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   The monsoon is definitely over.... (October 30, 1998)

The last of the rains have descended and the waters gone down the drains to the sea. The umbrellas have been discarded by some, passed on to their servants, others, more thrifty, have carefully wrapped them in paper and stowed them away in the loft above the kitchen, to be made a banquet of by the rats. Do rats eat umbrellas? Not as food, but just to destroy them. They are very destructive animals.

So, the monsoon season has ended. But then what is this new season?

It is not summer, because summer is March, April, May, when the schools have summer holidays for their children and teachers (we keep worrying about the plight of the teachers, have we ever considered how many holidays they get!) and railways run summer specials. And it is not winter, because it is still a month or so away. Also, because there is no cold in the air, no snap of the winter.

So, once again, what is this season we are having presently? In England, they call it the Indian summer. If I mistake not, and I could be mistaken, it is a few days that come in the late autumn, when the weather turns fine, and mellow to bright. We could call ours the English summer, but it would not be correct.

Our difficulty is that we do not have an autumn. Or our autumn is our winter and we do not have a winter.

In many respects, autumn in Europe and parts of America (America is too vast a country to have one seasonal pattern all through, it even has four time zones) is the prettiest season of the year. It is when the leaves turn an autumnal red and drop from the trees. For instance, in London, all Hyde Park is shedding its leaves, the winds drifting them into Oxford Street, where they march through the crowds.

The time clock has already been changed, and days are getting measurably shorter. No more the long twilights with the farmer homeward plodding his weary way.

In Mumbai, officially there are three seasons: summer, monsoon and winter; and in fact there are two, summer and monsoon. There is a high summer of May, a medium summer of October, November, and a still milder summer for the end of the year.

In respect of winter, Delhi scores over us. There the winter is a visible presence, not snow but cold, chilling the bones, and woody smoke in the air, created from hundreds of bonfires.

I spent one winter in Delhi, at the time of the Asian Games, and I was surprised to see one morning all the reporters coming to the office in their woollen suits. That was when I went to one of those pavement shops in Janpath and bought myself a red cardigan, made in Haryana. I still have it.

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