Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene and I

I am sitting here , dry at home, at the desktop, the curtain billowing into my face, and sky is getting more and more ominous. This weekend in Mumbai, has been of nonstop lashings of rain, combined with winds.

Naturally, despite low pressures and depressions or whatever, that build over the Arabian Sea, there was no agency telling us to expect this onslaught over the weekend, and still continuing. Without fail, every time, someone appears in the papers, after the stuff has begun, to say how this is due to some low pressure bands, or winds or whatever. Which doesnt help anyone planning to travel and so on. I know at least one family which was travelling to Goa this weekend, and must be in the thick of this right now.

And those of us in Mumbai, simply continue to go to work, get totally wet standing at bus-stops trying to ensure the umbrellas do not suddenly turn turtle. Some cars, with fellows sitting inside agonizing about the stock market in the newspaper, careen by, splashing the potholed water on school uniforms, sarees, and wash-and-wear trousers.

And you stand in a bus, and don't say a word, as your neighbor transfers his umbrella to the other hand, thereby dripping water on you; he needs to access his wallet in his pocket, buy a ticket, and it will be his turn next to enjoy a dripping umbrella , when you buy yours.

Our trains continue to trundle , overloaded with those that make Mumbai what it is , till it looks like a river flows ahead in its path. Then they stop. Between stations. Ever resourceful, the folks inside jump out, helping women out of their compartment, and start trudging along the tracks, umbrellas open, hands chained to the next person, so as to not be surprised by sudden gaps in the ground beneath the swirling waters on the rails..

Mumbai's buses, those hardy bulwarks , sneeze their exhaust, and chug around, chock a block with passengers, giving a new meaning to the word "space"; there is always room for a few more... Once in a while, it all becomes too much while traversing a misjudged pothole , and the bus stops, at an angle, unable to continue. Traffic swirls around it, passengers rush to other buses, stand out in the rain, and life continues.

Papers are now full of how "repaired and filled potholes", are once again remaining true to their original name; how pedestrians walkways are flooded, how we must be careful of flooded areas, because of the city's trash floating in it, and like every year, hospitals give statistics on the latest likely epidemics, based on the patients they are seeing.

And then I read all about "Irene", the hurricane calamity befalling the eastern seaboard of the US. Days before it is supposed to appear, it is all over the papers and on TV, the citizenry residing in the likely towns in its path, rushes out to hoard water, provisions, batteries, groceries, and whatever else. Television weather folks continuously track the advent of Irene, every twist, turn, and deviation in the path; not to mention sudden losses of strength. Timelines, indicate when to expect Irene where, as if she is Barack Obama on an official trip.

People are ordered to evacuate, kept away from beaches, signs on highways and freeways in Irene's path, flash messages about the approaching hurricane, urging folks to reach somewhere safe.

I just heard about New York's Grand Central Station being emptied, as trains are cancelled and stopped. Flights are cancelled .

And there are minute to minute updates , the most amazing one I read , that says, Irene is supposed to arrive someplace in 20 minutes. I mean, for someone who is actually subject to what is called Indian Stretchable Time (instead of the official Indian Standard Time), scheduling Irene right down to the minute is a bit too much. Such a prediction here in Mumbai would be impossible and infeasible. The most they would have said here , is that the landfall would happen tomorrow. And even then nobody would have believed them .

I can actually picture some mother in Queens, Long Island, rushing home from somewhere with her kids, turning into her garage with the click of the wireless garage door opener, clicking it shut, and then hearing the whoosh and bang of the rain outside, as Irene arrives, on schedule.

There are folks on Facebook giving brief entries about the Irene happenings in their areas.

In amazing Mumbai style, there is a picture of water cascading down the steps leading down to some New York area subway station. Then there are photos of people in boats on what were formerly roads in New York. There has been a huge amount of hype about the coming of Hurricane Irene, and everyone is mobilized, with offices shut, schools closed, semester openings postponed, people getting updates on Twitter, and President Obama sitting in at the Hurricane Headquarters . ( I actually saw a photo on the Net, and even wondered how he would get back to the White House, in case the hurricane struck while he was there. But I guess he follows and believes the weather folks there; I guess , he will reach back before Irene reaches the capital).

Someone in the weather bureau announces, that Irene is now being downgraded to a tropical storm , because it is, presumably behaving less angry.

I am just amazed Irene listens and behaves exactly as they are saying.

I don't know why they name hurricanes as they do in the US. First Katrina. Now Irene.

If this was India, I guess Kareena would be jealous.

