Andrew Buncombe: When the rains finally came

Delhi Notebook
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The Independent Online

I'm back in Delhi after two blissful weeks away from the tandoor oven that is south Asia in summer.

I'm delighted to see the apartment appears fine, less pleased to discover that India's capital remains plagued by power cuts and the same pathetic excuses from local officials as to why they had not anticipated the heat and subsequent demand for electricity to power people's air-conditioners.

Of far greater concern is news that the monsoon has still failed to deliver in large parts of the country. The Indian Meteorological Department estimates the rains are the slightest since 2002 and across parts of India drought has been declared. One of the papers has helpfully printed a large coloured map, indicating those parts of the country that have received less-than-usual rain and those which have managed to receive a good dousing. The drought areas were coloured bright orange and a quick glance suggests more than 80 per cent of the country is in need of water.

Not in Delhi, however. At least not in Delhi on Tuesday when the heavens opened in the most magnificent way. I was first alerted to what would be a day of storms by the shaking palm tree outside the bedroom window. By the time I'd ran to open the door to the front balcony, the rain was already beating down so I dashed to open all the doors and windows to let the wind in to flush out the old, stale air. I knew all too well the downpour would have its downside; soon Delhi's battered streets would be flooded and there'd be more misery for the countless thousands who have no proper place to sleep at night. But for those few selfish moments I stood and watched the rain, exhilarated by the energy and the rush of ozone. It felt good to be back.

Ancient rituals

There are few more mesmerising sights than watching people flying their kites from the rooftops of Old Delhi.

Kite-flying is popular across the region and readers of The Kite Runner will know the aim is to cut the string of a rival and bring their kite crashing down. Kite strings are treated with glass powder to do just this and they can present a danger to contestants and watchers. Ahead of Independence Day celebrations, the Delhi authorities say they will fine anyone found using or selling such strings. Given that the tradition goes back centuries, I suspect the edict will be ignored.

Modern-day worship

In Ludhiana, a Sikh priest flees his gurdawara, or temple, after allegedly being caught watching saucy clips on his mobile phone while supposedly praying.

The Times of India reports the priest "wasn't concentrating in the prayers and was rather distracted by something else underneath the table on which the scriptures were placed".