BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
There was a time, many years ago when households used to be busy arranging woven coconut fronds around vulnerable areas in the house to keep the monsoon rains from beating in. And, as in many other aspects of our lives, times have changed, giving way to plastic sheets.
The rains are coming, and in a week or so, monsoons will have kissed Goa with cooling moisture, putting an end to the relentless heat of summer. Life will alternate to surviving the effects of rain, albeit a welcome relief in many ways. The flu and cold season will be in full swing, punctuated with coughs and sneezes.
Although the monsoon is linked to influenza and the common cold, after the pandemic, people have been primed to view any cough or other symptoms of a cold with suspicion. This could escalate into panic for some, putting a damper on the enjoyment of those who love the rain.
The rainy season, for us Goans, (apart from annoying cumbersome rainwear) is the time when we enjoy the greenery; the coolness; the games; and the change in social habits. It is the time of the year when schools re-open; people tend to their paddy fields; and people go fishing for sport.
There was a time when an indigenous game, goddiani (marbles), was played, as was football, in the wet fields. Kerosene was stocked at home to fill the lanterns home to be lit when the electricity failed, and bundles of candles were stored along with matchboxes. Wood was cut and stored in a cellar to be used for cooking.
Back in the present, most parents have begun tailoring school uniforms; bought and covered school books; and have even started shopping for raincoats that haven’t yet inundated the markets. As they prepare their children for the new academic year, the realisation that life is back to normal is setting in.
Goa then and Goa now is different, and the difference is huge. With the emphasis on infrastructure and development, many Goans are bracing themselves for disaster with floods.
The focus is definitely on our capital city Panjim which has been re-baptised Smart City. It has been in the news for all things not smart. Parts of Panjim would normally flood during the monsoons and especially when it rained heavily during the high tide.
A lot of theories were forwarded on the reasons for the floods and an equal number of remedies were attempted. Each time it rained, the city continued to be flooded and more theories were floated with an equal number of solutions that appeared to temporarily wash the water away down River Mandovi.
The government promised to bring an end to watery woes by resting their case on the Smart City mission, which has been funded by the Centre. The work is being overseen by agencies with little connection to Goa. The connection does not matter as long as the mission is accomplished, so it seems.
Reports emanating in the press and social media (most of which cannot be trusted), have prodded citizens to caution or rather make many dread the arrival of monsoons in many parts of Goa. These are areas which suffered due to floods last season and appear bound to suffer again with Panjim appearing the most likely.
So, it’s a wait-and-watch game of not just the pattern of monsoons in Panjim but other areas where infrastructural development is taking place against the concerns raised by citizens.
There have been fears raised in places that the national highway runs close to Benaulim; complaints in locations where double-tracking is taking place; and even complaints in places like Guirim in North Goa where the service road turned treacherous during the last monsoon.
Hills are being cut, trees are disappearing and imposing constructions are appearing in places once graced by nature. Today, buildings can be seen even in places that once served as playgrounds. The topography is changing and add to the mix climate change for a recipe that spells deluge and disaster.
But first, let us grapple with the prospect of delayed rains. One week remains until the monsoon begins, and Goa is yet to witness pre-monsoon showers. It has been raining in many parts of India, but the state is getting hotter and dryer.
Delhi, where it should be sizzling hot now, is witnessing cool weather. The same is being witnessed in the north and south of India. One wonders how the story of Goa’s monsoon is going to flow.