I arrived in Bombay a week before the monsoon was due. For those of you who have ever visited or lived in a tropical climate, I don’t have to tell you that it’s the worst time of year to turn up. It’s hot and humid, thick and sticky. It gives you the impression that you’ve turned into a steamed vegetable. Just sitting and staring at the fan is enough make you sweat; ingesting gallons of water becomes a daily requirement to replace the fluid lost in perspiration from your upper lip alone. Every day, you search the sky for a sign that the rains will come and cool you down. But, this year, the search was in vain. The monsoon was late in Bombay.
To escape the heat one day, a few friends and I went to a swanky hotel to use their pool. After paying a whopping 500 rupees (US$10), we were granted access to a beautifully shimmering, wonderfully inviting pool and a patio that overlooked Juhu Beach. It looked lovely, despite its lack of shade-making umbrellas for the tables and comfort-conferring cushions for the wicker lounge chairs. We sat down at a table on the beach’s edge and
politely asked the attendant for an umbrella. He threw his hands up at the sunny sky, “No umbrellas. We’re closed for the rain.” Oh I see, the rain
. Of course.
Unable to handle the sun beaming down on our bare heads, we abandoned the good view of our table and took refuge in the shade of the building. We were hungry. The umbrella-denying server came to take our order. We all wanted sandwiches. He took mental note of our request and walked away. A minute later, he returned to our table to ask, “Do you want your sandwiches grilled or toasted?” We all opted for grilled. “Grilling not possible,” he said, “Only toast.” Okay. Toasted it is. Thanks for asking.
When the overly toasted sandwiches showed up, we hungrily scarfed them down. Then, against the advice of every mother in the world, we jumped into the pool with full bellies and spent the afternoon not caring about the lack of shade, the confusion of the staff or the impossibility of grilling a sandwich. We just enjoyed the cool water.
As if by some magic in the flick of the waiter’s hands earlier, the first shower of the
monsoon arrived that night. The sky suddenly tore open, unleashing the rain it had been so greedily hoarding in a torrential downpour. While the raindrops fell fat on the ground, the heady scent of wet earth rose to fill my nostrils, which began to sting with the sharp bite of ammonia soon thereafter. You see, in India, kissing in public is frowned upon, but pissing in public is quite commonplace (with more than half the population lacking basic facilities, it’s really the only option). So, carried in on the cold breeze was the reek of millions of liters of piss. At that point, though, I didn’t care. The monsoon had finally come. I threw my hands out to my sides, turned my face up to the rain and let it soak me from head to toe.
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