Hot-and-happening Mumbai

With summer comes the usual litany of complaints — heat, humidity, high electricity bills. But summer, especially summer in Mumbai, comes with a few benefits — bear with me here. Yes, it’s hot but it’s nowhere near as bad as say New Delhi or Ahmedabad, where the temperature can touch 47 degrees Celsius and counting. Or even as bad as Kolkata where the almost 100 per cent humidity is more effective at knocking you out than an elephant tranquiliser.

The high temperatures in Mumbai have been hovering around 33 to 34 degrees, which is not bad at all. The problem is that the minimum is about 27 degrees, which means there is not much difference between night and day. That is why, you might argue, god invented the sea breeze and air-conditioners. And deodorants.

Alphonso, dasheri or langda? Luckily, different varieties of mangoes arrive at various times through the hot season, and the best always comes to Mumbai 

First, the best reason: mangoes, the emperor of all Indian fruits and enough incentive surely to put up with a little gentle discreet perspiration. A friend has started his annual fight on Facebook with an emphatic declaration that the Alphonso or hapus or aapus is the best mango in India. The passionate advocates of langdas and dasheris and everything else have jumped into the fray. I would say try them all, many times, before you decide. Sweet succulent flesh in some, a tart bite for others, the after-tang of turpentine, the tradition of aamras offset against the modern penchant for mousse — everything is accommodated within this magnificent offering. Luckily, different varieties arrive at various times through the hot season and I understand that the best always comes to Mumbai, so there is ample time and opportunity to get both heat boils, a stomach upset and a convincing argument.

Nature provides more delights as well (did I mention the uplifting breeze from the sea every evening?). Take a good look around you. The trees in Mumbai are in their most dramatic avatars. The bright yellow copperpods, the purple Lagerstroemia Indicas (crepe myrtle) and the orangy-red Spathodea Campunalatas (African tulip tree) are in full bloom. Let us not forget the imposing Bhendi (Indian tulip tree) with its flowers which change from a light lemon to a purply pink before they fall, the noble rain tree with its dense foliage and delicate pink flowers and the joyous yellow showers of the Laburnum (Amaltas). The majestic Delonix Regia — all right, no more Latin, usually known as the Gul Mohar — seems to be late this year, but its red glory cannot be contained for too long. Feast your eyes on whatever I’ve left out.

We often moan in Mumbai about its vanishing greenery but luckily, we are fortunate that so much remains. The older the area the better the tree cover might be a fair observation. Venture into newer areas and you will find buildings named after trees and plants rather than the real things themselves.
Having sung this paean to summer, I have to admit to one more reason for liking it. I saw some signs in Worli the other day, looking out at the waters in the evening — big black clouds, rolling in from the Arabian Sea. The countdown to the monsoon will begin in a couple of weeks and that’s when summer gets most exciting. Was that a thunder clap or a passing truck? Was that a pre-monsoon shower or the overhead water tank leaking? As the daft weather people on the BBC start talking about “fine” weather in a drought-ridden, sweltering India, the arrival of the monsoon is eagerly awaited.

Nature has an answer here too. Listen closely for the call of the pied crested cuckoo. Once you hear that, you know that the downpours are not far away. We’ll give the monsoon about a month before we start complaining, yes?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. You can follow her on twitter @ranjona

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