Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monsoon failure

It hasn't rained for more than a week. The rain in the two weeks before that was tentative. If you roll back yet another week, we were celebrating the arrival of the monsoon, in the newspapers and in the weather forecast. Well, it's not here. Where is it?

Before I left, and while I was traveling in the North, the advice on everyone's lips was to brace myself for the monsoon. So I came with a large umbrella, a trenchcoat, and dependable boots. I was prepared to open my mind and absorb the true structure of Kerala's culture, as it expressed itself under the torrential waters. I looked for a copy of Chasing the Monsoon by Frater, and when I found one in the library across town, whose policy is to not lend to foreigners, I imagined myself walking daily to their reading room where I would read about the meteorological phenomena that had drenched me on the way. But I remain dry. The only water on my shoulders is my perspiration.

Because without the monsoon, the humidity hangs in the air. The mercury may be still stuck to 31°C -- you truly do not need a thermometer in Trivandrum -- but the humidity-weighted temperature has taken off. The mathematicians say we feel the equivalent of 40°C in this 85% water/air mix. When I walk into the yuppie coffee shop, which is one rare building with full-on AC, my glasses fog like it's winter in MontrĂ©al. I stopped ordering sundaes at the ice cream parlor. I ask for family buckets now, chocolate flavored, with a spoon.

So, three weeks after opening the subject, the newspaper are talking about the monsoon again. If the rain doesn't come now, the crops will fail. People are getting worried.

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