Monsoons and Mumbai

 

Every year towards the end of May, the city of Mumbai begins to change. People start to prepare for the coming of the Monsoon, which is itself derived from the word “mausam” in Arabic which roughly translates as a season. Perhaps in no other place than Mumbai, the might of monsoon is felt by such a large and varied section of people. All the residents, in all the areas of Mumbai, irrespective of their class do prepare for the annual coming of the monsoon. In Mumbai, everywhere you would see temporary structures being erected, plastic sheets of many colours and the most prominent blue tarpaulins being used to cover myriad of houses. It seems that the city itself is getting ready to greet the incoming monsoon. The various preparations done by people of all classes reminds one of festive preparation that families do. Some buy waterproofing for their bodies, some for their homes and shops and some for their vehicles. Some, who are very rich, even buy waterproofing for their pets. Government bodies like the BMC clean up the gutters and nallahs, which were freshwater rivers once, hard to believe when you look at their present states. You can see piles of cleaned up garbage and debris stacked neatly alongside the gutters manholes and nallahs. They say it helps in preventing floods. So, every year, like a seasonal change, you will see people cleaning them, and stacking the filth accumulated in these water bodies, both above the ground and underground in neat stacks.

Business establishments erect skeletons of bamboos and timber around the areas which are not covered. This happens in the case of hotels which have open-air seating areas. Then on these skeletons, they apply sheaths of water-proofing materials. At the end of it, the area is ready for use even in the heaviest rains. Shops which would sell, clothes and other stuff in other seasons, have umbrellas in their display. Even the street and traffic signal vendors start selling them. The umbrellas come in a variety of sizes, colours and designs. Males mostly carry black ones, while the females carry ones with a variety of colours. The umbrella is the protection of the commons against the rain. In the crowded local trains and buses, it is not seen kindly if you wear a raincoat and enter and transfer your wetness to others in the process. Umbrellas, on the other hand, can be folded and kept inside your bag. These are the kind of umbrellas, which are compact are the ones which are most common. The price range generally indicates the number of seasons that an umbrella will last. Also, the cobblers, who double up as umbrella repairers can be seen fixing broken ribs, handles and mechanisms of old umbrellas. Then there are the large ones, which you need to carry in hand, for they are larger than any bags you would usually carry. I myself carry one of the largest sizes available. Because when it really pours, the compact ones, though easy to pack and carry, aren’t going to protect you from getting wet in the Mumbai monsoon.

Then there is the rain footwear. The idea is that in the rains leather (even faux leather) will get damaged. Hence one should wear something made of rubber or plastic which is not affected by the rains. All the branded footwear companies have a stock of rainwear, which people buy as a preparation for the rain. But this is not for the real elite, they will wear their suedes even in the rains. From the by-lanes of Kurla, there emerge cheap replicas of the designer rainwear which are sold at less than 10th of the prices of the originals. They are sold outside the stations, on the streets, and in the shops. Each year, the designs, patterns and colours change depending on what is in vogue in the market.

People also buy protection for their mobile phones and wallets. Just before the rains pavement sellers, who sell a plethora of mobile trinkets and accessories, also start with selling waterproofing for the mobiles. Same is the case with the bags that working people and school children carry. Those not well off use covers of plastic to cover the valuables inside their bags. Good quality plastics are always in demand for such things. But now with the ban, we don’t know what will happen. Others purchase rain covers for their bags. Even with all these precautions mobiles and stuff inside the bags do get wet. And they get damaged.

They say when you are already anticipating something, the shock value isn’t that much as you would expect. But in the case of Mumbai rains, it is not so. Amongst the places I have lived in, the longest has been in Mumbai. Even then, I consider myself alien to this city, an outsider. I have seen and explored parts of it, yet I do not consider myself as a Mumbaikar. There are two primary reasons for this. The first is that even though after staying for more than a decade, I don’t use public transport for my daily commute. Neither the train nor the bus I use regularly. The two major forms of transport in Mumbai. So far, I have not stayed very far away from my place of work. Hence I do not have to suffer [safar?] daily travel. The other reason is that I have not yet made myself at home with the rains. It is not that I do not enjoy the rains, I do, but only for the first few weeks. Then it becomes torture. A melancholy if you will. The sunless skies for weeks on end are depressing enough, and then you have to prepare for the wetness. No matter how hard you try, the rains will get you. There hasn’t been a season where I haven’t got completely drenched. I have given up.

In case, I am caught unawares, without umbrella or any other protection. I just let the rain do its thing. I don’t fight it. But the city itself is fully prepared for it. Unless it is a literal flood, the city continues its routine as if, nothing has happened. All the supply lines will be working as they are supposed to. Waterlogging will produce delays in traffic and trains, but that is about it. If half the amount of rain that lashes Mumbai every season pours into any other metro it will come to a standstill. But Mumbai has made sure that the services operate despite this amount of rain. It is because of anticipation and will of the people to work.

