“Aaj Chutti Hai Kya?” What Use is Mumbai’s Rain if it Doesn’t Cripple the City?

Humour

“Aaj Chutti Hai Kya?” What Use is Mumbai’s Rain if it Doesn’t Cripple the City?

Illustration: Akshita Monga

In what has come to be a depressing annual tradition, a footover bridge in Andheri collapsed as rains unleashed havoc in parts of Mumbai. Roads were flooded, schools declared holidays, the BMC kept its yearly promise of being incompetent, and the spirit of Mumbai was evoked yet again. After a dull and slow Monday, people woke up to a terrific Tuesday, as office WhatsApp groups were flooded with that one question that we all want to ask every monsoon morning: “Aaj chutti hai kya?”

Wednesday gave us some hope. The Mumbai police tweeted about the cracked bridge at Grant Road. And all we could think of was, “Aaj bhi chutti hai kya?”

With no long weekends to look forward to in July and August, a mid-week holiday is all a poor Mumbai soul can find solace in. After all, it is that momentous time of the year when nature’s fury meets BMC’s colossal mismanagement.

The anticipation for a rainy day holiday begins when the alarm goes off, you are still tucked in bed, and can hear the rain coming down hard. “How long has it been raining,” you quickly check with whoever is up, hoping that it has rained through the night and brought the city to a complete halt.

But there’s only one thing worse than not getting a surprise mid-week rain chutti. Being stranded at home on weekends and watching it pour heavily. Where was all this thunder and traffic, when you needed it the most? It’s the same feeling you get when a national holiday falls on a Sunday.

You curse the BMC and rant against them on Facebook and Twitter, but you secretly hope that your faith in its inability to deal with any rain situation is not shaken. The BMC is like Argentina at the World Cup – consistent in underperforming. But God bless them, because what use is the Mumbai rain if it does not cripple the city for a day or two?  

Here’s how every morning in the monsoon unfolds. If the rains have been incessant, you begin sourcing for images of flooded streets and railway tracks, so that you can start the propaganda war on office WhatsApp groups. If the MET department has predicted heavy rainfall and warned people not to step out, you screenshot it immediately and hope their predictions are as accurate as Japan’s oracle octopus (RIP) was about the World Cup results.  

You obsessively monitor Mumbai police’s Twitter timeline for updates on broken bridges and shut roads. Because when you talk about crawling traffic and slow trains you are just a lazy employee with an agenda, but when a profile with a blue tick posts a message, it feels like the word of God.

You may spend most of your time on Facebook waging war on fake news, but when someone sends you a video of people moving around in boats (so what if it’s from 2005? And from Papua New Guinea?) or Tata Nanos submerged in water, it must be “forwarded as received”. Everything is fair in love, war, and the pursuit of a holiday you don’t deserve.

Meanwhile, it is also important to be in touch with colleagues who’ve already left for work, and gauge what the actual situation is. These are the assholes who always did the homework in school and reminded the teacher about it the next day. Be wary of them. So what if the trains are running and the roads haven’t turned to rivers? Now is the time when everyone puts their creativity to use. The ankle-deep “water-logging” in the lane becomes waist-deep; and the few branches which have fallen magically sprout a tree.   

“There’s a tree fall outside my building. I can’t even get out of the house, how will I reach office? The BMC is worthless.” “There’s flooding and an open manhole just outside my house. A woman almost fell in it.” “My ceiling just collapsed.” Such grave messages begin pouring in to show that people really want to make it to work, but can’t.  

As office hours draw closer, you send yet another ping about trying to book an Uber or Ola for the last 40 minutes, when you’ve been at it for only four. You then complain about no rickshaws on the road. Keep in mind that the excuses must appear genuine and at no point should you sound desperate for a day off. Come across as an employee who puts his/her body on the line only to stare at Excel Sheets for eight hours and not the one who is making school-boy excuses to skip work.   

While you struggle to come up with more excuses (yes, a giant water snake entering your house is not a believable story), one brave soul who lives far, far away in Vasai pops the question, “Boss, aaj chutti hai kya?”

If all goes well, your boss will declare a holiday. But in the age of laptops, there is no way to get rid of the monkey of “work from home”. Because despite what your public intellectuals tell you, rain has no bearing on cloud storage. And if your boss is anything like mine, you would be heading to work in rubber chappals and a raincoat, as your friends post pictures on Instagram captioned #petrichor.

But there’s only one thing worse than not getting a surprise mid-week rain chutti. Being stranded at home on weekends and watching it pour heavily. Where was all this thunder and traffic, when you needed it the most? It’s the same feeling you get when a national holiday falls on a Sunday.

But don’t give up yet. Let’s try invoking the Rain Gods this coming weekend, maybe a marriage of frogs will help. Let’s hope for another manic Monday, so that one brave soul can ask the boss: “Aaj chutti hai kya?”

That, or just move to Hindmata.

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