15

The Converted Pluviophile

I hated rains.

The thought of going to school in my school auto rickshaw with rains banging on the roof, and my school uniform and shoes being wet, would make me teary. I would have a dark cloud looming on my head when I joined high school and I had to drive my two wheeler in pouring rains. Muddy waters splashing on me, my jeans getting ruined, my feet getting soiled, ruined any idea of relating any excitement to monsoon. Driving with glasses was even worse and made me long for teeny, tiny wipers in front of my face.

Then I joined college and my fight with rains got worse. I got admitted into my Engineering college in Lonavala and started my first semester during the peak of monsoons. For the uninitiated, Lonavala is in Western Ghats(mountain range)between Mumbai and Pune and is considered a hill station thanks to its height and cooler climate zone.  It is built as a resort town and my college is built on layers of hills where the Engineering building was on top of the hill and girl’s dorms and cafeteria were on the bottom. Great.

My introduction to the college was on a day where rains were raging a particularly bad fight against me and it remained the same for June to September, every year. Trudging along the road with the torrential rain on your face and back, in a parka(hey, raincoats were for kids and so not trendy!) was not something I looked forward to every day. An umbrella in that wind was like using a pencil to ward off a lion attack. The worst was sitting for class in dripping wet jeans that would form a puddle under the seat. There would be fights about keeping the ceiling fan on or off because half the class would be warm, and the rest, including me, would be cold.

The dorm rooms would be the worst. Every year when the semester would start in July, during the monsoon, we would be back to damp rooms that felt bone chillingly cold and smelled of mold. The lack of laundry facilities meant that we would have to arrange makeshift clotheslines in the rooms and hang our battle equipment aka clothes and parkas on them to attempt any sort of wetness reduction. I would join college and, thanks to the dampness and mold, I would fall really sick and would end up missing a week or two due to flu. Every single year. Again, stepping out for dinner meant braving those rains and a new set of clothes getting wet. Rinse, repeat.

And then it changed. How did it change, I am not entirely sure. Now, when I think of my days in Lonavala, I don’t see me fighting back. I don’t see the raging wet war and I don’t see the tears in my eyes when I hated the cold and dampness.

Every time when I even hear the name of the town ‘Lonavala’, I get this sense of wet fragrance. I feel I can smell the freshly showered plants and earth. I can see the drops falling on my face and covering my eyelashes. I can feel the moist breeze against my skin and I can almost feel my nose turning red from the cold. All my eyes can see is the vast expanse of lush green mountains with the pond that would fill up to the brim and have swaying tiny yellow flowers dotting the water’s edge. This view was right in front of the dorm. I see us, almost 13-15 young adults, hiking along a narrow stream trying to reach a hidden gem of a waterfall. I almost can feel Hazra giving me a hand to climb on the rocks, Shete pulling the hood of my bright red parka to annoy me, or Ani making fun of my black giant raincoat with side zips looking like a superhero cape, that I got over getting embarrassed off and embraced it whole-heartedly, when I would be the only dry person in class. 🙂 I remember jumping into the puddles with my friend SP and splashing around like a pair of toddlers.

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View from the dorms in Lonavala…

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I still get this image of me sitting next to the date-like-person at that time, on the benches overlooking the cliffs, and feeling the drops on our brows. I remember the kisses I shared, surrounded by dripping trees, or overflowing dams and lakes or bright green cliff-sides. Heck, I am guilty of using the rains, as my wingman, to put it in the nicest possible way. 😉

After I moved to the USA, my first December here was spent in splashing around in the puddles with my friends, getting drenched on the beach and wearing 3 wet sweaters afterwards and having hot soup. The next favorite rainy memory in US is the evening of Angel’s landing hike during my Utah camping trip in 2015. It was wet, cold, annoying, yet amazing.

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Post spring 2010, California entered a state of perpetual drought where rains have eluded us since the last 5 years. Even the promise of a very stormy El Nino with dangers of floods has so far been empty.  The little rain we have had has been so sporadic that the longing I feel is almost like….. siggghhhh

I wanted to spend a rainy day with the xBF picnicking on a Torrey Pines hike or walking around in the drizzle at Point Loma, before he left. What do I even say now about that.

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For a person who hated rains, I have turned into someone who can’t tear away the romantic mystique from clouds and showers. Even if it’s cuddling in the bed under my giant comforter staring out of the glass panes covered in droplets, or it is driving around with wipers turned on at full speed, I have a smile on my face. Mind you, I absolutely love the sun and the warmth that it radiates on my skin. I love the brightness and the freedom that a sunny day brings to have an amazing time at the beach and in minimal clothing. Yet, I can’t wait for a wet season again in California and I will continue waiting with baited breath. I may or may not have someone to share the mysticism with. I may or may not have my bunch of friends who will do crazy things when it’s pouring. But I know that I will have me to soak it all up.

