The word rain is usually used in a negative context – “You’re raining on my parade”, “We need to save up for a rainy day”, “Let me take a rain check”. However, to most people in Chennai, rain is a reason for rejoicing. After all, it feels like we have summer all year round. There are five stages of monsoon in Chennai:
The Pre-Monsoon Stage –
This is the time before the rains start. Around this time, you have someone who says that it started raining this time last year/ last decade/ last century/last millennium, but the monsoon is late this year. They would go on and attribute the supposed delay of monsoon to climate change, mistreating the earth, pollution, politicians, the corrupt government and the IT people. Then someone else would disagree with them either on whether it should be raining now or on the reasons for lack of rain.
The Initial Stage –
This is the time when it starts drizzling, aka, my favorite time of the year. Most people will be happy that it’s finally raining. Some will be grumpy that it isn’t raining enough to prevent the impending drought next summer or complain that it didn’t start raining soon enough.
This is the time when some of us start falling sick. Cold and fever are commonplace. We are at risk of getting water-borne diseases. Hence, we are bombarded with advice (sometimes well-meaning, sometimes out of courtesy) from the media, our relatives, friends, neighbours, random acquaintances and strangers, to safeguard ourselves.
The only times you can hear someone in Chennai say, “The weather/climate is good” is during early monsoon and winter. I say weather/climate because most people seem to think the words are interchangeable.
The Diwali Stage –
To my exuberance and many people’s disappointment, Diwali falls in the monsoon time. This means that there will be times when people wanted to burst crackers and enjoy themselves, but the rain played spoil-sport. People like me are extremely happy when it rains during Diwali time, because bursting crackers creates air pollution, noise pollution, leaves a lot of toxic trash on the road and the sound scares animals, birds and us. We’ll not admit the last part though.
You may hear some kids cursing the rains for spoiling their fun Diwali plans. They are met with a nearby adult’s two and a half hour lecture on the importance of rains, how scarce it is in the city and what would happen if it didn’t rain. They will also enlighten the kids on the position of farmers, while the kids mumble, daydreams or ignore and walk away.
You hear someone tell they don’t want to burst crackers (okay, that’s me). They will be faced with two kinds of responses. The first is the ridiculous, “Why not? Are you an alien? You are required to burst crackers today. So, you have to”. The second is an explanation of how this season brings with it lots of infections and bursting crackers will help expel mosquitoes and other insects that thrive during monsoon. Of course, both these will cause a prolonged argument. Overall, this stage of monsoon is characterized by a lot of noise, be it thunders, crackers or arguments.
The Cyclone Stage –
This is when a cyclone forms in the Bay of Bengal region. All news channels tell you that it will rain cats and dogs for the next two days. They repeat this statement every two days till you yourself conclude that it’s not going to rain as much anymore. Everyone is tuned into the news channels. We have a game on predicting what Ramanan will predict.
School kids rejoice that they have a holiday. College students pray that their exams get postponed. Some areas get waterlogged while others don’t. In some places, you need a boat to come out of your house. Some marooned people like me work from home. Other unlucky folks have to go to office because they have no option of working from home or have a power cut at home.
Arguments during this time will, as usual, revolve around the topics of amount of rain and timing of rain. In addition, there will be a disagreement on the cyclone. Some would say “Thank God for the cyclone. We wouldn’t have got enough rain if not for it.” and some would bark back “Many people are struggling because of the amount of rain here. The cyclone may even affect Andhra or Orissa. How insensitive can you be?” and so on and so forth.
The Final Stage –
After the cyclone’s effect, there usually isn’t such torrential rain. As the rain subsides, things slowly go back to normal. By this time, we’ve grown out of our love for the rains. We now start treating the word rain in a negative context and don’t long for it till March. Most of us wait for the not-exactly-cold yet absolutely lovely winter.
This year, we’ve been having way too much rain. It is sad to see so many people dead and injured because of the rains. Some are locked inside their house, some have to shift to a hotel because their house is inundated and some have lost their houses. I’m desperately hoping that this will be the end of such losses. May we have some sunshine now, literally and figuratively!