Mazhai, Baarish, La Pluie, Al Ghayth, RAIN

A pic my nephew GK clicked... cloudy skies, the beach, a hint of rain, sun and all things typically Madras.

Read this post and got all nostalgic about the rain.

The thing is, Madras rains are more a nuisance than anything else.

From what I remember, with just a drizzle the drain pipes broke and the roads choked. When the real deal — blinding rain — set in, diseases abounded; water seeped through the walls; low-lying areas became inaccessible in anything but parisals and makeshift boats; electricity and telephone lines went bust; roads looked like the lunar surface and everyone cursed the corporation and politicians. Even after particularly wet years, where the Red Hills reservoir filled to the brim and over, Madras’s infamous water scarcity never seemed to resolve.

And yet, how much we awaited the rains. How we loved it. Sheets of water washing away the city’s trademark sweat and humidity.

My mind is a whirl of RAIN images, shoo-ing away sleep, and drawing me out of bed to post right away. There are unpleasant memories too, but in the spirit of the post I tag, I will stick mainly to the wonderful ones.

  • Deepavalli. It always rained around Deepavalli. And my resourceful sister, C, would tie the stringed firecrackers to a long stick, dangle it out of the window and put up a show for us.
  • My beautiful, sprawling Convent. We could smell the rain, even before the first drop hit the playground mud.
  • Bajjis and masala tea. Hurricane lamps and candles at the ready.
  • Black umbrellas, repaired many times over. And those flowered, imported ones in the ’90s.
  • Huddling under a cheap plastic raincoat, while staring enviously at those with Duckback overcoats.
  • Ceiling fans regulated at 3 for a change, instead of the max.
  • Parisals. A famous film director’s office used to be in the colony, and one of these was left behind from a film set. Every year, it was taken out to cart people from one end of the colony to the other.
  • Taking long walks up and down the Ooty hillsides with my cousin M. Light drizzle and school girl confidences. Crushes and gossip.
  • My first fall from the Kinetic Honda, while trying to avoid a worn-out, rainwater-filled part of the road.
  • Getting caught on Mount Road on the way to work at Indian Express. My red & green bandini dupatta bought at Alsa Mall, staining and ruining my brand new white chikan-work salwar suit.
  • My first kiss. On Elliot’s Beach, Besant Nagar, after the evening shift, late one rainy night (how dramatic! but true, nonetheless).
  • Beat visits to the Communicable Diseases Hospital in North Madras, to check on Cholera deaths. Then to be pleasantly surprised by how well the hospital was maintained.
  • Sitting on the rocks dotting the Park Guest House beach (owned by the Aurobindo Ashram) in Pondicherry. Dripping wet, and high on LOVE, LUST, VODKA and FORBIDDEN ADVENTURES…
  • Thunderstorms on the eve of my wedding. Then rains during the reception, which did nothing to reduce the huge numbers of people that flocked to the hall (my folks and I had an understanding – the wedding ceremony would be small, simple and at home; the reception would be on their terms).
  • Cycling down the Law College road in Pune, undecided on whether to go back to the Film Institute hostel or join a bunch of my classmates on a very naughty and very interesting evening out. Finally choosing to cycle in the heavy rains towards the University Circle. Wet, confused, tired and stuffing my face with spicy vada pav from the shacks there.
  • My first rains in Doha, within weeks of arriving here. Sitting alone and lonely in my ‘first home’, peering out of the window, missing Madras… And then running to the terrace to get drenched and feel better – to feel ‘at home’.
  • Driving up to the Table Mountain in Cape Town, the rain beating a steady rhythm on the windshield. Then after the nth turn running into a rainbow view. What a sight!
  • Waking up in the middle of the night to feed O (days old), and gazing longingly out of the verandah door, postnatal restrictions holding me back from running out into the rain.
  • Taking a 1-year-old O out to the balcony in Doha to get wet. She looked so puzzled. Again when she was 3, dragged her out of school, to get wet. What joy! So worth skipping school.
  • My first hailstorm, that too in Doha, 2 years ago!
  • Watching an amazing Asian Games opening ceremony, in 2006. Unprecedented and untimely rains notwithstanding, it was an awesome show. Even more pleasant was the memory that I sat in the sheltered VIP arena (perks of being a journo) while my boss and his boss were getting wet in the stand opposite! Cheap thrills…
  • In 2008, driving to the Marina late in the night with my sisters and their kids and witnessing a mesmerising lightning show, far into the ocean. Fierce, angry and powerful, the dark sky was repeatedly ripped apart. It was an electrifying and deeply disturbing scene… what was brewing that far out there?

… I better plug my memory for now. What’s your favourite rain recall?

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11 thoughts on “Mazhai, Baarish, La Pluie, Al Ghayth, RAIN

  1. shyam says:

    Where I lived in Adyar, the rains were NOT welcome. The house being at a low level, the drains would overflow and the water would come into the house – ALL the rooms. Disgusting,disgusting stuff beyond description.

    But here’s a good memory – after a really good storm (the tail end of cyclones which went on to batter AP), my cousins and I would go for a walk around the neighbourhood and end up at a Hot Chips for samosas and hot tea… good times!

  2. shyam says:

    Forgot to add: THe good memories were all in Abhiramapuram, at my grandad’s house. The rains were gorgeous there! We’d go up on the terrace and jump around 🙂

  3. uttara says:

    what a lovely list. Don’t like the rain usually (was born in the monsoon and hated that) but have a nice memory of kissing in the rain too!

  4. Indian Homemaker says:

    Loved your rain memories 🙂
    Mine are all filled with watching rain and thunder siting in a window… and once a lightening too 🙂
    I also made sure my kids enjoyed the rain – took their photographs to 🙂

  5. Sindhu says:

    Wow, loved ur memories of rain. When I think of rain, my mind goes to those great movies…ones that always had rain as the main theme and the events that were around it, the movie, Thoovanathumbikal by Padmarajan for instance…a different slightly controvorsial theme yet handled so efficiently

  6. Binu George says:

    Loved your memories…

    My marriage is the memory I can recall off :). Relatives and guests had to be taken to the church in boats. Due to flood warnings, the ceremony had to be preponed and my sister missed the marriage :).

  7. UmmON says:

    @SN, IHM, R: thanks
    @BG: ha, finally on my blog! welcome. yeah, i remember you telling me that. imagine, if you knew, you guys could have been ‘suitably’ dressed.

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