The area of Mumbai is about 600 \, km^{2}, and the average rainfall in Mumbai is about 2200 \,mm. This essentially means that we have rainfall equivalent to about 2.2 \, m water present on the entire surface of about 600 \, km^{2}. So the total volume of water that Mumbai receives each year is

V_{Rain} = 600 \times 10^{6} \, m^{2} \cdot 2.2 \, m = 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3}

As a first approximation we can consider the rain drops to be of uniform size, and the diameter of the drop is about 1 \,mm = 10^{-3} m. So the volume of the drop is about
V_{Drop} = \frac{4}{3} \,\pi \,(0.5 \times 10^{-3} m)^{3} = 5.2 \times 10^{-10} \,m^{3}

Hence in each year the number of raindrops on Mumbai would be

N = \frac{V_{Rain}}{V_{Drop}} = 2.5 \times 10^{18}

As a better approximation we can take into account the fact that not all raindrops have the same size. We can then make a distribution of the raindrops according to their size. We can have a distribution of the raindrops according to their size as follows:

Type of
Shower
Diameter
of drops
(mm)
Percentage Volume m^{3}
Drizzle 0.5 15 6.5 \times 10 ^{-11}
Normal 1 70 5.2 \times 10 ^{-10}
Thunder 3 15 8.1\times 10 ^{-9}

So the total volume of our rail gets distributed according to the above table. Now we calculate the number of drops for each type of shower:

V_{Drizzle} = \frac{15}{100} \times 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3} = 1.9 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3}

Hence the number of drops in drizzle are:

N_{Drizzle} = \frac{1.9 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3} }{6.5 \times 10 ^{-11}} = 2.9\times 10^{18}

Similarly for normal shower we get

V_{Normal} = \frac{70}{100} \times 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3} = 9.1 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3}

Hence the number of drops in normal shower are:

N_{Normal} = \frac{9.1 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3} }{5.2 \times 10 ^{-10}} = 1.75\times 10^{18}

Similarly for thunder shower we get

V_{Thunder} = \frac{15}{100} \times 1.3 \times 10^{9} \, m^{3} = 1.9 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3}

Hence the number of drops in normal shower are:

N_{Thunder} = \frac{9.1 \times 10^{8} \, m^{3} }{8.1 \times 10 ^{-9}} = 1.1\times 10^{17}

So if we add all these up we get the total number of drops:

N = N_{Thunder} + N_{Normal} + N_{Drizzle} = 1.1\times 10^{17}+ 1.75\times 10^{18}+ 2.9\times 10^{18} = 4.7\times 10^{18}

This is not very different from our first rough estimate.

Surreal Night!

Surreal Night!.

Yesterday night was *really* surreal. As we were about to sleep at 2ish in the night. We heard aloud crash, with two or three huge blasts. and we saw a tanker rammed against a tree on the side of the highway. We could hear lot of HISSSSSSSSSSS sounds. The tanker was on the other side of the highway.

Vehicles were passing by the accident, and we also saw two people going towards the tanker. As we were watching events unfolding in disbelief, Smita pointed to a a white carpet formed on the the nalla that our bedroom oversees. And we could see the white carpet moving and spreading along the channel. Though we could not smell it then, but it clear that something was definitely was not right. That time I had thought that the accident must have opened up some pipeline, but as it turned out later it was not the case.
And in the mean time we saw another tanker pass by this one. And then we could smell the gas, being on the second floor, it took its time to come till there. And we thought of calling the fire brigade….

Then suddenly, BOOOOMMMMMM….

The fireball unfolded before our eyes. And it sort of came towards us, as they show in the movies….
It must be about 10 stories high, the overhead wires of the huge towers, also sparked…
The entire building was shivering from the blast, windows making sounds, and the room became too bright even without the lights on….

Fortunately the window panes were not shattered, neither the flames reached us….

The enitre nalla was on fire, it was as if we were seeing a river of fire…

The trees were burning, and quite long way along the nalla the fire had spread….
The immediate reaction was to run out, as we thought the building would itself catch fire, given the intensity of the fire that rages.

And as we were going out, all other people who were just awakened by the sound and vibrations and the fire, were getting out too, most of them not knowing what had happened…

Many, as we came to know later, locked themselves out in panic, fortunately we left the door open. As we were running down the stairs, heavy smell of LPG was omnipresent…

What I had feared was that the ground floor parking itself might be at risk, fortunately the wall along the nalla, prevented the gas coming to the parking.

People were just coming out of their houses and pouring on the streets…

And in the meanwhile we could hear more blasts in the fire that was raging…..

