Monday, August 1, 2011

Delhi In August : Under A Canopy Of Clouds

It is a rain-swept morning. The city has been under a canopy of clouds for some days. The downpour has been steady through most of the previous night. The streets are waterlogged. School kids decked in colourful raincoats or covered under huge umbrellas walk to their bus stops braving the rains. Some of them march cautiously, some playfully while others step deliberately into the puddles that have appeared as a result of the incessant rains. When a car passes over a puddle, dirty water gets splashed onto them, much to the disgust of their mothers, who are walking them to their bus stops.

Across the street, sweet shops have extended their premises occupying the sidewalk, their makeshift shelves almost spilling onto the road. The temporary extensions are covered with tarpaulin sheets to protect them from rain and sun. Rakshabandhan is around the corner and sweets are going to be in great demand. Markets are flooded with rakhis, shiny ornamental threads that sisters tie around the wrists of their brothers as a symbol of mutual love, both wishing for each other's well-being. Shops selling women's merchandise are vying for buyers' attention by announcing discount sales, as brothers will be looking for suitable gifts for their sisters to mark Rakshabandhan.

The capital is geared up to celebrate the Independence Day in a big way. Security alerts are issued. Reports about security being 'beefed up' start appearing in the newspapers. Motorists buy miniature flags from sellers at traffic signals and adorn their dashboards with them. The area around the Red Fort is spruced up. The stage is set for the Prime Minister's address from the 'ramparts' of this historic castle overlooking the Yamuna. Ramparts...every year I come across this word only in the context of the Independence Day. Never have I seen or heard it being used anywhere else! Those watching the Prime Minister's address on the television can see people sitting in the foreground of the Red Fort fanning themselves with paper fans. Delhi is unbelievably hot and humid in spite of the rains. Short spells of rain do not bring any respite. Unless it rains continuously for a long time, there is no chance of cooling down.

The holy month of Ramzan has begun. Believers abstain from food and drink each day from sunrise to sunset during this month. Everyday, sehri (the time to start the fast) and iftar (the time to end it) hours appear in the newspapers. Iftar parties are thrown in the evenings by Delhi's political bigwigs. At the end of the month, it is celebration time on the day of the Ramzan Id. All the mosques wear a festive look. Thousands congregate for prayers at the Jama Masjid, the 17th century grand mosque in Old Delhi. They present a beautiful picture sitting down in the courtyard in neat rows and kneeling in obeisance.

Pragati Maidan, the huge expanse of exhibition grounds along Mathura Road is hosting the Delhi Book Fair. The crowds are moderate on weekdays. On weekends, hordes of book lovers descend on the venue. For some, it is a family picnic. Browse in the air-conditioned halls, eat at one of the numerous food stalls, catch a movie at Shakuntalam before heading home late in the evening. The parking lots next to the Supreme Court get filled very quickly. Maybe it is a good idea to use public transport, especially on weekends.

 All over the city, temples are decorated with lights and flowers to celebrate Janmashtami, birth anniversary of Lord Krishna. Some put up tableaux depicting various events-- from his birth at the stroke of midnight in a prison in Mathura till the slaying of his evil uncle Kansa. Festivities, keertans and bhajans continue late into the night. Birla Mandir in Central Delhi and ISKCON temple in East of Kailash are the main hubs of activity. Devotees throng these places, some planning to spend the whole day there. Religious processions are taken out, pandals are erected outside temples to provide shelter to the visitors, prasad is distributed and cultural programs are organized days before the festival.

The humid and damp weather does not dampen the spirits of Delhiites. So what if washed clothes don't dry properly, so what if roads are submerged under knee-deep water, so what if your domestic help does not turn up because it has been raining, so what if 'low-lying' areas get flooded as a result of heavy rains, so what if the mercury hasn't moved from where it was in July? Patriotic ballads and Rakshabandhan songs blare from FM radios and loudspeakers erected in neighbourhoods. Sweets are relished, holidays are planned around long weekends and families get together for celebrations. After all, they don't call it 'Dilli Dilwaalon ki'  for nothing!

1 comment:

  1. I can see each and every scene described by Lata. Afterall I too spent the same amount of time - 22 years- in Delhi