I have my share of monsoon memories — some happy, some gloomy
I have my share of monsoon memories — some happy, some gloomy

First up, let me say, I hate the rains. Not the rains in Mumbai because it turns everything grey and depressing — I hate the rains, period. As a child, my parents wondered why I would get mayoos on certain days. Then they figured it out. A cloud in the sky and my mood would begin to change. Rain, and my face would be longer than a queue for alcohol in a village liquor shop on a holiday eve.

So how have I survived the rains for the last 45 years in a city that basically has the celestial tap opened above it in June and turned off in October? Simple. Rugby. For reasons that have to do with the availability of grounds in Mumbai, rugby here is played in the rains. There's nothing like pain, mud, blood and broken bones to take your mind off the depressing effects of the monsoon. Having said that, like any Mumbaiite, I have my share of monsoon memories — some happy, some gloomy, but all of them quintessentially Mumbai.

My first memories go back to slushing miserably to the school bus stop in raincoat and gum boots (do they call them that anymore?), hoping there'd be a magical call from the school office, cancelling school that day. Rain holidays! How we used to yearn for them! Sometimes, the school bus would be delayed and like prison escapees, we'd turn around very slowly and start walking home, hoping we wouldn't hear the bus' horn. The more distance we put between the bus stop and ourselves, the faster we'd walk, and just when we would break into a trot, we'd hear the dreaded sound of the triumphant horn reeling us in like prized catch.

But, there were pleasant memories too. Running from school (Flora Fountain) to home (Napean Sea Road) in the rain, perfect long distance training for the annual cross country race. Jogging down Marine Drive, getting drenched by waves so high sometimes they missed you altogether and hit the road instead. Every birthday spent trekking through Borivali National Park in the rains (yup, it's divine sadism that my birthday falls squarely in the middle of the monsoon), followed by a picnic lunch of parathas, aloo dum and sookha mutton. Food never tastes as good as when you are cold and drenched, sitting on a rock next to a mini waterfall in the forest. Watching Woody Allen movies at home with my girlfriend, the rain outside strumming in harmony with our hormones.

Our gang of boys walking aimlessly on a soaked Sunday evening, stopping every kilometre to eat — bhel puri at Chandralok near home, frankies at Scandal Point, sandwiches on Altamount Road and pani puri near Activity High School on Pedder Road. Watching the dahi-handi at Nana Chowk being broken during Govinda. Rehearsing for Are There Tigers In The Congo? with Rajit Kapur and on terribly rainy days, spending the night at director Rahul daCunha's place. Suicidally cycling down a rain-drenched hillside in Lonavla for English, August — those screams are for real.

But, for all my animus towards the rains, I could not imagine this city without them. Every piece of music has its swells and downturns, and for every me who thinks the rains are a downturn, there at least nine Mumbaiites for whom this is the climax of the year, the time that marks the uniqueness of this city. Put that way, even I tend to agree.