Nostalgia and homesickness have an interesting effect on the past, in that it tends to become rather rosier than it actually was.
It rained here a few days ago. Nothing special in itself of course but it did get me thinking about the monsoon in India and the fact that this is the first one that I'm missing in 14 years. Having lived in both Bombay and Pune, I've pretty much seen everything that the season has to offer, right from the collective sigh that always goes out when the first showers hit town to the collective swearing that took place the day the heavens decided Bombay needed a long overdue bath... the day referred to as 'Terrible Tuesday'.
For the average Punekar, Simla Office ( the local met station) is an undeniably lovely bit of architecture but as far as announcing the imminent rains are concerned, it is practically redundant. Round about the end of April and never later than the 2nd week of May, the city fathers sheepishly come out of their stupor & in their collective wisdom reach a consensus on 2 crucial matters; firstly, the lower echelons of the PMC passing themselves off as labourers have had enough of a rest and secondly, the roads of the city look a little too even. Common sense has been declared persona non grata in the corridors of the Central Building a long time ago ofcourse, so you might as well give up that ghost.
Result - 2 weeks later, the duck and frog populations of Pune suddenly realize that they have hit the jackpot as far as ponds are concerned; varying in size, shape and depth, numerous new ones have sprung up on those supposedly tarred surfaces shamelessly attempting to pass themselves off as roads. On cue the heavens open up and well... at least the trees look nice. This is all very well for the flora & fauna but what of the Punekar ? He blasphemes... volubly & venomously with a level of sarcasm that is purely Pune; rather like Bakarwadi (if you don't know, don't ask). He then decides that stoicism has its plus points and proceeds to invest in a spinal support belt. Why the belt ? Well... if you've never ridden a bike in Pune in the monsoons, then let me put it this way - make sure your insurance policy hasn't expired.
Its not all bad mind you. I remember cycling home from school with friends one afternoon once when it began to rain heavily. This was back when you could cut through from NCL to Baner Phata using a route which was unbelievably winding, wind-swept and beautifully serene. You can't use that route any more..... can't see groups of Loyolite kids cycling either..... and they say Pune has progressed.
We guys just looked at each other, nodded in agreement and proceeded to cycle merrily on with our raincoats packed carefully in our bags. Then there was this time Gaurav and I developed the munchies and decided that it made complete sense to go to Senapati Bapat road from Aundh to buy the best bread patties in Pune. You couldn't see more than 5 feet ahead because of the sheer volume of water and I was on my beloved Kinetic which is notoriously unsteady in these conditions. About an hour after we left on this little jaunt, we were comfortably ensconced in our respective sofas with piping hot and spicy patties to one side and to the other, a couple of Drambuies that had long ago passed the level of 'tot'. It can't get any better than that, trust you me.
Need I add the expected ones about endless cups of hot chai and samosas \ bhajiya \ butta which are the only companions to staring out of the windows at the grey skies and glittering diamond droplets pattering off every imaginable point ??
And can we ever even begin to contemplate the relief the long-suffering farmer feels when that first drop hits the fields parched and cracked in the summer heat ?
Water-borne diseases, floods, power-cuts... these exist too. Nostalgia isn't going to sweep these harsh realities under the carpet. But hey, its a package deal so we can take it or leave it. And, thankfully enough, we do take it. Every year... June to September.
Images... they sustain us when the real deal is either no more or too far away. All I need to do is close my eyes and I'm instantly transported back...the smell of wet earth, grey skies, endless tiny streams meandering away & me on my bike and on those roads.
To nowhere and everywhere.
Just like those paper boats.
"Rimjhim gire Saawan..." - Manzil (1979)