It was our first monsoon in the mountains. There was so much to see. Neighbours told us that the first sign of the rains coming were the little ferns growing on the trees. The girls and I would go for walks and look for them. They were so tiny.
There was something that looked like an old rag hanging on the electrical wire in front of our house. It was one of those annoying things that ruined the scenery. One day I was looking out of our kitchen window and saw it was covered with bright little ferns. It was so beautiful.
Things got greener and greener and the ferns became coats for the trees. The rain was torrential and it poured down for weeks on end. We would lie in bed at night and hear peals of continuous thunder going on for 20-30 minutes. Non-stop. Life had to go on, so we put on our raincoats, grabbed our umbrellas and out we would go.
Leeches fell from trees and lurked on the wet paths in the forests. They would attach themselves to whoever walked by and only fall off when they were thumb thickness and full. We carried small packets of salt to sprinkle on them. That made them shrivel up and drop off with not too much blood loss. Once when we were walking through a forest with friends, one attached itself right next to my pinky toe. I was panicking and panicked more when someone got a small sharp stick and tried to dig it out. It was ticklish and painful and I couldn’t keep my foot still. I screamed so loud that the rest of the group came running. They thought I was being attacked by a leopard.
The Mussoorie spiders were huge; some the size of my hand (including the legs). Tony managed to kill one and wanted to show me how big it was. I was lying in bed. He took full advantage of the horror on my face and came closer and closer, dangling it right in front of my nose. He was on the bed and I was stuck. He kept shaking it and threatening to put it on me. I kept screaming and he kept laughing. He only realized how scared I was when he heard me crying under the covers.
Scorpions were a problem. Fortunately they were quite docile and nobody had ever heard of anyone who had died from a scorpion sting. We were told that the first sting made you allergic to the second one, but we were careful. We always checked our shoes and boots before putting them on. It was uncomfortable just knowing they were around.
We got a carpenter to make a clothes rack which we pull-ied up to the roof above our steel bukhari (coal stove). That was the only way to get them dry. We went to bed between damp smelly sheets and the cotton pillows made our faces smell as if they hadn’t been washed in weeks. Our cupboards were damp. Leather belts and shoes grew green moss. Photos left in boxes over too many monsoons were black and cassettes were ruined. When I washed my hair, it stayed wet the whole day.
The first sign that the monsoon was coming to an end was that the ferns started going brown. We were thrilled when we spotted the first one. The bright green piece of bark hanging on the electrical wire started going back to its original brown and the sun started to shine again. It was lovely to see it after four months of mist and rain.
By that time, everything and everyone had the fragrance of mould. Everywhere we looked, houses were covered in bedding, mattresses, clothes, shoes and people soaking up the sun. We were right there with them.