THE NEW VENICE

Shillong’s monsoon face is changing & definitely not for good

The clouds overcast the sky unapologetically last Sunday afternoon. They came not floating but in a rush as if to chase away the gleams of sunshine. They were late this time too but came with no remorse.
It started with a lazy drizzle just soaking the earth and making enough drops that rolled down the awning of the closed shops onto the ground. And then they opened the floodgate. Monsoon has finally reached Shillong, they said. Some whistled and some who meticulously planned an eventful Sunday evening looked gloomy.
Monsoon arrived in the first week of June but the abode of clouds was kept waiting for a whole month. “Climate change don’t you get it,” they gushed.
The sun had smirked at the prospect of a longer stay and remained undaunted by intermittent showers. It was an extended summer in June and “never in the past had the temperature been so high”, the old timers complained.
As day temperature shot up to as high as 29 degree C in mid June, dark clouds remained elusive. Instead, the morning blaze made Shillong a stranger to its citizens. The heat got unbearable in the last four days before the rains arrived.
But what an arrival and what powerful pouring that even the hill city is experiencing water logging. The Scotland of the East was about to turn into the Venice of the East as downpour continued for the first four days without a break. Then the rain clouds stopped pouring, only for a while to muster more strength.
The green hills now look greener but are too shy to reveal the beauty and choose to hide behind the veil of clouds. The foamy waterfalls waltz down the crevices only to lose their identity into the streams, muddy and polluted. Rainwater pitter-patter on tin roofs all night breaking the silence. The wind growls at times making a whooshing sound through the leaves.
Erratic monsoon rain is submerging every locality and there is no fun wading through the water mixed with the dirt and filth from the drains.
The streams in the city are already carrying the burden of plastic waste and are refusing to carry the overwhelming amount of monsoon rainwater. They have no other choice but to spill over. The brimming drains in the city are equally helpless. Someone once said, with great pride, “I do not throw garbage on the roadside. I dispose them of in the drain, of course not regularly but when the garbage van misses its duty.”
My dear lady, have no shame because you are not the only one to sin. There are many in Shillong who proudly dispose of domestic waste in the drain. The result: water logging in monsoon.
While pedestrians splash on the waterlogged streets vehicles wait for eternity in the long queues. Blame it on the rain. And why not? It came late and must be blamed, even for the mistakes we make. “Have you got aphasia? Have you forgotten that the city is choking with vehicles, the sign of opulence and social status,” an old man screams at a co-passenger in a local taxi when the latter complains about the rain.
If you are shopping online for rain boots please be sensible enough to look for inflatable boats too. You may need to go to Polo market and your vehicle on wheels will not double as a boat.
Incessant rain is not unknown to Shillong. In fact, it was always part of the life here. What was unknown to the city was the water logging and the traffic. Did you think you will enjoy the rain like in the old days? No sir, there is no way you can do that. Instead, you can be lost in a forlorn world inside your vehicle as you wait for the road to be cleared. You can measure the cost of uber-fast life that has been halted for a moment. You can see the changing face of Shillong through the hazy windshield of your car and count your regrets for the lost days. Rain is no fun now. There is no beauty in it.

~ Nabamita Mitra

(Share monsoon experiences with Sunday Shillong. Send in your story to sundayshillong@theshillongtimes.com)