Monsoons are an interesting time for the hills. Everything turns fresh and green. The water sources get replenished. Clouds float around, and sometimes for days, we are stuck indoors, admiring these clouds through the windows.
(Clouds floating around on distant hills)
Like most other things, the rainy season is also a love-hate relationship here in the hills.
The high humidity starts to take its toll. Everything that is stored for a long tends to show signs of humidity. The cardboard boxes and paper cartons turn soft. The fungus also starts to show up if left unattended. Iron tools start to rust. Even the so-called stainless steel develops patches of rust. Clothes develop a musty smell. These are are signs of high humidity and this is not exactly healthy.
Living in the hills has taught me to adapt to these changes. First and foremost, I got rid of all the paper boxes and cartons. They are moisture magnets and a breeding ground for fungus. Now I store my things either without these boxes or in plastic trays/boxes. I have learnt to keep some of my almirahs slightly open, especially those that are attached to the floor or any of the walls. The air circulation prevents many problems. For clothes, going minimalist helps. Fewer clothes mean that each and every item gets to see the daylight.
I bought a dehumidifier to dry out the house but it seems like overkill. A better option is to adapt to the hills.
I am very fond of wood paneling and thick woolen carpets. They are good for winters but can be a health hazard in rains.
The moisture seems to creep up the walls on the ground floor and so now I am trying to suppress my urge to panel up my walls with wood. What may happen behind these panels, in the absence of air circulation and high humidity is not hard to guess. I am learning to depend on wall paint now. Though, I might opt for wood panels in future but only in places where I know that the walls have remained dry for last many rainy seasons, but still I am on the horns of dilemma about this.
The same goes for really thick woolen carpets. Now, I prefer thin rugs that can be spread out in the sun whenever the weather clears up, to get rid of any odours. No thick carpets for me.
And, don’t even plan on wallpapers. They attract mold even in the minimum of moisture.
Going minimalist helps with various other things too. Just a small can full of various nails and screws that come in handy from time to time. My power tools (like the drill, wood-working material, etc.) rest out in the open and not inside almirahs.
The most important thing to do is to look out for the sunny days, and when they come, dry out everything. From shoes to carpets, from glassware to books, from matchboxes to pillows… everything that I can move out, gets to bask in the bright sunlight, that includes me also. It’s good for these items and in the long run good for our health.
(Maini’s Hill Cottages – Sometimes the clouds float down and cover us in fog.)
Most of the houses on hills have roofs made using steel sheets, stones, shingles, or tin sheets. They all leak!
No matter the number of efforts put into this, I have seen even the best of the houses leak. The solution? Just know that the roof is going to leak and be prepared for it. I keep a couple of tubes of silicon glue to seal anytime when I need to. Waterproofing solutions around the house and on the walls also help but to some extent.
One of the mistakes that I made during building my place was that I got convinced by my contractor and went in for the smooth wall finish, done using some kind of plaster of partially waterproof base. This was painted on with wall colors. I should have opted for cement-based wall paints without any smoothening of the walls, or maybe for our age-old friend lime. They would have allowed my walls to breathe. In the future, I’ll get someone to scrape off these present bases and colors from the walls and then do them again using either of the other two options.
The soil tends to settle down with rains. That’s true for any place, and the same is true for the hills too. It takes few years at least for the soil to settle down after construction gets completed. I have learnt the hard way that one should wait for this to happen before finalizing any flooring for the outdoors.
Rain-water harvesting is another good thing to do. Though in the hills, there’s a lot of open areas where the water freely flows and percolates down the ground, I still favour storing some of the rainwater. It comes of use during the dry summer months. Some of the people I know are actually totally dependent on this stored rainwater.
(Clouds cover up the landscape)
With incessant rains during monsoons, stepping out is a challenge. Within seconds one can get drenched. Umbrellas help but the feet still end up getting wet.
Easiest solution – stay indoors and enjoy the rains from the windows if you don’t want to get wet. Read a book, listen to some music, or simply daydream. Maybe a hot cup of tea to go along, or a nice glass of rum. Anything that works for you.
However, I have another better option. Don’t worry about feet getting drenched, just enjoy the rains. Walking around in the drizzle, when those tiny droplets float around and hit the face… it’s an awesome experience. The smell of fresh moist air, lack of people outside, the scenes that change every minute! Yes, I return back from such a walk with wet feet. The fun in taking off those wet socks and then putting on a clean dry pair of socks is yet another heavenly feeling.
(Painting like vistas that appear from time to time)
Cloud-bursts and Landslides
These sudden bouts of rains have been happening on earth even before humans walked. These are a part and parcel of the rainy season. When damage occurs to houses, roads, when lives are lost, this becomes a concern. However, is it not us who have done deforestation, made the hills bare, used heavy machinery to modify the hills to our fancies, and played havoc with the ecology? It is obvious that damages will occur when clouds burst and land slides down.
I am also scared of such happenings. What if the roads get blocked or some part of the village that I live in slides down? These worries are real but the thing to do is to plant more and more trees.
In fact to reduce deforestation, this year, I further plan to reduce my wood consumption. Less firewood use and more of clothes and hot-water bottles (Keeping Warm in Winters). If I can reduce my own wood usage, I can try to influence others too. Also, I am trying to use reclaimed wood wherever I can, for my decking, for furniture, and for minor repairs.
(Cloudy day at our village)
Rainy Day and Foodies
For most people, rains mean an evening of fried snacks. I find myself a little different. Yes, I love those fried snacks but the smell inside the house seems to overpower me. The aroma of a freshly baked cake, or hot coffee is fine, but the smell from fried pakoris or french-fries is too strong for me. I prefer them outside in the open but not in my house. Yes, I enjoy them all but it’s the smell that lingers on hours after having had the snack, that annoys me.
Sometimes, when I go out for a stroll with an umbrella, I can sometimes smell these delicious aromas on the lonely road too, floating down from the few houses on the roadside. But then, I am outside and I can enjoy these aromas. And if some neighbour feels kind enough, I get invited in to enjoy the taste too. So, just in such a case, I carry some rum or wine with me. After all, it’s not very good to visit someone almost every other day and go empty-handed.
(Sunset in Monsoons – Sometimes in rainy seasons, we witness such dramatic sunsets too)
Yes! A big yes for photography on rainy days. I love the diffused light, interesting subjects, landscapes, and quiet that help me compose my images. The rainy season is a good time for photography. (Rainy Season) Will discuss that again in some other article. This article is more about my life in the hills and has nothing to do with photography.
(Yet another interesting monsoon evening.)