I got a gentle toe wiggle at 6:30 this morning from my roommate. “It’s time,” she said, “you’re not still going are you?”
I listened to the rain. 14 straight hours of monsoon at that point, and it had also rained (hard) two nights before. I got up and looked out the door, a feeling of defeat washing over me. The rain was not fathomable. It was still a downpour. I laid back down in bed, my plans of meeting another Canadian girl to go with her to the missionary where she volunteered for the morning were dashed, as were my hopes to maybe bike to a temple town outside Varanasi, Sarnath, later in the afternoon. I felt like a caged housecat. I went back to bed.
But then, laying there thinking and listening to the rain, I thought, my god, I’ve turned into a wimp! There was nothing else I was going to do at that point. I couldn’t sleep any more, the rain was too loud. I couldn’t go downstairs for breakfast, the boys were still sleeping. I wanted to go explore! With that, I was up – digging some dirty clothes out of my laundry bag and throwing on my rain coat. Yay!!
I went for a bike ride. My friend wasn’t there, and the men at the chai stall where we’d agreed to meet kept repeating “pani, pani!” (water, water). “not possible!”
I discovered, though, that an early morning monsoon is the absolute best time for a joy ride!
The streets were quieter, the traffic less dence, the cows retreated in any open building for cover – greatly reducing the risk of being ‘horned’ (similar to the much dreaded north American ‘doored’, but involving the whipping around of a cow’s head, rather than the unaware opening of a parked car door) – which happened yesterday as I tried to squeeze through a narrow spot between a rickshaw and a bull.
I encountered crazier floods than I have ever seen in my life – I stopped and turned around when the water was over my feet on the pedals; even the fiercest of bike riders dismounted when the water met the top of their wheels. I was standing on the edge of one such flood when a car, water up over its hood, came pushing through the waters, making a huge wave surge forward as it did so. I went scooting back to higher ground. I couldn’t see the end of the flooded streets, but people coming through it told me it was waist deep further on, I could see it thigh high in the distance.
The spot where people were wading up to their thighs – men, women, cyclists, motorcyclists, bicycle rickshaw wallahs paid to push someone over the worst parts – is also the convenient location of a pseudo official street-side dump. There is a waterfall cascading down the steps (the ghat) outside our front steps – if you watch, you notice the chunks of manure spilling down over the steps in the rush of water. It’s certainly not a mountain fresh babbling brook out there. From the saddle, I watched men relieving themselves in the streets, as per usual.
I was enjoying myself, nonetheless, beaming at each person I passed (and, here, they beam right back), but I can’t help but think of the catastrophic effects of such a rain for people living in houses made of dirt, or of bricks stacked haphazardly on top of each other, or in their little gumti road side stalls. I have a warm, dry home to retreat to, with a place to wash off the toxic water flowing through the streets.
As I waited for my friend by the chai stall, I watched another man, barefoot, trying to rebuild a wall of his little hut – all the bricks had fallen over in the night and the floodwaters were threatening to come inside.
I’m back in the cozy comforts of my home here, and thinking again about how much we take for granted.