Monsoon season is a perfect example of a ‘Frenemy’ – `Friend’ when it rains just right and ‘Enemy’ when it rains too much! Friend for the farmers, enemy for a city dweller like me; Some love the petrichor, some detest it; some relate rains with hot tea and snacks, some with muddy streets and damp clothes! This monsoon season, I got a chance to be ‘out-on-a-rainy-day’ in three big cities – Tokyo, Delhi and Mumbai and it was astounding to see how these city dwellers cope up with rains.
All these big cities are buzzing with life and activities through the day but the usual routine changes track when it rains here. The behaviour reflects the personality and outlook of the people and the city authority’s vision towards a “good place to live”. Let me start with Tokyo and gradually come to Delhi as it has become my home town and is a capital of many things!
Japanese are meticulous in whatever they do and are a corruption free society. The government, private institutions and individuals give high priority to safety, comfort and convenience. Life & social responsibility is highly valued and hence Japanese never compromise in the quality of infrastructure development and living spaces. Let me share a few instances encountered while I was ‘out- on -a-rainy-day’ in Tokyo.
In the morning, people diligently watch the weather forecast and while I was going out, my host told me it will rain today from 8 to 9 AM. Being a Delhite, I walked out ignoring the warning. As forecasted, it did start raining and my Delhi nerves panicked! But when I looked around, people were armed with all kinds of gears to combat rains. Not wanting to be the odd one out, dredging and walking soaked, I was forced to buy a ‘disposable’ umbrella (yes, there’s a thing like that!). At the metro station escalator, there were markers cautioning ‘wet floor’. People stood only on left side of the escalator, keeping the right side free or the ‘Free way’ for people who keep climbing while the escalator moves. I started noticing a new gadget at the entrance of every shop. It looked oddly placed, and hence made me curious. Some tall and sophisticated and some like a basket with plastic wrappers. I noticed a lady putting her umbrella inside the tool before entering the shop. The tool made a small sound and it wrapped the umbrella with a plastic bag! I saw every one walking inside the shop with their umbrella in the plastic cover with some rain water collected at the bottom of the cover. Interesting!! I recalled the MRF TVC, where people slip and slide on the wet floor but the MRF tyre car rides smoothly…. This advertisement will definitely not work in Tokyo!! Even though it rained for an hour, the streets weren’t flooded, no muddy puddles and no floating trash, a pleasing sight indeed!
How do the Japanese manage this? The city does trash collection and drain cleaning regularly. The inhabitants are much disciplined and no trash is thrown on the streets. In very crowded areas, particularly where tourists often visit, well-dressed men & women walk around with a carry bag and tweezers searching for trash. They diligently pick the trash and dispose it at the right place.. I remember while I was working in one office in Tokyo, after lunch, men and women in business suits would go out for 15 minutes with carry bags to pick trash! The cleanliness of the city is a collective effort of the constructor who constructs the pavement and road, municipality who diligently collect the trash and the inhabitants who take utmost care to keep their living space clean.
Now let me take you to Mumbai – The city of dreams! A casual Delhite that I am, I didn’t look at the weather before going there. It was monsoon with a 100% chance of heavy rains. As luck would be, I went without an umbrella. It was pouring heavily and I panicked again! I got into a cab and hurriedly asked to proceed to my destination. I had already taken a two hours buffer than normal running time to make sure I reach the meeting on time. I looked out on the road – no panic on the street, people moving on foot happily enjoying the rains, all vehicles calm & composed…. May be the only difference was that the vada pav vendor was selling more than normal as Mumbaikars love the spicy tinge on a rainy day!
Coming to Delhi now, my beloved home-town. There was a forecast of rain for the last two days flashing on my phone screen. But Delhites don’t get easily perturbed as we live in the capital of many things and rains is just ‘another thing’ in our eventful lives. Since in-spite of a forecast, it hadn’t rained the last two days, I overlooked and went out with no preparation. Very soon, it got overcast and the city was blessed with thunderous rain! We Delhites don’t like rain & humidity. I’ll tell you why… it is mainly because of what follows! There was total chaos all around the streets, vehicles moving as they wish, bikers taking the shelter of roadside kiosks and stray cattle standing in the midst of this mayhem! In hardly 10 minutes, most of the road became a mess with stand-still cars honking and dredged pedestrians almost swimming across the roads in knee deep water. The city has foot paths (elevated but half broken and with open manholes which are nothing less than death traps!). They are either occupied by pan wallas, car parking or animal faeces. Delhites are used to the struggle of walking in the concoction of mud water, floating trash, human and animal waste.
I struggled my way to the metro station. I saw different kinds of people – some covering their shoes with a plastic bag and driving on bikes, some blocking the escalator, busy on their cellphones as if calling the emergency number of heaven to stop the rains. The sad part is, we live in the capital! Still, no freeways, no warning for wet floor, no innovative tools in front of the shops (rather the floors of the shops are also flooded). It is really disheartening to see lack of safety, convenience and comfort during such times. We have expensive cars to drive on the flooded city roads, and we don’t think twice in littering the streets with wrappers, peels & what not! This only makes the life of pedestrians worse during monsoon. The govt. tries to do its bit, but without the cooperation of the inhabitants, it becomes difficult for them to maintain the cleanliness.
These experiences put forth a question, are we one civilization behind?? Shall we not learn a few good things from countries like Japan? It is high time we change our ways or we are definitely headed for a much worst scenario. Imbibing good governance and social responsibility can take us places.Let us pledge to be better citizens in the future so that we all may enjoy the monsoons and not dread them…