How to be rain-ready and enjoy the monsoons this year

The monsoons have swept the city off its feet. While some Mumbaiites are praying the rain clouds take a break, others have donned their rain gear and set out to explore the city at its prettiest best. By the time this newspaper falls into your hands, most citizens have spent that extra hour stuck in a traffic jam, struggled to find a mechanic after the car broke down or got drenched from head to toe minutes before an important meeting -- at least once this season.

Yet, Mumbai and rains, rains and Mumbai -- they are like inseparable twins. Or perhaps long lost lovers would be more apt. We love to hate the rains but then again, we look forward, even pray, for the clouds to arrive every year. But even as global warming changes the very way monsoon bears down on us, one thing remains constant -- we are never quite well-prepared for the fury of nature. Or are we?

Big waves splash across the Marine Drive during the rainy season. File Pic

Sure you have your favourite tea (or liquor) brand stocked up and ensured all mobile bills are paid. But have you checked for leaks, fixed open wires, got that anti-rust coating done on your car, kept a spare umbrella and shirt in your car /office? And are the city’s protectors doing enough? Or will such a question always be treated as a joke?

Neeraj Fernandes sent his Accord to a car spa before the monsoons. Pic/Nimish Dave

As we enter our four-month relationship with the rains, various measures are taken to make it a mutually likeable affair. Even heritage buildings, be it Esplanade House, Elphinstone Building or the Yacht Club are undergoing repair work. The gutters have thankfully been unclogged, many broken windows replaced lest water enter the structure and dampen the walls, lightening arresters checked, and the meter rooms protected from flooding. But what about your home?

Manjula Shah (extreme right) enjoys a cup of tea with family and neighbourss at her Matunga residence. Every year, the Shahs makeshift their roof so they can use the passage to store things, and as a spot to sit in the evenings. Pic/Shadab Khan

Balcony blues 
Take for instance the two-storeyed Shantiniketan building in Matunga, where the passage between flats is just three feet wide. Round the year, one can see bicycles parked along the length, clothes hanging from the clothesline and women indulging in conference chats over a cup of tea. But as the rains arrived in a wave of fury last week, 53-year-old Manjula Shah, who lives on the first floor of the building, called in the carpenters to create a makeshift shed outside the passage using tarpauline sheets and bamboo sticks. “This is the time for community tea sessions and socialising. The shed will protect us from the showers. We can then bring out the chairs and enjoy the rains instead of sitting at home and fretting,” Shah smiles, the excitement evident in her voice. Now that’s called being rain-ready.

Drive away 
When it pours, we make sure the mobile phone doesn’t get wet and the laptop and the iPad sport the latest waterproof gear. What about that trusted steed though -- the car that you drive every day? Don’t take it for granted or it may let you down on a rainy day. Neeraj Fernandes has learnt from experience. This year, he sent his four-year-old Honda Accord to Xpress Pitstop Car Spa, a car service centre in Kandivli. “We live by the sea and during the monsoon, several parts of the car, especially the under-body, tend to catch rust. So, I got a complete anti-rust treatment done as well as a nano-coating for the windscreen. For the first time, I don’t have to worry about driving in the heavy rains, as the coating prevents water droplets on the screen, and I don’t have to rely on wipers alone,” the Malad-resident tells us, adding that he also got his bike ready for the rains. And since cars get muddy every time a pothole with a puddle appears out of nowhere, Fernandes has given his car a Teflon coating. To ensure he can roll down his windows to enjoy the rains once in a while, he has fitted a door vizor for his windows that allow him to roll them down and yet, avoid water from trickling inside.

