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   I have seen the approach of the south-west monsoon from several different places. (November 6, 1985)

One night, it was from the revolving restaurant of the Hotel Ambassador. First, the view of Bombay at its best, the Marine Drive lights neatly arranged in a row, a sense of the sea in the background. The Ambassador's Top is like an eagle's nest (whatever the word for it is in the crosswords), you can sit in it and observe the day changing into night, summer into monsoon. And so it was that night, suddenly the warm night outside the glass walls was covered with sheets of water, Marine Drive blurred behind them.The south-west monsoon had finally reached Bombay. I remember watching a similar arrival many years ago. I was sitting with my friend, Bhupendra Shah, at the Radio Club bar, drinking Black Knight, which he in all his Gujarati innocence in those days thought was scotch. Then I saw it, the monsoon, first coming over the blue hills of Uran, then walking across the harbour and into Apollo Bunder. And I have seen it in Panchgani, every year. First, there would be the preparations; the summer tourists descending the hill and returning home, the hotels putting their rain roofings, the wells being cleaned. Then the season on the tableland playgrounds changing, from cricket to football (or was it hockey to football?).

The monsoon always came from Mahableshwar. Dark, angry clouds, like Maratha armies, advancing from the sea and over Shivaji's forts, then bursting over Mahableshwar. Most of the monsoon's fury would be expended there, on the senior hill-station, then the remaining clouds would burst over Panchgani. The effect was instaneous. Trees turning green, the tableland a carpet of orchids, like a Shyam Ahuja creation, the Krishna swelling in the valley, the silver oaks dropping more than ever, the roads running rivers of red mud. Once the monsoon arrived in the hills, it almost never left. A continuous chatter of rain on tin roofs, no sun for days on end. I have also seen the monsoon in Goa. One morning, getting up at the Fort Aguada and looking out of its picture window. The monsoon current was coming in from the sea, riding the waves, driving them in great haste. That was the morning I drove over the ghats, dripping with rain water, to the Belgaum-Karwar border and the little house among the lemon trees that the Manohar Malgonkars have built. Once over the ghats and on the other side of the border, it was bright and sunny. Probably because the sun always shines on Manohar Malgonkar.

 
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