Mumbai and Jakarta under one umbrella – A rain fed comparison

The first week of March! Not much rain this year during this wet season. By not much rain, I mean only sporadic news on flooding. In fact, every year, low lying areas of Jakarta flood almost every other week during Jan/ Feb. This year didn’t happen. Year after year, the amount of rainfall seems to be reducing. I haven’t checked any official statistic on this, but I can definitely remember the times when roads to the airport used to be flooded and the only time when electricity in my apartment complex got disconnected for a couple of days due to rains. Anyhow, thought of posting something which I began writing in the year 2014, but abandoned. I noticed it today in my drafts. So thought of updating and posting.

Coming from Mumbai, here are some aspects of the Jakarta rains that I thought were striking:

It pours and then vanishes:

Hopefully, this post will not sound like a weather report but that’s the most striking feature. Indonesia falls within the equatorial belt. As such faces a ‘wet season’ with 6 months of regular rainfall and a dry season peppered with rainfall. It rains a lot. And by lot, I really mean in colossal amounts; …in about an hour! Or give and take half an hour more! Coming from Mumbai which faces just 4 months of the monsoon (though severe) – I was used to different kind of rainy days. Rainy days have ‘literal’ meaning in Mumbai. It means it would rain for the whole day. During July and August much more than June and September and cause various kinds of transport and communication disruptions, flooding etc. Most of us 80s and 90s born Mumbaikars would definitely remember 26 July 2005. Yours truly walked through neck-deep water across suburbs that day!

Here in Jakarta, similar copious rain can fall in about an hour/2 hours etc. and then, you are free for the rest of the day. Its surprising for a Mumbaikar. Yes, there is substantial flooding (we call it ‘banjir’) and we do have stories from Jakarta too. But its different. You are not coped up inside your home in Jakarta unless you live in a low lying area. Warm weather even during wet seasons also means things are dry pretty soon. Your clotheslines get dried as usual (its not allowed in our complex to put clotheslines in the balcony and I have put mine in the windowless storeroom. Still clothes get dried pretty fast. Impressive huh?). Smaller difficulties in life such as urgent shopping, wearing a particular dress etc, do not exist here as a result.

Rainy accessories…. Or lack of them

Having landed in Jakarta for the first time during the rainy season, I had expected to see people accessorized with the rain gear. Weird as it may seem, not many people seem to own umbrellas or raincoats in Jakarta. With the type of climate where it rains almost daily – ( even during the dry season, as soon as the temperature exceeds a particular level) – to me, such a climate meant constant accompaniment of the rain-gear. I had also noticed similar umbrella culture in the Philippines (as in India, my home country) so nothing had prepared me for this. Many Jakartans seriously don’t own umbrellas!

Buying rainy shoes has been an important event every year (or every second year if the shoes from the previous year weren’t outgrown or worn out) in my life – ever since I started walking. Like most of the fellow Indians – at least those who live in the more rainy areas of India. It used to be an event especially as you had to not only find the right size and pattern, it needed to be of right material too – so that you wouldn’t get a shoe-bite. Equally important was whether it would make the squeaky sound while walking (obviously you select the one that wouldn’t or at least wasn’t likely to make such a sound). Usually, rainy shoes in India back in the day were hideously patterned. That would be sort of unwritten rule. It HAD to be ugly if it was rainy-footwear. Turns out, this rule is not pan-world. Here in Jakarta, one finds an amazing variety of lovely patterns in rainy shoes. But most importantly, I found one more aberration –  People may not wear rainy footwear during the rainy season at all. Here in Jakarta, you see them wandering with all sorts of fashionable footwear even during rainy season. Ever since I came here, I have not purchased a single rainy/’all seasons’ pair of shoes.

In Mumbai, if you dare to wear non-rainy footwear at all, you’ll probably end up throwing it the very next day. I guess its somewhat difficult to tolerate rainy footwear all around the year. In India, we have to take it just for four months. The nature of rainfall here is different. It doesn’t rain all day usually. So as far as you remain inside during the rains, you are good to go with any footwear especially since it dries up soon too.

Same goes for raincoats and umbrellas. I think Raincoats are almost non-existent here except for tarpaulin ponchos used by vendors, Ojek drivers, and so on. There will definitely be Jackets for bikers etc. But nothing like the mass raincoat buying that would happen in India at the beginning of the school season. Umbrellas seem to be a preferred choice and widely available in the shops; but when it comes to actual streets and rains, nobody seems to be carrying them. When I was working, only one of my male colleagues used to bring an umbrella at work and was teased by others as ‘Bapak Payung’ aka Umbrella Man/Mr. Umbrella. Among women, it used to be a colleague and me bringing umbrellas. 2 women. Slightly better than men! Which brings me to the next observation…

People don’t walk here…

Most importantly people don’t walk! As in pedestrians don’t exist in most areas of Jakarta except for the market places and smaller residential areas. Footpaths are for namesake. Very narrow. Obviously, because people don’t walk. Footpaths are not needed to be wide! People drive. Or get into public transport. Cheap fuel (Quite cheap as compared to Mumbai which is close to 2.5 times expensive) leads to the affordability of vehicles which in turn has added to the traffic woes of the city. A rain-related fact is that most of the vehicles are like mammoth sizes compared to Mumbai vehicles. Some of them indeed seemed like minibusses at first glance to me 🙂 (After 7 years here, I find vehicles back home small). I was told by a friend that this is because families with 3 or more kids are still very common here. Their doors open at a higher level as compared to say many vehicles in India. Due to regular flooding during the wet season, many families choose to own such vehicles so that water does not enter into the vehicle. They also spend a lot of time commuting given the Jakarta traffic; so they prefer to have a good amount of space in the vehicle.

So far, I can recall only so much. I might update this post if I remember something else. 🙂

It does indeed feel like an ‘analysis of rainy season behavior of the Jakartans’ 🙂 but at least I found it interesting. 😉

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