I thought I had got the hang of this monsoon business. In Delhi, you know when the rains are coming. Almost always in the afternoon, and preceded by hours of heavy, humid air that makes your clothes stick to your body after thirty seconds outside. The rains come in pounding torrents but are usually over within an hour. Not very pleasant, but manageable - you just have to learn to recognise the signs that they are on their way and make sure you have suitable shelter handy.
Mumbai, it turns out, is different. It started raining on my way from the airport on Wednesday night, and until last night it didn't stop once. I don't mean this in the English sense, whereby "it didn't stop raining for days" means "actually there were quite long periods when it wasn't raining, but the sky was so grey and miserable that it might as well have been, and anyway moaning about English weather is so much more satisfying if you can use pithy but not entirely accurate descriptors." I mean that it didn't stop raining. A constant downpour emptied itself over the city at rates ranging from moderate to torrential from 7 pm on Wednesday until around 9 pm Saturday night.
Now I've done a fair amount of independent travel and I'm not normally the sort to let something as inconsequential as weather stop me from exploring a new city. True to form, I set off on Saturday morning to see Mumbai. I'd been vaguely planning to go out to Elephanta Island, but even I had the sense to see that that probably wasn't going to be much fun on this trip. So instead I decided to explore the Fort and Colaba areas (i.e. the hub of the colonial-era city) and figured I could hop between cafes and galleries if the rain got too much.
I did get a chance to admire some of the truly gorgeous gothic and art deco buildings, which face each other across the open space of the Oval Maidan like two opposing architectural armies. I did make it to the Gateway of India (which I think is a more impressive sight than its Delhi rival, India Gate). But I couldn't withstand the onslaught. I lasted an hour and a half before, utterly soaked through and miserable, I took refuge in the national museum of modern art. After an hour squelching around looking at the exhibits (most of which, I am afraid to say, failed to rouse me from my sodden gloom) I retreated back to the hotel and spent most of the afternoon surfing the internet and reading, broken only by a quick trip during a realtively dry period to buy some new shoes and socks.
This morning I awoke to a blissful silence, the hammering on the roof of the hotel having stopped. Perhaps my final day in Mumbai would actually involve some enjoyable tourist activities! Delighted, I leapt into the shower. Unfortunately, when I turned the shower off the noise of cascading water continued. A quick peek out of the window confirmed Mumbai had only been toying with me: the rains were back, and harder than ever. That was three hours ago and they're not showing any inclination to go away.
So I am sat in my hotel's less-than-great cafe, and will remain here until 3 pm when I shall relocate to the airport (earlier than I need to, but what the hell). I don't think I've ever experienced such a comprehensive washout of a weekend (and I grew up in Manchester). Lesson learned - if you're coming to Mumbai for work between July and September, don't bother hanging around for the weekend...