Stop Romanticizing The Rain
It’s not even cute any more!
Rain. One of the most romanticized and glorified natural phenomenon of the natural world. In between boring daily commutes, stale conversations at work, and the occasional fight with the neighbours, there’s actually nothing much that offers the average joe a novel reprieve from the deathly monotony of routine life.
Rain is everyone’s favourite escape from reality, and puts the fairy tale back into one's life, no matter how dull or uninspiring it may be.
But alas! Rain isn’t what it used to be once upon a time. A seasonal affair that added a tinge of mystery to your morning coffee, brought a child’s bedtime stories to life, or even added a new spark to your love life. Thanks to our incessant plundering of the planet for its resources and our wayward lifestyles, we’ve managed to transform rain from a healer and therapist into a monster; a formidable threat that debases our very existence and distorts our way of life.
While it’s definitely the kind of wake-up call we need, most people just aren’t paying attention. They’re still busy romanticizing the rain, except when it is causing chaos, mayhem, and widespread devastation. These people are nowhere to be seen during such times.
I really don’t know how these people manage to stay optimistic or even turn a blind eye to the yearly devastation caused by rains. A decadal increase in extreme rainfall coupled with increased instances of cyclones and hurricanes has started to question the very foundations on which our existence lies.
We should have stopped destroying the planet when we saw the first warning signs, isn’t it?
The first floods. Those initial landslides. The first extreme heat events.
We went on with business as usual like nothing ever happened. Just over the course of the previous decade, entire cities have fallen victim to flooding and the ensuing chaos; landslides, infrastructure damage, loss of property, damage to crops, and the destruction of public and civic infrastructure. Something that once used to only affect developing countries, now affects Europe, along with much of the Western world as well.
Climate change doesn’t even discriminate any more.
Furthermore, getting to know that we’re on track for the collapse of the Gulf Stream, the loss of arctic sea ice, the disruption in El Niño and La Niña patterns, and the complete annihilation of the Great Barrier Reef, which as per Kevin Hester would spell complete doom and would be the end of a liveable planet, isn’t any source of consolation either.
Glorification of the rain
Bangalore, the Indian city I reside in, is in proximity to the Western Ghats, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of the biggest rain fed regions of the country, with its aquifers catching soaking up enough rainwater during the monsoons to keep its waterfalls roaring all throughout the year.
Being a cosmopolitan city, Bangalore has managed to attract people from all over the country and there’s a lot of diversity here. We have (or used to have) the most salubrious weather in the entire country, and this city was once known as the ‘ garden city’ of India. Unlike the rest of the country, where the weather is in the extremes, the weather in Bangalore is salubrious and pleasant throughout the year. Not too cool in the winters, neither too hot in the summers. You don’t need an AC or a heater. Just a ceiling fan would do. And that’s for the entire year!
Or at least that used to be the case.
Widespread clearing of native forests in the city over the past decade has led to routine flooding and cloudbursts events which throw life out of gear every monsoon. The city which never even knew what a flood or a heat wave was, is now getting accustomed to seeing these events on a yearly basis. But since most people here are migrants, they are seldom aware of how amazing the weather in this city used to be. So they romanticize the unnatural rain and the extremely mild winters.
And this is something that really gets my goat.
Facebook updates, Instagram stories, Instagram Reels, and WhatsApp statuses all see a massive surge in traffic once it starts raining in the city. A photo of an influencer standing in their balcony with their mug of coffee, or posing with a cup of tea during these unseasonal, not to mention highly erratic rainfall events, has become commonplace and normal. We have successfully glamourised and glorified climate change. Kudos to us!
The harsh ground reality
Ever heard of a cloudburst?
Yeah, me neither. Apparently that’s a yearly thing now, thanks to climate change.
Extreme heat accumulated in the atmosphere rising out of anthropogenic causes creates “rivers in the sky” which then creates mega clouds leading to cloudbursts. More so, these events cannot be predicted. And they occur only in a very small area at a time. So it is quite unlikely that people residing in other areas of the city might have even come across such thing in their life times.
Rain has always been exulted in mythology, history, traditional fiction, and is even worshipped as a God in certain religions. In movies, serials and all things cinema, it is portrayed as the arrival of a certain climax in the scene. A couple romancing and expressing their true love while standing in the rain, a cop and a villain fighting each other at a container yard as it pours all around them, a hero rescuing a kidnapped child, a group of explorers stumbling upon the treasure they’re about to find, and many such more.
In the Western Ghats of India, the rain is a provider, and signals the onset of the mating season for a variety of species. Flowers are opening up, fruit trees are sprouting their goodness for all in the jungle to take their fair share of, underground aquifers get recharged, waterfalls start roaring again after their long summer cries, streams are overflowing with life; frogs, tadpoles, amphibians, reptiles, and the rest of them all, and the coffee, tea, and spice plantations get fertilized with the goodness of this fresh bounty falling from the heavens.
However, in Indian cities, it is a completely different tale altogether.
Today’s rain is heavier, takes place in short intense bursts, and is more calamitous in nature. Extreme cloudburst events which have almost become routine and seasonal by now kill thousands of people every year, upend their lives and cause untold amount of misery and suffering.
“When rain falls too quickly for soil to absorb, the ground can’t soak it all up. Instead, stormwater runoff collects and flows through yards and roadways, increasing the risk of floods and soil erosion. Localized flooding can disrupt transportation, damage infrastructure and cause power outages.”
From being the provider and a source of relief to farmers, recharging the waterfalls, streams, and aquifers in the forest, and quenching the thirst of the animals dependent on them, it has become a source of stress and anxiety.
One that is marked by death, misery, misfortune, despondency, and sadness. Massive trees get uprooted, power grids fail, people get electrocuted, entire roads and residential localities get flooded with sewage water. Rivers and lakes overflow their banks, and landslides destroy everything that’s downhill of their path, all that signal that the rain is anything but a provider of abundance and happiness. On the one hand, you have certain parts of the country reeling from extended periods of drought, and on the other, there are other regions of the country that get inundated from excessive rainfall during the monsoons.
It looks like this man made bipolar weather is here to stay.
This is what happens when one tries to encroach upon nature and concretize each and every square inch of the cities that we now call home. When we don’t give space to mother nature to exist, she will snatch it from us. And she’ll do it with a vengeance!
So what’s my point?
Stop glorifying climate change and extreme weather events. They’re not cool. They take lives, destroy livelihoods, disrupt the lives of countless people who work on the streets, cause immense pain and untold suffering in the lesser developed parts of the city. For the well off, privileged millennial with a comfortable work-from-home job, the rain might look filmy and romantic as you pose with your mug of artisan coffee sitting in your 10th floor balcony. But for the tens of thousands of lower income folks residing and working at ground level, it is anything but rainbows and waterfalls all around.
And if you think that’s not the case, you can do some further reading on how extreme weather disproportionately affects poor people and people living in underdeveloped areas of a city.