Sunday, June 6, 2010

Monsoons in Karachi

Been stormy since the past few days... and people back home were waiting for rain (and now finally Karachi's got its share), I was too busy listening to the beat of the rain against my window to actually find time to write anything. It's amazing how different things/events are perceived differently depending on where they occur.

In Toronto, people shake their heads sadly when they hear of any rainy forecast, they give dull smiles as the clouds gather, and run inside as the rain comes. The umbrellas are no match for the windy streets (extremely unpleasant to see your umbrella bend over itself and turn inside out and break)... and one can see several broken umbrellas lying close to garbage bins, their joints sticking out at awkward angles, resembling dead bats. It smells terrible when it rains here, and people panic at the slightest of moist drops that fall on their person. It is gloomy and dark, an ugly shade of grey.

In Karachi, people pray for rain. The sun beats down for months on end, and clouds lining the horizon are a welcome sight. As the dark clouds gather, people run up onto their rooftops and watch in anticipation. Every glance is fixed in the direction of the clouds, the city is silent, waiting. People go about their necessary business, but keep pausing to look at the sky. The humidity gets unbearable, the temperatures hit above 40C, and the people are as thirsty as the land. A stir of cool wind, and the clouds cover the sky, the glare of the sun is gone. A happy shout echoes all over the city as the first few cool drops fall, and the people rush out into the streets to celebrate. Women rush to the balconies and on rooftops, smiling with relief. The rain falls with tremendous noise and force, a fierce storm to cool the hot, dry land. People forget everything, work, school, homework, cooking.... for the first few hours of rain (yes... in Karachi Monsoon lasts for days). There is often no electricity in such a storm, but no one cares. People drench themselves in rain (no need for an umbrella) and sing and dance. Cars go by blasting happy songs, as people go out and buy Samosa's to have with a cup of Chai (tea). Nothing is more pleasant than the soft clap of thunder, and the steady tap of rain outside, as we sit inside our terrace having Chai with biscuits/samosas, all drenched in the rain. There is absolute satisfaction, absolute relief.

The smell of rain in Karachi is like heaven. Our lawn becomes lush green, and the birds chirp in our mango trees, and even though the rain has slowed, the "parnalas" (rooftop drainpipes) keep running steadily. Electricity comes back on, and people have a permanent smile on their faces, they often hum unconsciously...Happy songs.

When it rains in Toronto, and its ugly and dull outside, I close my eyes and for a moment- I'm back in Karachi. With the earthy rainy smell, standing in my wet clothes in our lush garden... I can almost hear my mother sing.

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