- kewal sethi
the weather talks
the weather talks
(rummaging through my papers i came across this write up. it is not dated so cannot say how old it is. it must be quite old because it talks about bhutto of pakistan and gaddafi of libya. but here it is for all it is worth)
there is nothing in the world, not excluding the current agitation in gujarat or the latest from that great gaddafi, or even the latest stand taken by bhutto, that is more talked about than the weather. whenever two gentlemen (or for that matter any two men), meet, the talk reverts to weather. the falling of temperature, the rising winds, the dripping clouds, and the smiling flowers are always hot topics. if the women did not have clothes and their ever-changing (even more than the fickle weather) fashion, they would also be talking about weather between themselves. but the clothes are there and that is that.
so it was no surprise to me when the person to whom i was just introduced started talking about weather.
in order to put the facts in their proper prospective, i should point out that i was posted in gwalior at that time. i had left it on tour, which took me to raipur and nagpur and from there to bhopal where i met this gentleman. i had left gwalior about ten days back but i knew about a cold wave through the newspapers sweeping across the whole of north india. a part of it had come down to bhopal also.
anyway, knowing i am posted at gwalior, he at once started talking about the weather in gwalior. “it must be very cold in gwalior”, he said. i explained that i was away from gwalior for quite some time and all the knowledge i had of the cold wave was from our mutual acquaintances – the newspapers. he was somewhat disappointed with my reply as if he expected that i should not have given up the responsibility for its weather so calmly.
but this did not dampen his spirits. he hoped that though i did not have firsthand knowledge about the recent cold wave, i still had enough loyalty not to give it up so calmly. so he continued, “ even so, it must have been very cold”. i agreed. there was nothing else to do. all the newspapers said so. and the newspapers do not lie except when they are predicting the election results of uttar pradesh giving the forecast depending upon which party they were well-wishers of. but then what else do you expect. anyway, i agreed. the pace having been set, he continued, “here also it has been very cold. you won’t believe the temperature went down to three degrees centigrade. in the grass on the outskirts, it was even less”. his eyes were wistful. it appeared as if he was looking into the grass where the temperature was close to one degree. he probably regretted the fact that he was not there when it happened, when the all important occasion occurred. not that he would have cared to leave his comforts, and his bed when there was time. wild horses would not have drawn him there. he loved his wife, his house, his kids, and most of all his bed. i regretted that i could not likewise describe the place in gwalior where the temperature was one degree centigrade.
so i took recourse to the time honoured technique. this was to divert his attention about the cold wave. if you remember, allies took the same course when their forces landed at normandy. you will also remember how bertie wooster resorted to this technique whenever he was in trouble ( and he was quite adapt at being in trouble), of course on the advice of that fish eating companion jeeves. whenever the proceedings became too hot, he did it. and i followed his example.
so i said,” yes, it has been very cold. in fact it has been cold all through this year.” i continued that i had never seen it this cold. that is what we always say when there is nothing else to say. but he did not appear to be impressed. it was a poor substitute for his cold wave.
i had not learnt the story of bruce for nothing. i tried again. “in fact, quite a year. look at the rainfall we had this year. i hear that it was great in bhopal. bhopal had been almost swept away. the big lake got bigger all the time,” i concluded.
it did the trick. his eyes began to sparkle. he did remember the day when bhopal was almost swept away by the swirling waters of the lake or so it seemed. he began describing the golden afternoon. it had rained all night. it had rained as never before. the lake was a scene. almost all the government jeeps were there, notwithstanding standing orders , repeated with regularity, not to use the jeeps for nonofficial purposes. bhopal was cut off from all sides. just imagine, all sides. just imagine. i could. i happened to be in bhopal that afternoon. i am not sure that the gentleman i was talking to was in bhopal. but his loyalty to bhopal overrode every other consideration. he described in details how every nullah was full. even going to office and coming back was difficult. why? it even leaked in the garage - at two places . i could feel his pleasure. it is not a small thing that the garage of an officer leaked, and that also at two places. one would have been bad enough, but two, that was too much. he was proud of his rains, of his splash that rains made and his garage which leaked at two places. he described how he and his family visited the lake and the place where the water overflowed at bhadbhada dam on its way to kerwa dam. the police was there, the fire brigade was there, the commissioner and the collector were there and of course, the minister supervising the operation. they all were trying to see the city was not swept away, the city they loved so much, even more than the rains which were unprecedented. his mind relived the event. his eyes roamed over the scene again. he re-examined his garage which leaked at two places, one in the right-hand front side and also on at the back towards the middle. it might have been two feet from the wall, or maybe one foot nine inches. but it was there. the drops fell on his car, his new car.
i did not dare tell him about my veranda where it leaked at six places. that would have spoiled his day and his description. you see, i was also quite proud of my veranda which leaked at six places and also of the drawing room where it leaked at two. i almost gave in to my desire to tell him about it but, somehow, i held my peace.
must stop now because i can see you thinking about your own bedroom which leaked in the last rains, though only at one place. but even one is something to boast about and think about and relive the moment. so adieu, enjoy your leaking bedroom as the gentleman was enjoying his leaking garage, remember it leaked at two places.