Lot of people from Mankhurd village started to pour in as well, and some went crossing the road to witness it.

I was really impressed by the response time of the fire brigade, within 5 minutes they were already there. And they dared for their lives as they fought the inferno raging… Tt took them few hours to bring the fire under control.

Then the police came in and the crowds were dispersed and the road was cordoned off to traffic, which it is still so as late as afternoon.

And the water tankers were just too many to count…

We came back to our room around 5ish, the fire was still raging, but in control.

It was only in the morning that we saw the extent of the damage. Most of the ramp leading to the nalla was burnt. And many trees also were burnt. Some of the manhole covers which open in the nalla were thrown  out of their place, and most of the grass that grows in the nalla was blown out…

And we also came to know how fortunate we were, most of the inital blast and subsequent fires were contained in the concrete walls of the nalla. So only way they could go is up.

And then all the questions of what could have been….

If at all the tanker had fallen on this side of the road, just next to our house, then?

If the tanker had not fallen in the nalla, but just on the road then?

And if the blast would have occurred when the other tanker was passing by, then?

Or if the blast had occurred after, 20-30 minutes, of the accident, and gas spreading to a large area then?

Had the fire spread to the building then…

This experience just showed how fragile we and our constructs are, and all we have can be wiped out by just a freak event…

Smita and D

Some photos here:

The tree on which the tanker slammed (taken in the morning):

The tree on which the tanker slammed.

The Firewall

The Firewall

The Compound that saved us

The compund that saved us.

Calling for help

Calling for Help.

On and below the Bridge

On and below the bridge.

Below the bridge (in night)

Below the bridge (in night).

Below the bridge (in day) tanker can be still seen, and they were watering it still…

Below the bridge (in day).
(Last one from our kitchen)

PS: this report tells that the fire also spread the nearby slums, which were on the otherside of the road.

Though I think there is a strict control over the flow of the news, as the event is not showing up at most news sites.

Caffeine…

Caffeine is the source of new ideas. - Anon (in Fortune)

My day starts with a cup of coffee, and this cup mostly fulfils my daily requirement for caffeine.
Long gone are the days of instant coffee and now I do brew my own.F or this purpose I mostly rely on two of Bombay’s best coffee shops that I know of; namely Philips Coffee and Tea and Mysore Concerns (The Coffee People since 1939).

Both shops I discovered quite accidentally. Philips Tea and Coffee has registered office near Khadi Bhavan on D. N. Road in Fort. Naturally curious I enquired, but there was no sale there, and they guided me to a Sale store down the lane towards Strand Book Shop. There are two varieties of coffee beans available with them the Highlander and Peaberry. Peaberry which I prefer is priced at Rs. 420 a kilo and Highlander is a little low, maybe Rs. 380. The best part is that they grind the beans just in front of you and the aroma that is generated is too good to be described in words. Since I have a “fussy coffee machine” it is not very happy to brew when the powder is too fine, so they grind it as per my requirement, a bit coarse. They have chain of shops throughout Bombay, I mostly take my stock from the Chembur which is close to where I live, but sometimes also from the Fort shop, which is where I visit to hunt for books. They also sell a variety of teas and stock a few magazines many of them Mallu.

The Mysore Concerns shop I discovered quite weirdly. I was on my BEST-bus tours of Bombay some years back, and suddenly near Maheshwari Udyan or King’s Circle I smelt coffee. It was a strong one. And just as the bus passed over it went away. Anyways I was supposed to get down at the stop, as I was on a book hunting mission. I just could not resist myself from finding source of the smell. And the source turned out to be the Mysore Concerns shop, which keeps on grinding coffee beans throughout the day which produces aroma which wanders along the streets. They also sell Coimbatore butter which I have never tried. But this was too good to resist. The price is lower as compared to Philips Rs. 340 per kilo and AFAIK they do not have any variants in the coffee they sell. But going to Matunga all the way to get coffee was not practical many times, but then someone told me that you get it in Chembur too. Although the pack says there is NO BRANCH as opposed to Philips people.

I have collected quite a number of different cups ~ 20 for the morning coffee ritual, and the milk is mostly got from the canteen, I do not as yet like black coffee, I want it with lots of milk (preferably buffalo) and no sugar. Some of the more costly ones are from Chimp and the logo of the brand a Chimp printed on the inside of the cup seems to enjoy surfing the sea of coffee as much as I do.

I had a fortunate visit to a spice garden which belonged to a friend near Bangalore, and I saw there coffee plants ,the green beans and the fragrant white flowers for the first time. They tell me that till you roast the coffee beans you don’t get the aroma of coffee from any other part of the plant.

 

And remember always: a bad coffee is worse than no coffee…

And interestingly the science behind the coffee rings, though not the above one, is explanied.