This season sees increased activity in coastal areas, and we were curious to know what safety measures have been taken not only for revellers who go for a dip at the beaches, but also for the rescue teams at work. Sunil Nesarikar, deputy fire officer, western region, says, “We provide raincoats to the fire department, and have a flood rescue team deputed in low-lying areas, which are prone to high tide and water logging.” Trained squads equipped with tubes and kayaks are posted at coastal stations such as the Juhu, Marine Drive, Dadar, Aksa and Gorai beaches. Another concern is short circuits that lead to fires or water seepage that can electrocute people. “To protect our firemen who set out to douse fires during the rains, they are equipped with insulated fuse pullers, which will protect them from electric shocks. They use gloves and conduct operations without coming in direct touch with wires,” says Nesarikar

Raindrops keep fallin’
Of course you would never be ready for the rains unless the larder and the cellar are stocked, literally for a rainy day. And don’t forget to do some spring cleaning in monsoon -- it may just end up brightening a gloomy, stormy evening as you discover an old photo album or your childhood diary! Bring down that carton from the attic and go through the diary you maintained as a teenager or the numerous photo albums that rekindle memories of times gone by. Make that phone call, chat with a friend whose voice you have forgotten thanks to Facebook. So, make yourself a cup of hot chocolate to get into the spirit of things and then don your raingear, grab the umbrella and set out for a walk in the rain. Discover Mumbai’s favourite season!

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SMD recommends
Hit The Ceiling: Global warming means more rains. More rains means damp ceilings and buckets placed strategically on the floor. So make sure you check for leakages everywhere -- from the balcony and the bathroom ceiling to that hidden corner behind the cupboard. If this sounds like too much work, we recommend you go out and buy spare buckets to do some indoor rainwater harvesting!
Car Seva: It’s not enough to fix the wipers and check the oil filters. Get that anti- rust coating done. Check if all wires are in order. You don’t want skidding brakes or the clutch wires to snap because a rat chewed through it.

Wire It Up: Check for open wires, an exposed wire or old switchboards hanging loose on the walls. Don’t leave it till you get an electric shock after touching a wire that has become damp. Even entire walls and the flooring have known to have developed earthing issues, giving people mild shocks if they touch a wall or walk in a particular area.
Bar- Tend: This is serious stuff. Never leave your bar almost empty. What if a friend is stranded for the night? Or the power goes off at 10pm and you can’t sleep. Or you find yourself sitting on the balcony, pondering life, with an empty glass! The possibilities are endless and frightening. Make sure your favourite poison is well stocked. Or hire the services of a butler like Jeeves.
The DVD Rack: Multiplexes can get flooded. Oh! So why not stock up on latest film DVDs, so in case the rain gods decide to tease you on a Saturday evening or Sunday noon, you can laugh at nature and switch on your flatscreen!

Save it for a rainy day
What does it mean to be rain ready in Mumbai?

I'm a freelancer so I need a different type of preparation for the rains, unlike most people with real jobs. For example, as soon as the rains arrive, I prepare to laugh immensely on the faces of everybody who works 9-5. Especially those beyond Andheri and Malad. Then I buy a few fancy lenses so I can celebrate my unproductivity at home by clicking fancy pictures of the rain from my window so I can impress people by posting this on social media.  One important aspect of being rain ready in Mumbai is by incessantly googling phrases like “Symptoms of Leptosyprosis” and “How do I know if I have cholera” and doing some other disease related light reading. Keep a fresh stock of boxers and under pants ready because the ones that you hung outside your balcony to dry now have fungus and three new undiscovered breeds of bacteria. Rethink your mode of transport if travelling long distance. Experiment with newer methods. Remember, the quickest way from Chembur to town isn’t the Eastern Express Highway -- it is a manhole.

What are things one must invest it?
Don’t bother investing in anything. Whatever you buy, it will eventually get wet and spoilt.

How does one protect gadgets and newspapers from the rains?
The best way to protect your gadgets during the Mumbai rains is to be poor and not own any gadgets in the first place. There are various ways you can achieve this poverty -- become a theatre actor, write script for Aamir Khan and manage Vindoo Dara Singh’s career, etc.

One thing you will encounter during your local commute?
One thing I never understood was people eating fresh hot samosa/vada pav at stations. I don’t know what people are thinking there. “Ooh look, food made in the dirtiest place in the city right now, I bet if I eat this I will not fall sick at allllllll”.

What is the best monsoon excuse to bunk work?
Tell your co-workers you’ve moved to Saki Naka, then call them and tell them your house has collapsed. This is entirely believable and your colleagues will be aggrieved and let you take a couple of months off.

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