Girgaum Chowpatty. Image by R R Pappadi
Heat, heat, heat.
The word circles within your head and ricochets off the walls of your skull. You are normally oblivious to everything else but the heat. It gets into your thoughts even when you are doing something a million times more important, and drives you crazy.
The heat hovers below your eyes when you read, slides off your nose while you watch TV, dances on your head while you work. It gets under your skin and squeezes out perspiration that could be collected in buckets. It seeps into your blood and boils until you begin to have hallucinations about blue swimming pools and breath-taking waterfalls and lashing sea waves and refreshing rivers, and you imagine jumping into them and vanishing into their depths where Summer does not exist.
You think about nothing else when you sit in air conditioned rooms: "God, how hot it is outside!"
You talk about nothing else when you meet acquaintances: "How's the heat, by the way?" you ask. They shake their heads and wipe their necks with their handkerchiefs or the edge of their saree, "Unbearable."
When you aren't thinking of heat, you occupy yourself with an abundance of worries on global warming and the vanishing ozone layer and the depleting water table.
Even when the next most popular summer obsession, IPL, is underway, the thought of heat floats like a halo around your head. "What a shot! Oofff, isn't it hot!"
If you are unfortunate enough to be on the road during the day, you get to witness dust hopping off the ground and heat waves rising from asphalt. Car and scooter seats left idle under the sun attain boiling point within seconds.
The sea, lapping up the Mumbai shores, tempt and tease people until they throw themselves into it.
Delicious mangoes and other fruits lining the fruit stalls provide momentary relief, but the heat still creeps up your skin and numbs your senses.
You wish to take a twenty-four hour long shower every day, and you emerge from the bathroom bathed in sweat as though the encounter with water had never happened.
Bottles of drinking water empty before your eyes, and you refuse to believe that you are the one who emptied them.
If you make the mistake of sleeping during the day time, the heat sneaks into your dreams and turns them into nightmares about people you had wanted to forget, exams you had written decades ago, places you had run away from, and images you believed were erased long ago.
But after a sizzling April-May comes the fabled Mumbai monsoon, the non-stop torrent that drowns the city as if with an apology for leaving it unattended while the heat devoured everyone, and sets everything right - or upside down? - once again.