This Week's Commute: Of Lakes and Rains and…

I chased a Jaguar. I've long stopped desiring premium possessions but this one was blue and sleek and I wanted a full view of the thing in motion. The car progressed in spurts, leaping each time the congestion before it cleared, and I went after it in step. I was so intent on tailing it and its driver was so intent on testing its strength, we both went thudding into pothole after pothole, brand new potholes from last week's unusual rains. They dealt cruel knocks to our cars, but of course the Jag's driver wouldn't have felt them on account of his best-in-class shock absorbers. I didn't feel them either, but I sensed the knocks my car was taking. I lost the Jag before a Hyundai dealership where I slowed and it sped. Two new cars were coming out to make their debut, decked up in streamers and ribbons. The sight of them sobered me, and I stopped pushing my car.

I've been watching the potholes grow in depth and number over last week. Each night's rain opened new pits by morning, and made wider and deeper the existing pits. We watched them while going to work, and cursed them after each thud and bump when they jerked us out of reading or writing or fiddling with dials on the camera. Returing in the evening, we were overwhelmed by the pouring rain to notice anything else--we were one with the driver as he maneuvered through the flooded streets. The monsoons are being fierce on their way out this year. All these years they'd leave drawing nobody's attention; now they're making awesome curdling sound and flashing incessant blinding light. The downpour stops around the time we reach home, and then it comes back and wakes us after we've slept, and keeps up the son et lumière for a couple of hours, and we lie awake and wonder at the show. We worry for those who haven't a roof.

In the morning, though, the news isn't about the roofless. It's rather about those who've built homes in low-lying areas, areas where the waters have again and again warned people not to build.

Yesterday morning, such news was slapped on us. We'd been having a good drive. We went fast enough through Sankey Road and High Grounds and the Stadium Area--all the way until the end of Brigade Road. There, at Victoria Cross, barricades and frantic policemen diverted us rightward into Richmond Road, giving us no advice on where we could get back on track. So we skipped a few side streets and entered one at a distance, hoping a wide arc would do the trick. No luck. We arrived in a maze filled with cars and bikes and we traversed streets I'd never seen before--Alexandria Street, Wellington Street--and passed apartment blocks with wistful names: Aspen Wellington, Farah Garden (with a tiny lawn before the block). We wormed round and round through ever-thickening traffic, and decided after a half hour to attempt an even wider arc, and came out of Langford Town in which we were and turned toward Double Road.

There by phone I learnt the reason for the worse-than-usual traffic, a layer of mess on top of the daily mess. Last night's rain had drowned houses in Anepalya on Hosur Road to the sills of their windows. The tenants, who had only the previous day baled out knee-height flooding in their homes, had come to the highway and blocked the traffic to air their plight. No public agency had helped them the day before; no help was in sight now.

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I'd seen this inevitability last night going home. The rains fell on top of us in such volume and there was so much water round us that we went with water seeping through the crevices of the vehicle. Some cars had stopped altogether in the middle of the streets, and some were abandoned on the side. In Langford Town which I have mentioned above, the waters swirled and came down at us like tight masses of ropes thick as thighs, each turning with its own fury and looking ominous and purposeful. It realized after a while where that swirling body was going. It was heading to reclaim the lowland which is now the Hockey Stadium and which was once without doubt a lake. One lake of many that are now drowned in concrete. The problem at Anepalya is the same. As in so many places in Bangalore. Whose fault is it that the folks of Anepalya built their homes on a lake bed? Theirs who built? Theirs who tenant the building? Theirs who allowed the lake to be drained for the buildings to come up?

I don't know. I have fresh worries. Today, not too far from Anepalya, in the special court in the jail precincts of Parappana Agrahara, they're going to pronounce judgement on a corruption case against the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. The verdict is expected to go against her. Her men will show off their loyalty on Hosur Road which I've mentioned above and which is the highway to my home.

I'm bracing myself for them.