The weather is changing, and everyone these days seems to be suffering some sort of illness. The BJP, for instance, is spectacularly unwell. It has spent the last many days in a kind of terrible inner turmoil, shuffling around in mismatched socks, speaking in tongues, pulling out its own teeth one day, its fingernails the next. If an individual displayed the same systems, he or she would be escorted to the nearest psych ward and put on suicide watch. My heart almost goes out to them—almost—as they act out a horrible crisis of confidence that can be summed up by the question, What if we had a party and nobody came?
Strangely, that’s exactly what happened to me the other day. A friend and I decided for purely altruistic reasons, also known as bragging, to put our fledgling cooking skills on display at her house for a few people. I had just stepped out of the house to pick up some ingredients from the market when the skies turned black and torrents of rain drenched me from head to foot. The market roads were filled to the brim in a matter of minutes, with water sloshing around on the pavements a foot higher
The cloudburst lasted for less than an hour, but all hell had broken loose all over Delhi. People had abandoned their vehicles and taken to the breaststroke instead. The car made it to Nizamuddin, where my friend lives, ploughing like an ungainly steamboat through streets that had suddenly become canals. Finally it could go no further, firstly because the water was chest high, and secondly because the streets were festooned with fainting power lines and fallen trees all over the place. I tried a couple of approaches, but was thwarted on all sides by the lake that had formed outside my friend’s house. One car came gurgling through it and as it passed I asked the driver whether the water was getting inside. “Yes,” she replied calmly, and kept going with the impassive face of the seriously traumatised.
I gave up, ditched the car, and hopped onto a cycle rickshaw which was submerged up to the passenger footrest but gallantly floated its way among submerged trees and down the submerged driveway to drop me off, gondola-style, in the garden. My friend lent me some dry clothes, but with the power out and the streets impassable, we simply collapsed into chairs, opened a bottle of wine and proceeded to get hammered by candlelight. At some point it became apparent that our guests’ resolve had crumbled quicker than ours, so three hours later when the floodwaters had receded somewhat, I quietly made my way home in gridlocked traffic.
This is the sort of urban event that makes me think darkly of the revolution I wish would come, when the citizenry will finally stop accepting this sort of thing as an inevitable yearly event. I’m almost sure that there are parts of the world where sudden torrential rain simply drains from the streets into the rainwater drainage system—yes, drains away, just like that. We should make friendly overtures to these parts of the world. We should beg them to transfer this mysterious technology to us. We should put it into place all over India. We could make down payments on it with all the crores of cash recovered from income tax raids in the houses of some of our more unsavoury leaders, and possibly (who knows?) some of our savoury ones too.
At least it wouldn’t matter if the Opposition really did collapse, because our choices in this respect are six of one, or half a dozen of the other.