Noel Ellis's Official Blog

I wield the pen to explore the vastness of the human mind





Sunday it is our weekly shopping day. It has been pouring since last night and continues to pour heavily as I write. The forecast says it will continue for the next three days. Imagine 1500 mm of rain has already gone down the drain. Double this figure is what we expect by the end of monsoon.

In rainy season it is a ritual that all of us carry umbrellas. As you step out of your door, with a click of a button it deploys like a parachute. Now, at least the downpour is blocked.  Next obstacles are the small rivulets which flow on the pathway. There is no way you can avoid them. We step into them with utmost caution lest your chappals throw those droplets to wet your rear. The standard dress is Bermuda and hawai chappals, no point getting dressed like a Colonel. When in Alibaug, don’t do as the Romans do.

Next hurdle is to get into the car without getting wet. The moment you open your door & sit down with the umbrella stuck outside, you push your hand out to fold the umbrella; it is time enough to get one sleeve and half the interiors of the car wet. Now is the dilemma where to keep your wet umbrella. If you keep it on the floor you clothes are bound to absorb water. So we stick them into the drinking water bottle slots.

When you reach the market the same drill is done to open umbrellas again so now one side of yours is thoroughly wet.  Here there is an unwritten umbrella code, that when you cross each other you tilt it to the opposite side out of courtesy, means that for a few seconds half of your body is exposed to the rain gods. It is dicey if there are a few people in a row. Then the second code is if you are taller than the person opposite, it is your moral duty to raise yours a little high, like a gentleman would raise his hat for a lady. In the bargain the other person’s umbrella goes touching you and you get the trickle of his umbrella water.

People in cars I found are courteous; they slow down in puddles for the pedestrian from the mucky water being thrown at you. Then there are some naughty people on two wheelers who know you have nowhere to run and splash water at you. You try and give them a dirty look but the umbrella is shading you, it gets too late. By now you have been soaked thoroughly. It is now just psychological to stay dry. It is something like the novices boxing. You try and avoid taking a hit but once hit then your face goes numb. Then boxes don’t matter. Now rain doesn’t matter.

My daughter wanted to buy new sandals today so as the unwritten code goes, everyone takes off footwear outside the shops. You walk on a few gunny bags and then do shopping. For the first time she found one of her slippers missing. Here no one takes them away but today it happened. Look at the honesty of that person he took one of hers and left one of his. Actually when everything is wet then that feeling of wearing your own stuff disappears I think.

Carrying your sabzi-tarkari bag is tough. If you hang it too low it is bound to get wet from both the rain and the love poured by the passing traffic, so you hang it holding it high while balancing your umbrella in the same hand. God forbid if an acquaintance meets you to exchange pleasantries. You can’t even tell him that dimwit I am carrying two kgs each of tomato, potato and pyaz. The only escape is to blame it on the “barish” and move on cursing under your breadth.

Once you reach back your car the drill of staying dry still continues in your mind subconsciously though you may be soaking wet. Today, when I reached home I decided to give my car a rinse. I parked in the rain against the wishes of my wife. She said hum bheeg jayenge. I looked at her lovingly and said sweet heart “thora aur sahi” for my sake. She lovingly took the bait and ran inside.

By the time I went in I was wet to my undies.  I ran and changed as goose bumps and those little shivers that you start experiencing when drenched were catching on me besides the pressure to visit the loo. Before I got a running nose it was time to dry up. Next Sunday, will we get a no rain window to do our shopping? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!


© Noel Ellis



Petrichor is that earthly smell which emanates when parched earth receives the first drops of rain. I just love “Mitti ki sondhi khushboo”. I remember a grass root called “Khas” which was used in the desert coolers. It used to emit a very unique earthy smell too. I also remember smell of tea in a Kulhar or Sakora at a railway station. The taste of the tea used to be transformed by this small earthen pot.

Rains have brought much relief from the heat and humidity. Here when it rains, it rains like hell. Not like Cats and Dogs but like Elephants and Rhinos. The brown and burnt terrain has suddenly turned lush green. I have yet to see so many shades of green. With the sky overcast, these shades vary & add beauty to the landscape. It is 10 am now and it as dark as 7.30 pm. “Kaali ghata cha gayi hai”.

The chicks of nesting birds have flown. Ponds are overflowing; Ducks and Cormorants are flocking in them. Frogs and toads have gotten busy fluffing their wind bags and croaking sweet melodies. I have yet to see one worth a kiss though. Earthworms have left their holes and are easy pickings for Mynah’s. They devour them like noodles. Ants have now got wings & are flying in swarms. Street lights are clogged and the frogs are having a “barakhana”.

Waterfalls have come alive and are in gusto, sprinkling and spraying water on passersby. All sorts of contraptions besides the conventional umbrella and raincoats are out. White cement bags slit from one side are a common site. Ladies wearing polythene bags instead of shower caps appear funny. Motorcycles with handle covers and seat covers, kids with school bags under wraps are a common scene in this part of the country. A kind of “wetty” feeling is in the air.

You open a packet of namkeen it will go soggy in a minute. The crunchiness just doesn’t stay. Biscuits many drop off from your hand before dipping them in tea, just exaggerating. The only saving grace is the garma garam pakoras which my wife makes for me after office.

The man who cannot just do his job is our poor dhobi. How hard he may try and how hot he may iron the dresses, they are going to stay soggy. The bed feels soggy, the sofa feels soggy & the towel too feels soggy. I just can’t stand that typical stink which creeps in from somewhere in wet towels and baniyans. Clothes now take three to four days to dry. Imagine if you have to wear soggy underwear.

Soon algae will start greening everything. Mushrooms have already started sprouting all over, not the edible ones but the decorative woody kind. Flowers pots are on a musical chairs spree as one has to keep shifting them. In our place plants actually drown. For plant lovers like me, our green house has been converted into a makeshift shelter, with all of them huddled together to face the wrath of rain. Small embankments to divert water, besides water blocks to stop flooding are being made. Digging and freshening of drains is in progress. Tough times I must say.

I somehow love rains. The pitter-patter is such a soothing sound punctuated by the roar of thunder and a crack of lightening. It shakes your soul out in a way. As I drove my bike with my daughter through villages and farms yesterday, it was very soothing to see light green grassy patches. On closer look we found them to be paddy seedlings. Oxen standing in the fields with their ploughs hooked up. They too have their raincoats made out of fertilizer bags. Their horns brightly painted and tinker bells making music as we saw them obediently reacting to every whistle, shoo, shout and sound of the farmer. I wish the farmers luck. May they have a bumper crop and may million hungry mouths be fed.

My only issue is why all this water is flowing down to sea without being harvested. Villagers fight for this precious resource in lean months. People blockade our company gates if water is rationed. Villages which had two hundred people twenty years back now have two thousand. I do not see any government water pipeline or even an effort to mitigate their water woes. Funds come and go down the drain it seems.

Be that as it may. Next three months are going to be wet, wetter and wettest. Getting drenched is a ritual as work will never stop. Schools here do not have a rainy day holiday. I like one thing about the honesty of local people that no one runs away with your umbrella or your slippers.

Rain is a blessing indeed and my garam piyali of chai has arrived. Let me stand in the corridor and appreciate the rhythm of falling rain. Is anyone coming to dance with me? I wonder!!!!!!!!!


© Noel Ellis







I was watching a programme on water scarcity where I saw long queues of residents waiting to fill water in Simla. India may see a water crisis soon. Does this strike a chord somewhere? War for oil is passé, the next World War is going to be for water, I reckon.

Hills do have a peculiar problem where water freezes in pipes in winters. In summers tourists flock the area and consume water in bucket loads, in rainy season every drop gets washed away. So how to sustain is the question. My place has an average rainfall of 2500 mm plus per annum and all goes to the sea. Villages around are crying hoarse for drinking water but nothing is being done to harvest a single drop or address their perennial problem.

Be that as it may. I remember in the deserts I was lucky to have served in a battalion which had no dearth of vehicles and had many bowsers of 1000/3000 litres capacity. We were also fortunate enough to have our Engineer Regiment friends who used to go in advance to establish water points for us in midst of nowhere. I must also thank the Indian Government and their vision to construct the Indira Gandhi canal from Harike barrage in Ferozpur to deep inside Rajasthan, teeming with fish and delivering pure water from the confluence of Beas & Sutlej Rivers to the parched deserts. Fresh canal fish, fried to perfection with rum and “thanda pani” was ultimate during exercises.

I remember a place called “Dharmi Khu”. It was a deep well very close to the boundary of India and Pakistan. Shepherds of both countries used to water their cattle from this common well. I for the first time saw two camels pulling a huge leather bucket (MASHAK) made of one piece camel skin out of the well from a depth of about 1000 feet for water to reach the surface. The communication between the camel operator and the man at the well used the typical one finger whistle. It used to be fun to see the irritated camels come back in reverse gear grunting and blabbering their frothy tongues. I have tasted that water, it was very brackish. Normal people will spit it out like a shower but man and beast in those far off lands had to drink it. I hope “Sagarmal Gopa Canal” water has reached there by now.

The chaggal (water canvas small) and the pakhal (mule tank) were the ultimate Army water carriers. As a Mech Officer I never carried a water bottle but had chaggals tied all around my open jonga. The thin crust of ice in the chilly desert winter on canvas buckets was common. How can one forget, beer bottles were chilled in deep pits left overnight, sprinkled with water in the golden sands of Jaisalmer.

In Ladakh fetching water was fun. Though we had an engineer detachment but they were left to run the boat in Pangong Tso with a modified one tonne engine. The water point was between Lukung and Phobrang village. My “Pinja” buddy in a 3 Ton with my wife and our post dog Rambo used to hop on with a small working party to fetch water every second day. Wife, I & Rambo used to get down at the fishing point to catch Brown Trout. Rest of the party used to go to fetch water. I used to wonder why they didn’t carry water tanks. They used bring back frozen blocks of nice clean transparent ice. This also solved the mystery of why these guys carried crow bars instead of rubber hoses. Later I found this a common site in Ladakhi villages where ladies used to carry ice in baskets.

Water both in High altitude and the deserts was rationed. Our unit water bowser used to pump water in our over head tanks once a day in married accommodation at Jodhpur. Jaisalmer was equally bad where we lived off pakhals. While one was deployed in the deserts for exercises and operations one had the privilege of having an exclusive bucket of water as an officer. Men generally took a dip in the canal in case it was in the near vicinity. In my whole army life it was rarely I would have taken a shower. Today, in Jodhpur one has to store water in underground tanks and it is 1000 rupees for a tanker these days. All our lives we lived with water timings and never complained.

Most of us would never have witnessed dry cleaning of utensils. Let me tell you about a typical desert village where the utensils are rubbed clean with sand and we too did it in various exercises to conserve water for the days ahead. I haven’t seen “BARTANs” cleaner and glistening like gold after dry cleaning with sand. They will beat Vim bar any day.

A man can live without food for weeks but maximum three days without water. If water is so important, then what are my countrymen doing to preserve it? I think fauji’s can manage with rationed water can the rest of India too? I wonder!!!!!!!!!!!


© Noel Ellis

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