Welcome to my annual monsoon blog post. I’m a bit late this year, but then the rains were a bit late this year.
It’s been raining continuously for a week. The air is clear, the temperatures are lower, and the wind smells clean again. The perpetual haze of smoke that Mumbaiites take for granted has washed away, and every colour is brighter. There are a million shades of green right outside my window. The bright neons, the khakis, the verdant greens and the mosses.
I travel between Pune and Mumbai a lot, and train journeys are a joy in the monsoon. The wind on my face much softer, much cooler, much less dusty. The deep, green smell of the air inside a forest in the monsoon has become a part of my soul.
I took a couple of pictures on my last journey, but obviously pictures cannot truly show what the eye sees. Mind you, these are not edited at all, except maybe for some cheeky cropping. I was in a moving train, so was constrained as to angles and time.
Sadly, I can’t eat bhutta this year. I have braces. But I can, and will, eat all the kanda bhajis and drink all the chai that I can, nestling my umbrella between my neck and shoulder, on the side of the road, plate in hand. I can, and will, go to Marine Drive, and watch the grey Arabian Sea broil and thrash against the rocks. I will once again be in awe of thunder and lightning. I will try to paint the way the stormy sea reflects the stormy sky, either with words or brushes, and I will fail.
We recently had district elections in Maharashtra, and they’re still going on in Uttar Pradesh. This means that jingoistic rhetoric is at an all-time high, and my social media is filled with contradicting opinions and arguments among friends.The newspapers are filled with tragedies and dire warnings. As someone who follows politics regularly, it’s really hard to see the silver lining around the speeches and the tweets.
After a particularly passionate debate over the dinner table last Sunday, I decided to list out and appreciate the small joys of the week; joys that did not depend on who was milking money in the Municipal Corporation for the next four years. These are as follows:
I played cricket after a really long time. It was amazing to be in a team with people I’d hardly ever talked to over the last three years. It was nostalgic as well and brought back memories of playing with my brothers.
I had a very, very long day. I attended a lecture at 8 am, then postings at 9, then another lecture after that, and then a 6-hour session on neurology which ended at 10 pm. I was alert and awake for everything without getting crabby! I’m very proud of myself.
I finally realised what neuroanatomy was about, and was able to clear misconceptions I’d had for three years. I had many ‘a-ha!’ moments. I’m so happy.
I was examining a patient today, and practising obstetric grips. She was an uneducated woman from a very remote part of Central India, shy and a little intimidated by ‘city people’. My consultant had admitted her as a high-risk pregnancy (she’d already had four miscarriages at the age of 23). She was near term, so it was very easy to understand the lie and presentation of the baby. I told her where the head, buttocks and anterior shoulder of her baby was and made her hear the fetal heart sounds. Her face lit up into a gorgeous smile. I hadn’t really done much, but it made my day.
I saw THE most adorable puppy on the street today. It was white and fluffy and the happiest, tiniest baby I have ever seen. It was like a bouncy little cloud. At one point, it decided it was going to sit on the road and not go any further, so the owner picked it up like a baby. It burst into excited face-licking and tail-wagging at that so this may have been the plan all along. I was watching from my window. I squealed and ran immediately to my hostel mates so that they could enjoy the puppy too. Then we ooh-ed and aah-ed for half an hour after the puppy was out of sight.
I travel by train from Mumbai to my parents’ house on weekends. I got a window seat, which was amazing. I had a cool breeze on my face for the entire journey, plus an amazing view of the Sahyadris while they still have some of the green left over from the monsoon and winter. There were three toddlers in my compartment, which I was really tense about, but they were quiet and well-behaved throughout. Also, I got to meet my cats and dogs after a week! I love them. They love me.
1.) Watching white paint dry: Not kidding. My friend repainted a part of her wall which had been taken over by fungus (ah, monsoon magic!) with white anti fungal paint. I had a Surgery test the next day. I spent at least half an hour watching that freshly painted wall and imagining all the fungal spores dying. It was so satisfying, it inspired this post.
