Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monsoon Thanksgiving

This is our street in Chennai at about 10 am this morning. (See that white car? It's not from the fifties - in Chennai, they have not changed the style of the model in forty years. Also true for Enfield, a great-looking motorbike sold in India.) It has been raining almost constantly for about 36 hours. On Tuesday we got about 100 milliliters of rain. After a very dry monsoon season this fall, Chennai's water basins are now full enough to take the city through July. In the Hindu, the daily paper, there was an article today listing each basin, its current content, and the amount of total volume that the site could hold. (This paper, in my brief experience, seems to like to quantify the topic.) Since I took this picture this morning, the street has siphoned off the water, filled up again, drained, and is now about four inches deep. Motorbikes going down the road leave a large wake. An auto-rickshaw stalled earlier today; they are low to the ground and tend to give out in a downpour. The driver fussed with the back of the vehicle, tried to start it, fussed some more, tried again, and finally the little motor caught and he puttered on his way.

This is the view from our balcony at about 2 pm. Raining, again, in huge, heavy gusts. That is the street, covered with water.
Our street in the direction that we rarely walk. The other way takes you toward the yoga center and the shopping area. After coming back home this morning from work, we decided to try exploring up the street for a view of how deep the rain is. This is a very mild view. If I'd had my camera as I walked to work, I could show you a narrow street, lined with tiny shops selling tea and Internet and Xerox (that seems to be a popular item in Chennai) and women pumping water from street-side hand pumps into large plastic urns, that was at least four inches deep.
Some branches, knocked down by the wind. And a sidewalk, which is not too common an occurrence. Most of the time, you walk along the side of the road. (I must be getting a little more comfortable, because now I manage to march along most of the time, letting the cars and bikes and motorbikes and rickshaws zip by beside me. Not completely confident, though - I still look over my shoulder from time to time to see if anything is coming up behind me. But crossing the street, I feel a huge sense of pride - such a little thing, but crossing the street with bravado is a quality of the residents of this city, and perhaps all of India.)
Below, one of the reasons that the streets fill up, then slowly empty. This is a sewer opening in the curb:

And here, the main sewer opening at the corner. Someone propped the lid open so that the rain can go down a bit faster.
So, here we are. We've stayed in today, reading, watching Chicken Run on the laptop, taking a nap, reading some more, checking email, doing some cooking, playing Solitaire, doing crossword puzzles. The forecast is continued rain for the next day or two. The yoga center was taking in water down the hallway when I went in at 930 this morning. My guess is that it will be closed again tomorrow and perhaps Saturday as well. I'm hoping that if I can't observe classes, that I might be able to schedule a chant or sutra class for myself with one of the teachers. We're being conservative and staying in today, with the news from Mumbai and the rain, but by tomorrow I may have serious cabin fever. At the same time, most of the city is deluged, so we'll have to wait and see.
Last pictures for today: an unknown fruit bought from the fruit cart around the corner. I bought one of these last week; it seemed to be similar to a pear. Today, the young boy who waits on us and does a lovely job recommending what to buy, pointed me to a basket on the side with some of the fruits that were yellow instead of green. I had made a gesture of taking a bite - meaning how do you eat this - but I think that his interpretation was that I wanted one to eat today.
And a papaya. A very good one, more like a mango and yellow inside with some round black seeds that I scooped out. Again, recommended by the fruit seller after I picked up a different papaya. Before today, the papayas I've bought have had flesh that is a much darker orange-red and no seeds, so I'm not sure if these are different varieties or different ages.
Dinner tonight will be stir fried vegetables, some pasta from last night's dinner, a beet salad for me, and papaya. And beer. No turkey or stuffing or pumpkin pie in sight. And still raining.






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