Category Archives: weather

Sixty days of summer

It was when the first lady of the market forgot her name that everyone knew that the mangoes had arrived. For weeks the market sweat, stank and perspired through the long days and slept deliriously through the night. As the days got warmer and the stench of jasmine stank unbearably, and banana blossoms wilted and fell off, the wait increased for the mangoes.  And finally one day, the mangoes came. But nobody forgot their name, or the smell of jasmine and therefore they were declared not real mangoes. Then the green ones came, plump and tight, raw and pert. They went ‘click’ against the tongue and made cheeks shudder and hence, they were pressed into service: shredded thin and floating in oil and chilly; sliced thick with lumps of jaggery, diced into geometrical cubes and served fresh with just so much salt. And they were pickled by the hundreds.  The rough knives of the butchers cut no meat that month; they only thwacked raw mangoes by the tens, by the hundreds. Every household brought them. Salted them, chillied them, oiled them and stored them in huge jars. The whole city urgently made pickles and the mangoes kept coming. One day they lost their tartness. One mango came, just a little sweeter, then a little more and then some more until they could no longer be pickled. But the city’s wives were smart; they curried them. Beat them into yogurt curries, disciplined them into mildly sweet sambars and enterprising rasams.

One day the markets’ first lady forgot her name. She was there before anyone else sat down to sell; she was there before anyone was there to buy, first in the morning before the fishes came, before the flowers came. She sold ginger and coriander, curry leaves and mint and she knew everyone who went into the colossal building and everyone who came out. And at the end of the day she spoke to the mice and cats and dogs, the names of people who had remained in the market, rotting amidst leftover mogras and champas, aralis and mullais, roses and daisies.  She forgot her name because she came late that morning, after sunrise and the mangoes had preceded her. She, who came before everything and everyone, lost that day. In her place sat fat yellow mangoes oozing suppurating mango pus, soft and sweet. Other subtle mangoes, yielding neither in flesh nor in color but with madness in their taste. Others too, shamelessly yellow and curvy, delicately tipping towards a perfect finish.

The wives of the city hurried past her, trampling over her and stomping her ginger and sneezing her mint. They rushed to the mangoes, some wrapped in red gelatine paper, some in cardboard boxes with more hay than mangoes, some rolling on the floor in old cabbage peels. The mangoes were touched and prodded, pinched and pressed, smelt and sneezed upon, thrown, tossed and bruised, worried, fought and haggled over, purchased, brought, bought. Some stolen.

And in the homes of the city the mangoes finally died their deaths. In discarded peels and sucked out seeds. Blue mangoes and red ones, Alphonsoes and inferior Devgads, fat Banganapallis and nostalgic Benishas. Hindi Payris, Gujrati Kesars and Bihari Dussheris.

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Filed under food, weather, writing

Season

Anyone who has lived in Bombay long enough can tell you when the rain won’t come. We are experts at predicting when it won’t happen. Come the last few days of May and all of humanity has had enough of the heat and the sweat. And of the dull monotony that stark afternoon sunlight brings. Mangoes have been consumed, the raw ones pickled. Juices with ice cubes floating in them had by the gallons to make the throat sick. The last few days of May are the summer that deprive us the joys of the season without affording its pleasures.

As reports of drizzles come in hopes turn heavenwards. The first of June is awaited with a fervor bordering on the religious, but like all other things Indian, the rains are late. Veterans then remark that the rains never arrive on the first, and that the one time they did come on that day, in the 50’s, the rest of the season was bad. “Monsoon hits Kerala” newspapers exclaim a few days into June and then the real countdown begins. Three Kasargode, five Uttar Kanara, seven Karwar, nine Goa. The wait becomes irresistible, unbearable and the rains seem sadistically within reach but away.

Vacationers will come back with tales of how they encountered a few stray showers on the ghats, or how their seaside weekend was spiced up by the sudden prattle of premature showers. And all we can do is sigh at their luck, and beseech the fan to miraculously cool us faster. A few more days of dogged heat and listlessness and then action suddenly comes to the backyard. “It rained in Uran yesterday” a Port trust official would blurt out, in the manner of revealing a state secret. “My cousin living in Panvel said that it s raining there now”, the bai would chip in excitedly. Reports would come in from seaside urbania all around Mumbai. Pen, Alibag, the ghats near Pune, the Ggats near Kalyan, Vashi.

Tomorrow. The experienced would nod their ascent. And paving the way for the anticipated tomorrow would be a day far stickier than any other day of the season. I never knew if it is really a meteorological phenomenon that makes the day hotter and more fetid or it is simply the minds preparation for a new season. The heat at its zenith, humidity at a naturally impossible hundred and the first could sighted. Like the climax of a movie life then moves in slow motion. The eye impatiently scans the skies for the pregnant clouds, but there are none to be found, and almost magically the clear sky turns murky, the smell of mud assaults long before the first drop wets the earth.

Like a slow orchestrated ritual culminating in a bedazzling climax the rains hit Bombay. As the dispossessed shriek and run headlong into the spray.

