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Thursday, July 28, 2005


Monsoon - The rains have arrived in India

"When it rains it pours"......and pours


According to reports, parts of the Indian sub-continent are feeling the full brunt of the onslaught of monsoon. The south-west monsoon is an yearly occurrence. There are years when it does not bring enough rain and then there are years when there is too much of it. People depend on it (need it for agricultural crops); anxiously wait for it and dread its fury. From all accounts, this year the monsoon is breaking previous records and bringing misery to people who fall within its range.

E-mail from a friend mentioned that her brother in Bombay (Mumbai) was unable to go home and spent a night in the office; not an isolated case. Bombay received more than 37 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. For comparison, here in the San Francisco Bay Area we had 47 inches in the entire 1997-98 season, the wettest on record.

When I worked in Calcutta, there were days during the monsoon when streets became water-logged (it does not take much rain to cause that in Calcutta) and public transportation came to a standstill. People took off their shoes, rolled up their trousers and slogged through streets full of floating garbage. It was more difficult for women. In those days most of the women wore saris. The only other option was to find a rickshaw and pay the rickshaw puller whatever he demanded. It was entirely a "sellers' market".

I have done both--walked through flooded streets carrying my shoes, and rode a rickshaw.

Rickshaw Puller, CalcuttaPosted by Picasa
Photo credit: www.liberaassociazioneilpopolo.it/

Cherrapunji (Lat/Lon: 25.2° N 91.7° E) in North-eastern India has the distinction of being the wettest place on earth. The Dept. of Tourism, Govt. of India, reports the average rainfall as 434 inches per year while the Wikipedia site shows 450 inches! Think about it.

"It's ironic that locals in the wettest place on earth have more to worry about than which gumboots to wear that day. Cherrapunji deals with monsoons. Monsoons are seasonal winds that bring torrential rains for up to six months, then the wind changes direction and for the next six months hardly any rain falls at all. Cherrapunji sees most of its rain during the monsoon season which last for four months. For the rest of the year villagers deal with drought and have to collect water from a pipeline - it's the only place they can get fresh water. " Source: kidzworld.com

Anyone interested in learning about the monsoon but not getting bogged down in scientific treatise would enjoy Alexander Frater's "Chasing the Monsoon" . Former travel editor of the London Observer, Mr. Frater did what the title of his book says--chased the monsoon. In 1987 he followed the monsoon from the beginning to end. Cherrapunji was the final stop for Mr. Frater. Whether describing his experiences with bureaucrats in charge of permits or writing about ordinary people that he met, Mr. Frater vividly brought back the India I knew.

To top it off, he wrote about a man that I personally knew from my association with the steamship company for which his employers served as agents! Mr. Frater met Manjoo Menon during his visit to the Malabar Coast. Small world.

Chasing the Monsoon Posted by Picasa

Mr. Frater's book is available both in print and audio editions. Immensely enjoyable. Bernard Mays did a superb job reading for the audio version. A friend to whom I recommended it said he felt sad when it came to an end. So did I.

Record rainfall brings chaos in India (The Guardian,UK)

Map: South West Monsoon in India

Technical data about South West Monsoon.

upon reading this I realized that it's time for you to write your memoirs. All that lyricism can't go to waste.

Now I have another book to find. :)

the usual 3 reverential bows,

yrs ever,

Wonderful! I look forward to reading this. (as soon as I finish with Barak Obama)

Thanks for the beautiful words and thoughts.

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