Monday, March 02, 2009


It has been raining and pouring in California for the past few weeks. Not continuously but often enough. However news reports continue to insist that California is still not out of the drought danger red-zone. So I am stoically bearing all the rain instead of whining about it (so noble, I know!).

Surprisingly enough, the weather is no longer that cold. No need to turn on the heater or bury myself under 3 comforters at night. I can even make short trips outside with just a t-shirt and sweats on - cool or what?

One complaint about the otherwise glorious bay area weather for me is the lack of warmth when it rains. I originally come from a place (Chennai, India) where, when the monsoon rains come, it is hot too. So, there, it is perfect to go out prancing in the rain, come back indoors, dry oneself and be as good as new again. A similar scenario in the bay area would be: go out prancing in the rain, come back indoors, dry oneself and most probably land up with a severe case of cold and/or pneumonia. Sigh.

While in Chennai, along with the warmth, the rainy season brought a lot of inconvenience with it. The roads used to get routinely flooded and the usually unpredictable bus schedules became even more erratic. Plodding through ankle deep water in the rains to get to and from school was routine and wading in knee-deep water was not at all uncommon.

However, in spite of everything, with all the exuberance of youth (waah, I am actually beginning to reflect upon youth), I used to look forward to the rainy season. For one, when it rained, it was quite exciting and suspenseful to see if our schools would be closed or not. Usually, one of these two things used to happen: 1). The government would declare a holiday the day *after* a storm/cyclone had passed - so all school kids had the joy of sitting comfortably at home on a perfectly dry and sunny day 2) All kids would already have battled the rain and the floods and reached school only to be told that the school was
closed thus necessitating them to repeat the same arduous journey in the reverse direction immediately.

On the days we went to school and were surprised by an unexpectedly heavy downpour later in the day, getting back home was an adventure in itself. Only a few kids, if any, would have brought an umbrella as a precautionary measure for the rainy season. As a result, sometimes as many as four of us would try to squeeze under one small umbrella as we tried to keep dry (obviously unsuccessfully). Once we made it to the bus stop, the vigilant gaze for the arrival of the bus would begin. Our Pallavan buses were sometimes so state-of-the-art that it would rain right *inside* the bus too and we used to wonder if we should open our umbrellas inside also!

When I was small, for the longest time I used to think that wearing a rain-coat as opposed to carrying an umbrella was the uber-coolest thing ever. I begged and pleaded with my parents to buy me a rain coat and promised to diligently take care of it. Eventually my whining got on their nerves (hehe, I whine well) and they bought me a pale pink raincoat with dark pink flowers on it. I could barely wait for the next rain.

The next rain came and I proudly wore my rain-coat to school. On the way I felt hot and sweaty. When I reached school and took off my rain coat, I felt like I had just walked out of a slow cooking oven. I discovered for myself what my parents had known all along - rain coats are simply too warm for the hot and humid Indian weather! Of course, considering all the fuss I had made, there was no way I could complain and I resourcefully came up with plausible excuses to avoid wearing the rain-coat! Unlike umbrellas which used to disappear, never to be seen again, into some nether zone with metronome-like regularity, this rain-coat stuck around for the longest time and never got lost. I don't remember what eventually happened to it.

Another thing which I used to covet was colorful patterned umbrellas. The standard issue umbrellas were plain black. While they did their job just fine, my heart longed for colors. Given that my sister and I lost umbrellas like we were being given a special badge of honor to do so, my parents weren't too keen on investing in the more expensive colorful umbrellas. Finally, they succumbed and my sister got a checkered pink and patterned umbrella while I got a light blue flowered umbrella with a dark blue border. Surprise, surprise - we somehow never lost them (though we still *did* manage to lose black umbrellas occassionally) and eventually threw the colorful umbrellas away only when they broke.

In spite of the raincoats and umbrellas, sometimes the rain was so heavy that it was impossible to stay dry. At those times, I would come home to find hot water waiting for me. After a nice hot bath, mom would dry my hair as I sipped on the hot tea and munched on the hot snacks she would have made. Bliss!

Those are some vignettes from my Indian rainy reminiscences. This post has become longer than I intended it to be - so I will save rainy reminiscences in the USA for another day!


anamika said...

Enjoyed reading your rainy day memories.

Saumya said...

Ha! Hailing from a place where it was both cold and rainy, not to mention host to both South west and North East monsoons, the rainy day adventure was a good read!

ACE !! said...

Now the bus services has improved, lot of new buses added to the fleet and we have a/c buses in lot of routes :)