2.) Cleaning my room: This is my go-to thing to do when I don’t actually want to study but I still want to feel like I accomplished something.
3.) Talk to my neighbours: I’m at my most social when I have to do something that I don’t want to do. That works both ways; it lets me participate in a communal whining about exams, but also motivates me to study when I see other people studying.
4.) Watch a soap opera in a language I don’t understand: What can I say? It was on in the TV room, and I watched the entire episode and got way too emotionally involved. Which also brings us too…
5.) Watch a sport that I don’t understand: See above.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy studying. I love what I do and I’m grateful that I’m living my dream. It’s just that when you’ve been giving exams on and off for three months, you get tired of the entire exercise. I like to study without feeling like I have to write a paper on it, and I learn the most in the hospital. I have my preliminary exams in 19 days, which means I should technically be studying now. I guess I should add one more thing on the list. :-S
First, you have the tiny, tiny insects that get in your books and die almost instantly, leaving you with black marks all over the pages. Then there are the fuzzy grey ones that hover over any food item that has the misfortune to be kept in the open for longer than half an hour. Then, of course, you have the more recognizable insects like ants, spiders and cockroaches, with their more specialised cousins, flying ants, spiders and cockroaches. I seem to attract the latter quite a lot.
Speaking of flying, you will also be made aware of exactly how many different types of insect bodies you can possibly stick wings on. We’ve learnt some entomology in school and now in Community Medicine, but nothing beats actually getting to live with these creatures.
Of course, we should not fail to mention our slightly larger friends, lizards and rodents. I’ve been known to name and domesticize my lizard neighbours, but I can’t seem to bond with the ones I have now. The rats around my hostel are so adapted to medical students by now that they know exactly where to find my ramen and exactly which important textbooks to gnaw. I want to internalise my textbooks too, but I have to say, my commitment falls far short of theirs. The resident squirrel outside my window does not show academic leanings, thankfully. However, it does prefer my textbooks to shit on, so maybe it’s still developing its interests.
All in all, it’s a wonderful way to teach yourself that not everything you read in a textbook is true. For example, that human beings are supposed to be at the top of the food chain No, you’re not. You’re a nutritious food source for an entire ecosystem.
I always read about how ‘it was a lovely, sunny day’ and ‘her smile was as sunny as a summer afternoon’ like sunny is somehow equal to happiness. I can see why people from temperate countries find the sun something to be happy about. Sometimes, as is the traditional Indian way, people from here like using the phrase too just because Westerners use it. I promise you, however, in India –especially for me– happiness is an overcast sky, lots of wind, and rain.
I have always found extreme heat more intolerable than extreme cold. I know some of my friends disagree, but especially after my time in Kota, me and my extremely photosensitive skin try and stay away from direct sunlight. You can imagine then, the monsoon season is an absolute godsend for me.
How could I not love it? Harsh, sweltering days where you can’t escape sweat even in the shower are replaced by bright grey mornings and windy afternoons. The usually brown and dry Sahyadri mountains (while beautiful even then) are transformed into a million shades of green that will take your breath away. The sky is dynamic, changing from clear to cloudy in seconds. A mild drizzle could change into a thunderous cloudburst in seconds, and it feels like it will never end but then vanishes instantly like it never happened.
Oh, and the food! Anyone who hasn’t had kanda bhaji and chai in the rain is missing something in life. Or bhutta with lemon and chilli, standing under an umbrella, bought from a gadi wala on the street corner.
This needs lemon and chilli powder
I know, I know, I’m lucky that I live in a hostel five minutes away from my place of study and work. I don’t have to commute, and commuting in the monsoon is not fun because every train is always late. However, I counter with this- commuting in the summer is even less fun. You’re drenched in sweat till you reach your destination, and it’s not always just your own sweat. I will say no more.