Thursday, June 12, 2008

It is the monsoons again!

The rains are back and in style!!

Those ruddy meteorologists always seem to get it wrong don't they? Pre-Monsoon showers my ass...the deluge that followed had to be seen to be believed. Raindrops the size of peanuts pelted my helmet and man and motorcycle were soon reduced to a miserable lump of wetness and coldness. As they say in Tanglish (a potent blend of Tamil and the non-Tamil) - "Aandavan Vechchaan Paaru Aapu!" (roughly translates to 'being screwed with' by the Almighty).

There is no escape and you can either chose to mope about for the 3 months that it takes for the rain gods to decide that enough is enough...or you can learn to enjoy it and make the most of what I believe is the best season of them all!!

The normally grungy urban settings of Mumbai receive a thorough cleaning and the vegetation stands proud and green in freshly washed glory. The layers of dust and grime on the roads are scrubbed away leaving behind virgin tarmac/concrete. Buildings that you mistook to be painted brown suddenly showcase their owner's poor taste as the pink and yellow combo paint jobs shine through once again.

Things get even better if you, like me, leave the city for the hills, valleys, plateaus and plains that abound in Maharashtra. The world looks like a freshly painted canvas...cleaned with shampoo and waxed for that special effect. I love it...I ride out whenever I can to savor the natural beauty of this place I live in.

Food tastes better in the rains because you are REALLY hungry from the wet and cold and there is nothing like a hot "cutting" chai followed up by a spicy Misal-Paav and more chai. Anything hot to cut into the wetness and slipperiness of the monsoons.

Biking in the rain is fun too. Yes it is risky but there are fewer vehicles and people/animals on the the risk of sliding out is offset by the lowered risk of a collision with another vehicle. I'd much rather have an accident all by myself than with some other object...then again - I'd much rather NOT be involved in any accident whatsoever to begin with :)

The real danger is when it has just rained for a few minutes. The grease, oil, grime and general road crap rises to the surface creating a slick mixture that can be lethal to any vehicle. You cannot fall off a car - but with only two narrow wheels, a motorcycle is very hard to control under these conditions. It is better to slowly move off to the slow lane, off the road and wait for 10 minutes for the rains to wash away the crap. When the roads are properly washed clean, you can ride with only a slightly less grip than dry. Still...concentration has to be spot-on because there is always the danger of a slide. Gaps in the roads are filled in with slick material and the new "Mastek" coating is also slick as HECK! I wheelspin my RD350s rear tire in 2nd and 3rd gear...sometimes even in 5th if I hit a patch of Mastek with a less than perfect surface. Scary!!

It is challenging to ride in the monsoons. You have to be prepared to get very VERY wet and cold. With the phone and wallet bundled inside a ziplock bag and some basic tools in the backpack and I am ready to set off once more into the hills.

I love the monsoons - I don't want it to rain here all the time but I will enjoy the season while it lasts.