It was a regular Saturday in July as I waited for the bus that would take me home after an early class. I was tired after sitting through two hours of arbitrary maths, and wished nothing more to skip the nearly thirty minutes ride home. I wasn’t in my best mood as I had engaged in a serious fight with a friend and had not slept well enough the previous night to concentrate in class that day, leading to a scolding from my teacher. I wanted to reach home, put on pajamas and go straight to bed. I sighed as I looked up to see ravenous clouds in various shades of grey starting to assemble. I have lived in Mumbai long enough to know there would soon be a downpour.
Ofcourse, I was right. No sooner had I entered the bus than the rains greeted us. I said a small quick prayer thanking God that I was rescued from the peril of wet books, wet hair and a sure fever. I slumped into a seat at the back of the bus, moving quickly to ensure I was near the window. The seat coughed up dust as I placed my bag near me. I looked around the bus and observed the other occupants. There were two old ladies, a few women with children and strange men that dotted the rest of the seats. They seemed uninterested in their surroundings and mostly sat engrossed in their mobile phones.
I heaved a sigh of relief as I heard the roar of the engine and knew I could soon rest. Outside, the rain had gathered momentum and the weather had transformed from a bone dry day to one of pelting water in less than fifteen minutes. Men and women ran hurriedly to shelter themselves from the sudden onset. There were people on scooters and bicycles that rode through the streets with their eyes squinted and their faces contorted to show discomfort. I was surprised to see people struggling but still determined to make it to office on time on a day like that one. A delivery man on a bike zig zagged through the busy traffic and he sent a wave of water splashing onto the street dog sleeping on the curb. It broke my heart to see the water send a cold shiver down his spine and he limped to relocate himself under a shady tree.
I did expect a delay in travel time. However, I did not expect the traffic to be this cumbersome. We had almost come to a standstill and I tried to comfort myself thinking “Better to be stuck at Marine Drive than elsewhere.” The undulating waves of the Arabian Sea soothed me and I watched the ebb and the flow of the ripples. At this time of the year the sea is particularly violent and there’s a beauty in its voluptuous heaving.
I was distracted by a sudden sharp squeal of joy and my eyes found a small girl in a pink raincoat jumping into every puddle she could locate. Her eyes widened with delight as the water splashed around her and I saw for the very first time unadulterated happiness in the face of a young girl. I watched her with a smile as she bounded across the road to purchase some fruits from a very aged man. He bargained with the mother as his shaking wrinkled hands tried to hold a newspaper over his goods in vain. It was a torrential rain but the vendor put on a brave face and continued his work against the odds.
It had already been forty minutes since I had entered the bus and I was just halfway home. I pushed my head out of the window and craned my neck to see how far the traffic lead. A traffic police officer stood in uniform directing vehicles. He wasn’t holding an umbrella and was soaked to the skin. He blew his whistle continuously and was intent on performing his duties to the best of his abilities.
Up ahead I saw the cause of the jam wasn’t attributed to only the heavy rain but also to an accident. The slippery roads had caused a bike to skid and crash into the car. Although nobody was hurt, the bike had lost its function. The rider tried desperately to push the heavy vehicle to the side, and one could see the distress on his face as cars honked unapologetically. I saw men and women alike from the shops nearby rush onto the road to aid him. They did not carry raincoats or umbrellas and did not think twice for their own safety. Soon we were out of the terrible halt and were on our way. I reached home after an hour long bus ride but somehow I did not feel as exhausted as before.
Let me tell you why this mundane and ordinary bus ride on a bleak day in July was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. That day I saw the residents of a city in their purest forms and finally understood why the people of Mumbai make it one of the greatest cities in the world. I saw the strength of everyday workers battling torrential rainfall to go to office to complete an honest day’s work. I watched street hawkers and food vendors pretend it was an ordinary day and call out to passers-by to sell their wares in an attempt to earn a one day’s worth of living. These people do not have the luxury to stay home in the comfort of warmth and dryness, lest they might not be able to provide for their family. I cribbed about the humidity while a child laughed in the face of adversity seeing the positive side of situations. She danced and enjoyed the rain and did not stop to remove her wet socks or complain about feeling cold. Most of all, I watched the generous nature of our people as they ran into the rain to help a fellow brother. It was an act of kindness, pure and without hesitation, as their legs were covered in muck and clothes stuck to their skin. We complain about the services of the police, fire fighters, government officials but we’ve seen them fulfil their duties in the most strenuous of situations.
A city of kindness and determination, and most of all, making the most of the situation we find ourselves in. This is why I love the city of Mumbai. This is also why monsoon is now my favourite season and that day of July the most memorable day of my life.
Marine Drive, Mumbai. July 2011.
(I found this piece from a ninth grade essay I wrote, I still stand by it even today)