Having never lived in a country that has a monsoon season please indulge me a little as I am just a tiny bit fascinated by the soon approaching weather system; perhaps it’s my British heritage as we are famous for our love of all things weather related. Since returning to Mumbai last week the weather is noticeably different from when I left mid-May. Additionally, it’s clear that major preparation work is being undertaken by the locals as gradually the city is turning blue – tarpaulin blue to be precise.
Forgive me, but as monsoon season happens every year, at the same time, wouldn’t you think that you should use the time outside of this season to fix leaking roofs? And when you build new structures wouldn’t it be wise to make sure there are no holes in the roof or wall panels that could allow water in? Maybe this is a little too simplistic a view but it seems that rather than make good repairs, temporary tarpaulin roofs are being erected. Now I can understand the need for the sea of blue plastic in the more run down areas of the city, over the slum housing, and on some of the ancient looking buildings that are barely still standing, but at an office complex that was only built 5 years ago?
In addition to covering up holes in roofs there are also temporary structures being erected in an attempt to give pedestrians and patrons of businesses some kind of protection from the rain. When I visited the High Street Phoenix Mall recently I photographed the covering that was going up along all the walkways that link the various malls in this area. Our local Starbucks has an outside area that usually has a few over-sized umbrellas to protect patrons from the heat of the sun but over the last few days a metal structure has been erected, I wonder how that is going to hold up?
In some ways this reminds me of when hurricane season approaches in Houston. Information is distributed on how to prepare for the change in the weather i.e. listen more carefully to weather reports, put a disaster supply kit together, and be cognizant of local areas prone to flooding. The difference here is that the monsoon WILL arrive whereas in the 15 years of living in Houston we only had one hurricane and as the city is so far inland it really only got the secondary brunt of the storm unlike our neighbors in Galveston.
So how should Mumbaikar’s prepare? My favorite line from a company issued monsoon advisory note to its employees reads ‘avoid getting wet in the rain, and if wet do change clothes immediately‘. If in doubt as to why you don’t want to get wet the advisory note goes on to explain ‘monsoon water is contaminated with animal excreta – a cause of Leptospirosis‘ plus ‘monsoon is a fertile breeding ground for diseases like Viral fever, Malaria, Cholera, Dengue, Chikungunya, Conjunctivitis, Typhoid and Hepatitis‘. Now I’m beginning to understand why so many expats leave India at this time of the year!
The typical expats concerns are such a stark contrast to the locals who appear to relish the monsoon season; the chance to watch the crazy waves breaching the barriers at the Gateway of India, the drop in temperatures, and the opportunity to get soaking wet and play in the rain.
The above notwithstanding, my aim will be to stay dry and for this I was forced to purchase something that I never thought I would – Crocs. Of course I knew about these plastic wonders due to the numerous hospital workers that always seem to be wearing them and my mother-in-law who was a fan quite a few years ago, but they had never featured on my wish list. Having discussed the unsuitability of wellington/gum/rain boots (due to the rain coming in the top) and the limitations of waders (although we did briefly think that all the BP team donning green and yellow waders was very worthy of a photo op) I paid a visit to the Crocs store at the High Street Phoenix Mall.
It being World Cup season, Crocs have brought out a patriotic range that allows you to support your country while keeping your feet dry. I’m not sure the design will keep my feet dry, but they will enable me to save my good shoes and will be easy to clean ready for the next days wear. I was a little concerned that my feet would be too big by Indian standards but after a lengthy discussion with the sales guy I actually went for a slightly snug fit as I was reliably told that the water will make my feet move around – I will report back on that point in a few weeks. I was a little torn between Team England and Team USA Crocs but ultimately went with England as although I preferred the red and white US version I thought that color might not hold up so well in the mucky brown water heading our way.
Of course the other essentials for monsoon are a good umbrella and some kind of rain coat and for that I headed to a few of the numerous boutiques on Hill Road in Bandra. Stores offering umbrellas for sale are popping up all over the place and I have also notice a few enterprising individuals have little stands on the side of the roads in my neighborhood. When the rains begin if you are caught without some protection you will get soaked in a matter of seconds so being prepared now seems to be the best way forward. My Rupees 350 compact umbrella will be added to my large Taj one that appeared in my hotel room recently and my fancy AWC golf umbrella so I think I have that area covered, literally. I also purchased a clear plastic raincoat for Rupees 450 that will be a style statement in itself. So for now I watch the increasingly grey sky and will wait for the excitement to begin!
Footnote (no pun intended) I purchased my England crocs before they were eliminated from the tournament, perhaps I should have gone for Team USA instead!