The foe has finally become the friend.

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Bhakti, this was going to be a comment on your post Ephemeral, to tell you about my love-hate relationship with rain. I almost finished typing it out before I decided to post it as a response instead of hijacking your comment section. And guess what? It’s raining outside. 🙂

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Raining over me…

Little wet droplets,
or spheres of light,
Shining through the darkness,
twinkling through the night.

Sprays of moisture,
or flood of memories,
Cutting through the cages,
like a flock of canaries.

As I reminisce,
the thunder growls,
my lips let out your name,
while the wind howls.

The clouds have unlocked,
our love is the key;
Drenching my soul,
its raining all over me.

PS : Its raining. After a long, long time. He loved rains. Mumbai rains.

8

Of sun, snow and crazy floods

It is a pleasant 14-15 deg C outside. Rest of the USA is freezing under the insanely cold Arctic winds. It is pretty much a 100 deg difference between Chicago and Southern California. Gotta love SoCal! I stepped outside last Saturday in my gym shorts to do my groceries. It felt amazing in the lovely cool weather to have the sun rays splashing on my skin. It just makes me so happy to get warmed up by sun.

But I am also jealous of the mid-west to the east coast! So many people are contacting me if I am okay, or warm enough and to take care. It is almost an anti-climax when I tell them I am sitting in my room with my small fan on. Gee, by the sound of their voices, it definitely feels like I let them down or something. Hey! I don’t control the temperatures!

My friend Mo left USA for India 2 days back and yesterday her city Atlanta experienced 3 in of snow, which is rare for Georgia. Apparently, all hell broke loose! There were choked up traffic jams, people had to sleep in offices, kids in malls and stores. School buses, ambulances, cars were struck. People from her office left after a day and had to sleep there itself. She just escaped the whole tamasha. I almost feel she should have experienced that, just because it will be a great story to tell! Mo, please don’t kill me for this! 😉

Well, I always feel whenever something happens, people only say ‘we just missed it by a week, a day, an hour.’ I am glad it is like that, but I would like to hear something from the horse’e mouth someday. If everyone just missed it, who the hell experienced it??

Well, jokes apart, just the fact that Atlanta went through this mess has made national headlines here. Similar snow fall had happened in 2011 and the city was simply paralysed. They had just 4 equipment to deal with it and the situation was simple way worse that time. I read it is better this time(relatively) because they are well equipped with snow removal equipment now, both in quantity and quality. When I compare this to Mumbai getting stunned by rainfall year after year, I pretty much want to jail the government incharges for life. I can still remember seeing the ambulance stuck in traffic and the driver stepping out to see if there was a way in the rain. It was not even heavy rains. Those were some of my last visuals of Mumbai while going to the airport in June’13. I could only pray for the person inside. Even in Pune, when it is known that every year, there is a period of heavy rain, and normal rain otherwise, why does it wreak havoc on the city? My ground floor house was flooded 5-6 years ago and destroyed a lot of our stuff. Obviously we don’t even expect any compensation. Due to the drain blockage, the rain water was collecting in the building parking lot. We were anxiously watching the water reach the 1st to 3 rd step on the door. And then, I saw disgusting water starting to come out of the Indian toilet and bathrooms. Ugggghhhh! And in minutes, the whole apartment had 4 inches of water. Thankfully, foreseeing the rapidly rising water, my mom and I had started to pile up stuff on the dining table and on top of the bed and other higher levels and let her tuition kids go home. But the clothes, beddings, stuff kept in the bed storage, was pretty ruined. I tripped and fell in that gross water while picking up my confused dog to take him upstairs to my neighbors. The water receded after a couple of hours and my dad, after coming home from work, promptly got into cleaning with my mom and neighbor aunties. He is one crazy fellow. He went to show people the hole in the backyard wall he had made to let the water flow away, and every time ended with his chappal flowing away and he splashing around to retrieve it. Crazy!

My mom and I slept at the neighbors’ place for the night, while my dad slept at my place in the living room. We had to keep the windows open to let the stink go away and poor dad had to volunteer for security. Haha! Now my parents, empty out the bottom drawers of the cupboards every year before monsoon. We are really looking forward to moving to our 4th floor new apartment soon and avoiding this whole drama.

Needless to say, that day, I was very busy taking care of my dog’s tummy rubs, so I pretty much did nothing to help.