Rain potholes
Rain and potholes go together in several Indian cities Image Credit: Matt Hoffman

Two things you cannot predict; the weather, or when the Monsoon rains will arrive, and what crazy thing your spouse will do after their retirement.

Residents of Delhi, who were sweltering and gasping under a heatwave in the dry and dusty capital of India, were miffed, and rightly so, with the weatherman, who had grandly announced that the rains will reach the city on last Saturday, but there was nary a raindrop.

Improved weather predictions

The Indian Meteorological Department or IMD, as it is known in the media, is said to have in the recent past significantly improved its prediction of the South-West Monsoon rains.

“We have one of the best end-to-end forecasting systems,” the secretary of the Ministry of Earth Science, said, turning up his nose at presumably a suggestion from a media person to get their act together.

“We don’t just download someone’s model forecast to give users,” he huffed. He however, conceded, “Our forecasts can sometimes go wrong.”

I looked up what end-to-end means, and it’s basically a toolkit that has ways to communicate various services such as early warnings to save lives, to helping building livelihoods, such as informing farmers best times to sow crops.

The weather in India is not just for making polite conversation (“Hot enough for you, bhaiyya. Don’t forget to slather on the sun screen”), especially now with the strange weather changes bringing in more heatwaves and also very heavy rains that are constantly flooding towns and villages.

My wife was in Delhi recently and I had asked her to pick up marzipan (a confection made with honey and almond paste) from a bakery in Connaught Place, but she refused. “It’s very hot to go outside,” she said.

“You will be travelling in air-conditioned comfort,” I said, and she replied, “Yes, but I will have to come out of the car and walk.”

A heatwave is when the temperature registers a couple of notches above normal. Delhi was way over 40 degrees Centigrade for a couple of days. Haryana was the hottest place in the North.

India basically has two monsoons, the south-west monsoon (which is now until September) and the north-east Monsoon (October to November).

Arrival of Monsoons

With the monsoon rains, the seasonal potholes blossom, giving many an unwary driver serious back issues when they thud and crash into the innocent-looking holes.

A Mr. Gangadhar Tilak, a retired gentleman, who instead of growing roses or buying a pet dog and taking it for walks, goes around the city of Hyderabad filling potholes.

His wife, Venkateshwari, also helps him by tamping down the mud and wondering if this is the fate of all women whose husbands have retired.

“I have spoken to the authorities many times and nothing happened,” he says. The gentleman says he has spent his pension money in repairing the roads, for the past 11 years. He has filled in 2000 potholes so far.

The other place in the south infamous for potholes is Bengaluru, where I live. At one point of time there were more than 1600 potholes in this IT hub. I am not sure how they got the exact number, maybe there is a poor guy in the municipality whose job is to count potholes.

Two years ago, when the Indian space mission was about to land on the Moon, people here woke up to an astronaut already on the Moon.

A video showed a man in a space suit walking in slow motion, gingerly, near a crater and as the camera slowly panned, an auto rickshaw zips by on the street with potholes. It was the work of street artist Nanjunda Swamy.

The lockdown in Bengaluru has now been lifted and the monsoon rains have started, and one can’t really predict what’s going to happen next.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi