Let’s talk a little bit about the monsoon this week.
You may wonder why there is so much rain in India in the summer. It works like this. In the warmer months, the sun heats both land and water…but land temperatures rise more quickly. As the land heats up, the air above it expands and a low pressure system develops. At the same time, the ocean heats more slowly retaining a higher pressure. This difference in pressure pulls sea breezes onto the land dragging moist air along with it. As it moves, the moist air rises and cools, decreasing the airs ability to hold water resulting in heaps of rain. Repeat this process for a few wet months and you have our beloved monsoon season.
OK, enough of the science. What is it like to actually live through a monsoon? If you’ve never had the pleasure, here are a few snapshots of Mission life as it goes on, rain or shine…but mostly rain. Welcome to the monsoon.
This week saw a whole lot of rain, but much of that came in workable amounts. It was the intense Thursday rain that refused to relent, dropping more than 5 inches of water in just six hours. As a result, our drains and the ground could not absorb it all, creating standing water that simply rose and rose.
In the small boys’ hostel, thanks to a collapsed drain pipe, the central courtyard began to back up early with the water level threatening to flood into the boys’ rooms. Though Auntie Violet later reported it was Jesus and her prayers that kept the water at bay (and we certainly aren’t discounting this), it’s worth noting that Amir did not stop bailing throughout the storm, running hundreds of buckets outside, all with a characteristic smile on his face.
Heavy rains don’t keep our cows indoors; our shepherd Bikram takes them out to graze come hell or high water, as the saying goes. But they don’t do much eating when the rains are really intense. For the most part, they look for trees to shelter beneath, then generally stand under them looking miserable and wet, waiting for the storm to end. Bikram does the same thing.
One thing that’s particularly difficult in this kind of weather is the laundry. Like the water from above, there is a near-constant flow of laundry here at the mission, and without an industrial drier on site, we rely on clothes lines and the sun to complete each load. When the rains pour down, Stella and the laundry staff needs to get creative, utilizing every overhang and indoor space to get the job done.
Much of the cooking that we do here on the mission is done outside, weather permitting. Large pots of rice or stacks of chapatis are easily handled over burning logs—but fire likes rain even less than the cows. Luckily, with the help of the Samartha Saxena Foundation, Rick and the welders in the workshop have recently completed a high protective covering for the outdoor cooking area, allowing for a completely dry space even during the worst weather.
The monsoon has been responsible for many school cancellations. As our district is large and sprawling, including some low-lying areas, we often have holidays even when the sun is out because other students are still under water. But on Thursday, as the heaviest rains of the year were falling, school was in session. Before long, the playground field was completely submerged, more like a pond than a cricket pitch, as water from the nearby river began to overflow its banks. It made for some wet dashes to waiting buses and some school uniforms in need of drying…but otherwise, it was just another day at school.
It was definitely an indoor work kind of day. All construction has stopped at our Staff Accommodation site; it looks more like a lap pool than a foundation at the moment. But interior plaster work continued without delay up at our new Learning Resource Center. Both our welding and carpentry workshops were also open for business, dodging leaks and barricading entrances as the flood waters continued to rise.
By the time mid-afternoon rolled around, the sun poked out, the humidity began to climb, the flood waters crested and immediately began to recede, and life began to return to normal. The big winner in all this: our rice crop that loves as much rain as it can get, making it the perfect crop for this time of year in this part of the world.
All totaled, we received more than 14 inches of rain in this past week alone. Which, for those of you keeping track at home, is not even close to the record. Back in 2012, according to Rick’s rain ledger, we received 28 inches of rain in one 24 hour period. Perhaps even the rice wasn’t happy on that day.
For now we’ll keep our eyes on the skies as grey clouds begin to form again and thunder rumbles in the distance. Warm land pulling cool sea air in a powerful, predictable, yearly cycle this part of the world has come to rely on. Thanks as always for your equally predictable support, a force of nature we’ve come to rely on as well.