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Filed under bai, geography, india, mumbai, rains, vacation, weather

January musings

Happy new Year all. I’m home. And i shall not dispense with needless adjectives to describe it. It is as all homecomings are. A mixture of feelings and mostly the anticipation of awesome food. Today as I was digging into my computer I came across classics (kuan ma, page 3; deewane by the awesomely awesome shweta shetty; lootela … the likes) . I also found several things in my hidden folders (not that I have anything to hide, windows just creates them meaninglessly) and I shall post one of my earliest writings from there, for the benefit of my intrepid readers.

Here goes

Rain

It was more sudden than the most sudden thing one could think of. One second it was swelteringly hot, sweatily oppressive, a world of shimmering concrete, and just a nanosecond later it began to rain. Even before I could soak up the smell of mud, or rejoice in the coming of the monsoon, I realized I had not a scrap of anti-rain clothing with me, and sprinted to a nearby bus-stop. Unfortunately, half of my city’s population was in the same predicament and had the same idea, so I found myself a wee bit cramped. The bus stop, which had never been used as one before, (people here just wait around aimlessly, and when the bus arrives, there’s some sort of a mini-stampede cum id’ kill you to get in type scuffle) was suddenly home to about twenty-five of us, all in various degrees of wetness…

There was the bone dry man…he belonged to that rare breed of people who can sprint in the rain without getting wet. My idol, maybe because I get drenched even in a washbasin. Then there was the anxious human, ready with a half-unfurled umbrella, pants rolled, cellphone carefully wrapped in his handkerchief, prepared to beat the rains at its own game, staring at the sky with part awe, and part worry. Occupying the driest corner was a large family. The men stood in a protective circle around the women and children, resembling a herd of wildbeest on the African savannah, and all of them were eating noisily passing snacks from one end of their circle to the other. Their brats, unmindful of nature’s vagaries, were engaged in various activities and without much ado bawled, screeched and made enough noise to make you wish you were born deaf. The rest were a motley crowd of office going women, jamming cellular networks by frequently calling home barking thousand confused instructions to their children, ranging from the mundane “shut all the windows, no I don’t care if you suffocate, I’m not going to have pools of water everywhere” to the slightly bizarre “its raining, throw away all the food and start stringing the hall with clotheslines”

Our peaceful existence in the bus stop however, was rudely interrupted by a troika of ‘babes’, snobs, right down to their branded heels (sounding something like shooing a dog away). The babes cursed the rain, the clouds, and their fate (I just got my hair permed! Drat this *swear word* rain…What? Why do farmers want it to rain?) .Another one was seeing a bus stop for the first time”What’s this structure? Isn’t it cute? I’m going to ask papa to build one for us in the balcony”. Their leader had the sense to keep her cellphone dry and was frantically trying to reach her driver…The uncles of the large family had stopped crunching chips, stopped minding their little brats and were unabashedly looking at the ‘babes’. Their wives sensed the danger. Gathering their various children they began glaring at the babes, hard enough to burn a hole right through one of the babe’s freshly permed hair (which suspiciously resembled a wig, the girl’s tense expression and precarious demeanour only fuelled doubts).Working women’s association weren’t too pleased either, and began issuing a fresh set of instructions home “don’t get out unless you are wearing a burkha…”

By now everyone was getting fidgety, the intrepid slowly ventured out, and then began moving about, the safe ones decided to wait… Meanwhile a big car pulled up, as one of the babes uttered a shriek and ran pell-mell into it. The other two followed suit, looking immensely relieved. Slowly the rains abated. The world looked clean, and fresh. I stepped out, leaving behind me the human exhibition the bus-stop had become, with the delicious realization of the rains having arrived…

Minutes later, as the sun shone, the bus stop was deserted…as if it had never housed people in it.

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Filed under city, computer, nostalgia, weather

*#$%^&(!@~()$!!!

“You look like a giiiirl”…my friend screamed. “Do not” I retaliated…so what if my earmuffs are pink? I mean really, when it is eighteen degrees below zero and the whole world is freezing, the last thing one worries about is colour co-ordination. Apparently not. Winter in America is the real deal. Cold, chilly, damp, windy, sunless and snowy. Not the pleasant drafts of coolness that the subcontinent is used to during this time of the year. Hoary winds, snow and a piercing chill that makes you long for the Indian heat. Snow drafts that get your socks wet if you don’t walk too carefully and thin ice that will make you waltz like a Romanian gymnast on Prozac. However I shall stop cribbing, for spring is here. Nope the leaves haven’t begun sprouting yet, nor have the flowers started blooming in abundant profusion, but hey the sun no longer sets at three, and stays till eight! That’s spring enough for me. Positive temperatures too, now-a-days we get. No more the irritating chill that tingles the ears as soon as you step outside or the numb feeling and dread that comes with the realization of having wet socks. No more dark afternoons and dreary days. No more dressing up, which beats everything else. After six months of wearing layers that would make Pamela swell with pride (haha..pun or no pun..getit?) come single layer clothes days. Maybe even floaters…Hope.

PS: Minutes after this post was written, a snowflake wafted on to the authors nose, causing him to scurry for cover and generally curse the vagaries of weather, in a language that would make a bihari truck driver blush.

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Filed under weather