If they do name storms and stuff in India, only the weather folks here know about it. I don't think they get time to prepare a name. Its like a baby arriving way before it is scheduled. Or maybe they prepare a name and it's a false alarm.

But if they did, it would possibly named after a politician. Seemingly powerful, with a one track ambition of running roughshod over everything, to advance in its own path; misleading folks; causing a lot of damage to everyday ordinary folks, who actually voted for him.

Somewhere, Irene has finished her walk on the eastern carpet.

We carry on. Depressions, storms, cyclones, hurricanes and what have you. Nothing stops us.

And so , this morning, on a Sunday, a young girl, cycling in the rain and howling wind, to teach swimming to kids at dawn, at a neighboring facility, returns home, drenched in pouring rain, dripping , and doesn't think it's anything special.

She changes into dry clothes, zooms in on a hot breakfast, clutches her comfortably hot coffee cup, and says, "You know that blogger friend of yours who runs marathons ? I saw him running in the rain this morning as I was cycling by......."

( I am sure my blogger friend doesn't think he is doing anything special too.)

As Irene takes a deep breath and quietens down, somewhere else, nothing has changed.

The world goes on.


  1. This is such an amusing post! I had to laugh, because I could just picture the scenes you described so well. Is India that backward? Even here in Hawaii, we are forewarned days in advance of a hurricane so we can prepare for it. Ah, the wonders of weather satellites!

  2. the comment above reminds me 'we are like that only' :(

  3. gigihawaii Its not about being backward. More about the technology, government, and priorities, being, as they say, on the same page. And it amuses/amazes me how people in the US plan weekend travel etc based on weather forecasts.....:-)

    magiceye Actually, i greatly resisted using that phrase in the post ....:-)

  4. hahahahaha! but its true only na..we seriously had people walking..yes yes walking at 5 in the morning with umbrellas in their hands..continuing their usual routine..and I as usual managed to get the bus boarding the best bus with R in tow, and R's water bag and R's bag and R's raincoat and my bag and my umbrellas...we Mumbaikars really dont get bogged down do we ;)

  5. Maybe, hurricane is novelty to some, but we always have one at hand. We are more interested (and get affected) by hurricanes like Anna, Baba, Sachin and so on :-)

  6. wonderful post! this morning, i had some very similar thoughts...

    the school bus didnt turn up, i called up the school and they apologized, saying that the bus had broken down, and they had just sent another one to get the kids in it to school, so could i please drop my son at school myself? i simply picked up my umbrella and some change and waded through water to drop him off... and he, who hasnt had to wade through water in school uniform before, splashed happily, reminding me of my own school days... and i felt, we werent doing anything special!

    seeing the pics of Irene, i was just telling myself how similar it was, and how different! but i could never have put it down as beautifully as u have!

  7. Stumbled upon your blog and so nice to know that you are in India. I know Mumbai has been receiving heavy downpour, been seeing it in the news. You have a nice blog... will drop by often.

  8. Hi guys. Perhaps "backward" was a wrong word. After all, many Americans go to India for advanced medical treatment that is unavailable in the USA. I guess what I meant to say is: Why did India spend so much money on nuclear bombs when it could have been spent on the development of weather satellites? A whole post could be written on that topic alone.

  9. I could also criticize the US for developing so many weapons when the money could be used for social welfare.

  10. He heh! "Tale of two countries...." :)

  11. I think that, fortunately, the US did learn something from the Katrina debacle and it showed with Irene. It could have been SO much worse. Marvelous post as always.


  12. Haaaaa ! I echo - we are like this only ! It happens only in India !
    Gawd , i love my country !

  13. Ha,ha!cute post. and pinky actually went to teach kids swimming in pouring rain? so nice to hear abt. that. Actally there are doers that go on as if nothing has happened and cribbers that grumble even with the best facilities.

    And my son was sleeping when i rang him to find out if he was okay in NYC and if he would prefer to move to maryland where daughter no.1 lives. 'No chance. Trains are not running' he said and went off to sleep again.He seems to have inherited the right genes.

  14. R's Mom Ye. Life must go on, rain, floods, storms or whatever ....

    aativas Both types of hurricanes seem to be uncontrollable by the powers that be .....

    Anu Its fun here isnt it ! I guess Irene is more serious ad organized....

    Karen Thank you, and welcome to the blog...

    gigihawaii we can only hope and wish that our governments think differently....

    Manju Thank you.

    Sylvia I wish our authorities learnt from experience. But everytime it gets worse.

    Kavita Kya karein ? I agree, we are like that only....

    HHG I think children these days dont allow anything to keep them from doing what they like :-)