I remember reading this lovely book about a man whose quest was to follow the course of the monsoon in India- ‘Chasing the Monsoon’ by Alexander Frater. He starts in Kerala at the advent of the monsoon and “chases” it just short of the Seven Sisters (the North-East of India, for those of you weak on sobriquets).
This was a few years ago, by which time I had developed a plethora of “rainy-day fantasies”. Some of them have come true and some others, repeatedly so. Sit by the window sill, either at a table near the window or on a bed suitably arranged (this of course requires appropriate foresight when getting the house furnished, but that’s another tale), leaning against a big bolster (if applicable to the seating), sipping deliciously warm lemon tea or cocoa (this was before my obsession with herbal teas of all consistencies and colours) and reading a book. Nothing even comes close to this feeling.
This fantasy would, of course, get better – simply intersperse the reading with moments of thoughtfulness (or thoughtlessness, as the case may be), staring into the rain as though it were the object of your doctoral thesis, not to forget absentmindedly biting into crisp, hot pakoras. There would be variations of this fantasy – involving fireplaces and rugs and what not, for the curious amongst you, but we’ll not be covering them just as yet. The mood and setting – just perfect for some Simon & Garfunkel, vasantha or amruthavarshini. And, although I’m a great lover of science-fiction, this fantasy requires something more attuned to the situation. Like M&Bs (oh, c’mon – don’t be judgemental!), Wodehouse, Gerald Durrell, Dave Barry or James Herriot. Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams could be squeezed in perhaps, but trust me, nothing beats some romance/humour.
And then, there are those books that do NOT depend on the weather (even if their titles mention something related) – no one would want to day-dream and sit around enjoying some atmospheric phenomenon after reading ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’. The reader has to be one cold person to not feel like doing something useful! I was inspired enough to seriously consider following P. Sainath’s footsteps and pursue “his” kind of journalism … but we’re digressing and that’s another rainy-day story (old-and-now-obsolete pun)!
Another fantasy that had caught my fancy was of course actually doing what Alexander Frater did, and following his wet (pun unintended) trail. I will, maybe, do that. Sometime.I do have a knack for arriving in the worst possible weather at many places. Take the past year alone – I travelled by sleeper class train from Madras to Delhi during the height of summer, reached Bombay from Madras when the monsoon was bent on impressing me with “quantity”, landed in Chicago in peak winter (when I’d never in my life seen sub-zero) and got back to Bombay in time for yet-another-monsoon. And oh, I also managed to visit Seattle during its “rainy season” (so to speak) and Texas in summer.
“And, if you’re in Bombay during the rains, it is sacrilegious to not go on a monsoon trek.”
It has been very, very interesting and a lot of fun. I somehow don’t remember spending too much time gazing out of glass panes, enjoying the snow. It was nice, especially walking during a snow-fall (read snow-FALL, not storm, or blizzard), covered from head to toe, holding hands with your loved one, listening to the almost-silent falling of the flakes and feeling them gently plop on your face … but I somehow never got to watching the snow flakes, reading, and all that jazz. On the other hand, I truly don’t enjoy walking (or doing anything even remotely outdoorsy) during a downpour. Nope, that’s not for me, especially in India! It is quite nice walking in a drizzle, but not when it’s pouring cats-and-dogs. I remember how I’d have my raincoat on AND an umbrella to go anywhere – it’s not as much fun as watching from the other side of a window! And driving/riding is not much better, but that’s just because of the
I have also had a lot of fun in the rain. There’s NOTHING like playing football when it’s pouring. At least, that was the case for me at the age of 13.
And, if you’re in Bombay during the rains, it is sacrilegious to not go on a monsoon trek. There are places in Bombay, or minutes from it, that are fantastic to hike/trek. Moreover, there are hundreds of forts that could be covered in these monsoon hikes for those looking for a taste of history. There are an incredible number of trekking outfits that go there weekend after weekend. For the more adventurous amongst you (yeah, that’s you, the person enjoying adding buckets of water to torrential rain), I would recommend waterfall rappelling or abseiling. Recently, I made a waterfall rappelling trip to a place near Bhivpuri, some 80 km from Mumbai.
“There were also some personal storms raging, and simply sitting and writing brought about a relaxing lull.”
The falls were about 60 ft. high and considered to be amongst the easier to rappel. It was my first time waterfall rappelling, although I have done some rock-climbing (a drier-form of rappelling). It was not really that easy and I slipped and dinged myself against the rocks more than once, until I realized the key was “technique, technique, technique”. You need to be at right angles to the wall, legs wide, taking small steps backward with the help of ropes that involve use of both hands. And oh, tip backwards but don’t go overboard (pun unintended) – you’ll just topple backwards! AND, keep a distance between the feet – bring them close and you’ll start oscillating like a pendulum! Instructions such as these are a mouthful for an amateur to handle, but after learning to pick myself up after my first nasty fall, there was, the proverbial, no going back. But mind you, it was exhilarating.
You can take your time going down (it’s not as bad as it sounds!) and stop and relish the view from midair. As you get near the bottom, the head-rush and adrenalin-high are unmistakeable. The safety measures were in place and at no point did I feel really vulnerable or precarious. Very, very importantly- they didn’t make anyone sign a form saying “We’re not responsible for accidental death or damage”blah, blah blah…(or something along those lines) and THAT was a huge relief. To start something after signing stuff like that IS scary and very weird!
Again, I just meandered off! I started typing this listening to the rain and decided to write (for a change, rather than read). There were also some personal storms raging, and simply sitting and writing brought about a relaxing lull. As you can now surmise, I like the rains. Over the years, I have also learnt to accept and enjoy summer and winter and monsoon, sunshine and snowflakes and everything in between. I guess that’s the way it is – everyone will enjoy the rain, as long as they’re not hurrying for an appointment, trying desperately to catch an auto, dressed just seconds ago in crisp white!
And, on that philosophical note…