Not that it’s news, but it rained in my city today. It was not a thunderstorm, just a strong drizzle. Much like the way it has been raining since even before the start of Monsoon. The climatologists explain that Kolkata, my city, has a Tropical wet-and-dry climate, but it is a misnomer. The proximity of the city to the Bay of Bengal, the largest bay in the world, is to be blamed. It causes tropical storms during the monsoon while, during the humid summers every inhabitant of the city has a tropical storm of sweat of his own. The city leaves us in a perpetual state of wetness, whether monsoon or summer. Yes, practically, these are the only two seasons. Winters are notional in my city.
Before I carry on, I must confess that I’m not a full-time inhabitant of the city. I live in a ‘Commuter Town’ located outside of it – in its suburban sprawl. I form an insignificant part of the populace that lays siege on the city every day. We come in trains or buses or ferries or cars or motorcycles or any other vehicle that would take us to our destinations. To our ‘work’. We stay neatly stacked at our destinations the whole day and when the evening grows decrepit, we withdraw. But, only to repeat it the next day.
So, it rained today. The Ganga went ebullient. So did the drains, brimming the streets with filth. It probably would have been better if the Municipality had decided to unblock the drains before the rains started. But what is commendable is that their dormancy did break before the monsoon ended. Unfortunately, water had already gone over the head by the time, metaphorically speaking that is. Fortunately, literally, it had just reached the knees. So when the rains stopped intermittently, the Municipality deployed its infantry. The cleaning troops came in and strategically scooped out the filth that blocked the drains. They then perched it on the side of the streets because where else would’ve they put it? The efficient Municipality had planned that its second offensive on the filth would include re-scooping it off from the side of the streets onto dump trucks. These trucks would then take it off to a forsaken place outside the city, where the muck would live the rest of its life happily. However, the second offensive hadn’t begun yet. So, as it rained, the muck started feeling homesick and begun to flow towards the drain, across the street. This left the citizens, including yours truly, needing to wade through a street full of slimy, slippery filth.
The evening had grown decrepit and it was time to withdraw. I came out of work and started to make my way through puddles and puddles of rain water, crisscrossing them like a ramp model doing her catwalk while exhibiting the latest fall collection. If my leather shoes could speak they would have, most probably, sued me for attempted murder by drowning. In trying to avoid a small puddle, I accidentally stepped into a larger puddle and soaked my shoes. In dripping shoes and wet socks, I continued to walk towards the Ferry Ghat.
The Fairlie Place intersection had cars and buses pointing in every direction. And Strand Road, with an unending line of stationary vehicles, seemed like a parking plaza. Sensing the immobility of their carriers, people had begun to abandon their buses and lunged for the ferry. The ferries, on the other hand, were unperturbed by the rains and were making their trips to the other side of the river in under seven minutes, as usual. The sudden torrent of people to the Ghat had resulted in a long queue in front of the ticket counters. Each one of them was probably contemplating whether they would’ve reached the railway station, on the other side of the river, quicker if they’d continued on the bus. As the people waited patiently in line for their tickets, I, a regular and a monthly pass holder, boarded the ferry, without having to wait for the tickets. It was already crammed, but more and more people were still trying to get on it. So, it left before the scheduled time.
As I said, the Ganga was ebullient and the 7 minutes’ ride felt like being on the high seas. The old ferry, filled with people, jerked and swung. But the people couldn’t have bothered any less. This happens every time it rains. This was usual.
A slight drizzle had begun when the ferry reached the other side. People jumped off the ship and onto the jetty before it had docked. Everyone scrambled to reach the subway first. People hurried and umbrellas clashed on the pathway. They thrust their tickets in the hands of the ticket checker who had one too many hands jabbing at him, but he still managed to catch a dubious guy who tried to sneak out without a ticket. People carried on.
The subway was flooded with water up to ankles. We ditched the subway and crossed the bustling street with a hand held up high signalling the speeding cars to stop. It doesn’t work. It, generally, requires a braveheart who jumps in front of a car making the driver slam the breaks, then the crowd follows. And, that is how you get a traffic jam.