Sunday, June 8, 2008

Singing in the Rain

Sudden onset Seasonal Adjustment Disorder and acute jetlag are not a great combo, I discover. Need new batteries for the body clock, and a replacement personal thermostat, because my one’s had it. Apart from that, reintegration’s going à roulettes.
How can an entirely locked-up, uninhabited flat accrue dust? It does, though, which proves we’ve got seepage. Or illicit lodgers, who don’t wipe their feet. Every surface – the dust isn’t picky about horizontal or vertical - is filmed with silt, so the flat looks like it’s made of Fuzzy Felt. And if you close a door which has been propped ajar for the duration, you will find out where dust bunnies go, in the mating season. Cleaning’s the usual self-defeating waste of time, because at best all you’re achieving is relocation. Can you tell I’ve got a mop in my hand, and my hair in a Flo Capp chignon? Mr Andy, meanwhile, sits on the sofa, with a beer in one hand, and the racing results in the other, shouting at the telly, with a fag stuck to his bottom lip. Well, ok, he’s wrangling with his tax returns, but that’s not as interesting, is it?
While I’m sluicing behind the washing-machine, something dark scuttles out from under the kitchen cupboard door. I squawk for Akela, because all I see is movement, and I don’t want to come nose to feeler with a cockroach. By the time he springs into action, I can see it’s a small lizard, still feisty, despite my bopping it on the head with my squeegee mop. Mr Roland gives chase, but it whips back down the drain, where it came from. Local practice is for kitchen and bathroom drains to be flush with the tiled floors, covered only by a perforated metal saucer, which sits loose over the hole. The one in the cupboard under the sink is askew, so I slide the trapdoor back into position, and ponder the $64K question: did the lizard climb all the way up to the thirty-third floor, or was he born here? And – bonus question - if the latter, where’s his Mum? We’re a hundred yards up, we look down, not only on the circling birds, but now, on the rolling rainclouds, so visiting lizards aren’t even on the radar. Or, weren’t. The moral of this story is, never clean behind the washer.
I open the windows, to let a bit of monsoon in. It’s going great guns, at ground level. The tuk-tuks leave the best bow-waves, because three-wheelers are more streamlined than blunt-nosed four-wheelers, it seems. Don’t mock, this counts as empirical scientific observation, if you’re me. Also, the tuk-tuks, with their danger drivers, make no concession to being up to their running-boards in chocolatey floodwater, so their speed’s undiminished. They’ve all sprouted plastic side-panels, like baby-buggy aprons, to entice custom with comfort, though the drivers don’t enjoy the same refuge.
On the forecourt of the block next to ours, Sunday cricket continues, though the rain’s falling out of the sky in a fat spate. Shouts of laughter float up to me, leaning on my dusty sill. Pedestrians saunter along, with or without umbrella, for all the world as if the plugs hadn’t been pulled, over their heads. I begin to wonder why we scurry along, in the wet, back home, like everyone except Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. I can’t suppose that Debbie Reynolds has enchanted every last Indian, down to the last humble hod-carrier, has she?
We wait for the storm to pass, but it’ll go dark first, so we sally forth wetly to D Mart, where all of Powai and his wife are out doing the weekly shop. First, you have to park your umbrella at the door. There’s a designated umbrella-wallah, whose sole and soggy job is to marshal the umbrella-sanctuary, giving each customer a numbered plastic dog-tag in exchange for the collapsed specimen thrust under his nose, scattering liberal drips like a shaggy dog. I smile at him, in a winning what-can-you-do? manner, looking for an ally in elemental adversity, but he’s having none of it. There’s only so much bonhomie you can muster, after seven hours on umbrella-parking, I suppose.
Inside the store – like at Haiko, coincidentally – the umbrella aisle’s doing a roaring trade. There’s patently no superstition, this side of the Arabian Sea, about putting up umbrellas indoors. Given the number of people I see getting poked with a spoke, there perhaps should be.
On the way home, my feet are wet in less than the time it takes to say “Wellingtons,” which means they swim backwards out of my sandals with every step. By the time we get to Crossroad bookshop, just a hop, skip and a jump later, I have got cramp in my toes from over-zealous clenching, so I take my shoes off and carry them. This flies in the face of every inch of monsoon survival advice in the guidebooks. Above all, they say, watch out for pollution, especially in the early days. If I don’t go barefoot, though, I’m about to fall over, possibly down a flooded manhole I don’t know is there, because it’s cunningly disguised as wet pavement, and the ambulance won’t be able to get through because the road’s under-water... You see the dilemma. I’ll spritz down with Dettol, when I get to dry land, honest.
The tv has also taken a turn for the rainy season. The adverts promote vitamin-enhanced fruit juices, to keep the germs at bay, or extra control conditioner, for unruly monsoon-hair. Apparently, this weather’s likely to make my hair frizzy. Perish the thought.
Tomorrow, I’m shopping for my Monsoon Box. According to received wisdom, you have to keep emergency supplies in the car, for if. One day in July 2005, Mumbai had 27 inches of rain, a world record; our very own Monu was stuck in the car, on a bridge, for eight hours. So, that proves it. Tomorrow, I’m collecting water, juice, biscuits, towels, spare shoes, a bucket and a blanket (don’t ask what these two are for...), as well as in-car entertainment. I’ll teach Monu how to play Uno, in exchange for Hindi lessons. I just hope the flash-floods don’t arrive, before we get to Hyper City.