carry a piece of the city with you, either consciously or subconsciously. A piece that becomes a nostalgic bond with the city when once again you become a traveller and have to leave the Maximum City for some other destination, whether its to your roots, or to another city, town, or village.