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Anti-romance of rains

Anti-romance of rains
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Rain loves the city It loves to go thundering on rooftops, go pitter patter on the blacktop streets Rain likes to snake down the tall walls of...

Rain loves the city. It loves to go thundering on rooftops, go pitter patter on the blacktop streets. Rain likes to snake down the tall walls of buildings and to sprinkle pearls on window panes. It enjoys coming down from heavens that almost seem to be within the reach of the towering skyscrapers.

It loves to flow briskly down streets into rivulets and disappear into sudden holes in the roads. It loves to dance on the millions of umbrellas that spring up in a multitude of colours and to swish on the windshields of the vehicles. It loves to wash the carbon-coated trees clean and paint the grass green. Rain loves the city.

How city dwellers take to rain has been a favourite theme of filmmakers. Starting from the iconic and astonishingly nimble Gene Kelly doing a tap dance on the street in pouring rain singing ‘‘Come on with the rain, I have a smile on my face, I walk down the lane with a happy refrain…Dancing in the rain, I'm happy again’’ to the inspired scene of Raj Kapoor and Nargis in the memorable “Pyar Hua Ikraar hua….” to the more later “Aaj Rapat Jaayein”, where Amitabh courts a drenched Smita Patil, to the unambiguous ‘‘On the roof in the rain’’ and the umbrella-riddled “Zoobi doobi…” cinema spared no effort in romanticizing rain in the city.

Filmmakers love rain. And the rain loves the city. But does the city love rain?
As metropolises grow bigger and bigger and people develop more and more shields against the harshest days of seasons, it appears it is just rain that evades all measures and continues to have its way in cities, raining at whim. Heat has been conquered with homes becoming airconditioned havens as much as offices have always been and cold has failed to penetrate the layers of warmth that people plied on. It is just the water sheets that pour down from the sky that has remained immune to human interventions.

Rain is associated so much with romance. Not just of the amorous kind but also of anyone who savours life. Kids in puddles, people walking with colourful umbrellas, snuggling under a blanket, hot pakoras and chai and watching it rain down outside have been fancies that people have long put into practice with panache.

“But it is not the same rain anymore,” says Ramya Ramesh, actor and research intern. “These days, monsoons seem to have no rhyme or reason. We are forced to prepare so much more when rain is predicted. On a working day, when I am running off to an assignment, I can hardly feel any romance in the rain,” she says.

The urban disenchantment with rain has a lot to do with the bustle and buzz of urban populations, especially those who have tight timelines and demanding schedules. “Rain in rush hour these days means, I just have to take half a day off. I can hardly say I am late for an appointment because it is raining. After all, it rains for everyone,” smiles Sumana Reddy, a marketing professional.

Not just work, rain is now a lifestyle-cramper too. One heavy rain and everything goes haywire - power cuts that plunge our lives into darkness, Wi-Fi cuts that choke us out of virtual reveries, Swiggy cuts that bring hunger to fore, Amazon cuts that disrupt retail therapies and Ola cuts that snap our connections with the rest of the civilised world. With the modern lifelines cut off, urban denizens are hardly in the mood to celebrate one of nature's most wonderful miracles called rain.

"I think a whole generation of music/film/ rain lovers cannot resist humming “Rimjhim Gire Savan” when there is a mention of monsoon. Amitabh and the giggly Mousumi Chatterjee coasting through the rain-soaked streets of Mumbai, it is an imagery that is indelible in our minds. But you just cannot do that anymore in cities, walk like that in rain," points out Ravindra L, a writer.

The rainwater carries oil, grease, trash, sewage and maybe even unspeakable things as it flows through city roads and who wants to step into such muck, he grimaces.

The water that washes down trees and turns them green is nothing but carbon soup and the water that drips from buildings is filled with chemicals and dust particles. "In fact, considering that we have high levels of toxic suspended particulate matter in the air, the rain we see can very well be an acid rain," Ravindra says. And what do we smell? Just washed up muck that does not dry for days, he shudders.

Rain is a boon for farmers, especially when it is timely. A good monsoon sets a farmer on the path to prosperity. Conversely, a good monsoon drowns cities that have inadequate infrastructure to cope with torrential downpours. Rainy season is a nightmare for city administrations which are stretched to the last emergency worker to step in every time a road is flooded.

"Rains need a whole lot of coordination between various civic agencies. Bad roads, heavy traffic, encroachments in nallahs and tanks, inadequate sewerage infrastructure, lack of funds and manpower - we are dogged by so many issues that make monsoon administration a horrendous challenge. We are not just under tremendous pressure to prevent loss of property and life but also maligned all around," a senior official of the GHMC lists out their woes, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It is not enough to somehow scrape through a monsoon and heave a sigh of relief but a whole policy and action plan is needed to make it a part of the regular administration, he says.

"Mitti ki khushboo" is a phrase that poets never tire of using and that khushboo (fragrance), the quaintly termed petrichor is a product of rain.

Poets wax eloquent about the various forms of precipitation – rain, showers, torrent, downpour, drizzle, storm, deluge and cloudburst.

"When Longfellow wrote: How beautiful is the rain! After the dust and heat, In the broad and fiery street, In the narrow lane, How beautiful is the rain!" he hardly could visualise the modern urban scenario," laughs KS Sarma, a retired English teacher. "Longfellow wrote of schoolboys frolicking in rain in the streets, rain clattering like hooves on roofs. He even spoke of how he could see Aquarius, the representative of water god Zeus, scattering raindrops on the world. But what the poet failed to see was the mess that rain can make in the modern megapolises," he says.

The city is annoyed with rain. The way it gets into its balconies and its garages, into its cars and its shoes. The city hates the way its potholes get filled and its pollution gets washed down, over our heads. It hates the smell of oil and sewage that pervades the air when the rain is done raining. And it appears it takes a whole lot of paraphernalia starting from steaming hot chai to spicy mirchi bajjis, from mellifluous songs to warm blankets, from better roads to cleaner localities to once again make city see romance in rain.

By: Usha Turaga-Revelli

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