The Monsoons

The Monsoons

They came late this year. Yet, there is something undeniably thrilling about those sudden cloudbursts that pour ferociously and intensely for a brief time and leave everything wet and cool and, somehow, renewed. And, the lush greenery everywhere makes up for the irrepressible creepy-crawlies that emerge from every crevice and crack — both indoors and outdoors.

There’s a clamminess that fills the air just before such a torrent and it makes everyone uncomfortable and restive. Impatient drivers honk just that bit louder on roads; stray animals pick up their otherwise somnolent pace; anxious housewives scurry about to finish certain tasks outdoors before seeking indoor comfort; itinerant street dwellers rush about with extra padding to keep their makeshift homes dry; and delighted children plot together to meet at street corners or in someone’s yard for a quick drench-and-dance opportunity without adult interference.

Yes, the monsoons bring a whole new level of activity among people from just about every walk of life. No one can really escape it. Nor do they really want to. Not even when the roads are at their worst with rainwater-filled potholes that cannot be avoided by vehicles and people alike; when lack of appropriate drainage systems cause flash floods; when public transportation comes at a standstill because the infrastructure is so broken that nothing can be done; when floods and mudslides destroy entire neighborhoods because of weak or temporary housing construction; when untrained and unlicensed drivers kill several in multi-vehicle pile-ups because they’re either driving with faulty/failing brakes or just don’t know how to keep control on slick surfaces.

I think back to my time in the UK and the US where, in areas that expected heavy rain or snow — any kind of inclement weather, really — appropriate measures would be (and still are, of course) taken to ensure the safety and well-being of all who ventured outdoors for work or pleasure. Here, coming inclement weather means just the opposite. Workers stop working. Often, this is due to a lack of requisite resources or skills. More often, it is due to certain direction (or lack thereof) from the powers that be. Knowing this to be the time of year when the average person on the street gets more desperate for infrastructure improvements, government organizations and regulatory bodies that deal with contracts/bids/tenders take on a whole new level of importance. These consummate wheelers and dealers work hard to milk the system for whatever they can, generating either stalemates on certain critical projects or granting fraudulent/corrupt deals that result in poor execution, if any.

A sad state of affairs. And, knowing this, a general apathy sets in across the board as well. Talk to people who walk the rain-filled streets each day, sometimes hurting themselves with the odd slip of the foot, and they shake their heads readily that they don’t expect any improvements but will just make do like they’ve done every rainy season. “Chalta hai,” they smile and nod; or “Kya karenge?” they grumble.

What will it take, I wonder, to fix a system so broken that it has disempowered and disenfranchised so many people, even across generations?

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