Summer in Chennai is usually about a lot of things besides the weather. It is about mangoes, the beach, gully cricket, beer and buttermilk sessions.
"Not this year, though," said R Vijaya, a senior citizen.
"Who has the time for mango when the rupee is falling faster than leaves in autumn? When petrol rules your life. Either because prices have risen or simply because petrol bunks say they have run out of stock. Where is the time for simple pleasures or the holiday mood?" she fumed.
Many Chennaiites would probably agree with her. In fact, you can draw a parallel between the fire at the dump yard in Pallikaranai marshland in Chennai and the latent discontent among many Chennaiites, fuelled by petrol price hikes, power cuts, water shortage and spiralling costs of just about everything."
While the fire left residents gasping for breath in residential localities near Pallikarani, the harsh summer has left people fuming.
"Living in Chennai has never been this bad, G Nitin said. "We are all working harder for fewer joys in the city," he added, gazing at a very thin slice of pizza. The bell pepper and paneer toppings are thinner and spread further apart.
His wife Raji said cooking at home is tougher, with frequent voltage fluctuations. "You can't even run the mixer when you want to. And at night, the tube lights don't work."
She added: "Women are toiling in kitchens the way their great grandmothers did. Only difference is we are using emergency lamps, and not those chimney lamps."
Recently, the government scaled down the scheduled power cuts in the state, and the chief minister even said that the state would soon become power surplus. However, while that has come about as a positive development, many households
are experiencing low voltage scenarios at odd hours of the day and night.
Regular tasks, such as pumping water to overhead tanks, cannot be undertaken due to voltage fluctuations.
Erratic water supply has been another contributory factor in this summer of discontent. "We haven't had metrowater for over ten days now, and we have been told it is because of some maintenance work," said Lakshmi, who lives in Suriya
Nagar, near Anna University.
In many areas, the metrowater tankers are a visible presence, while elsewhere, men in uniform supervise others repairing the metrowater outlets in streets.
"In the last few weeks a sense of stress has been dogging at our heels" said Y Sheela. "There have been major irritants, like fuel hike, then fuel shortage, power cuts and low voltage and minor ones like more skin problems, rising price of vegetables."
And now with fears that the global rating agency Standard and Poor (S&P) may downgrade India's credit rating, freshers are worried over job prospects.
"Many of us are taking up internships, even if it is unpaid, just to bring value addition to our job hunt," said Janani (name changed) a fresh engineering graduate.
"We all need some good news, wish Vishy Anand would go out and win a world championship tussle all over again, it would be something to celebrate," said 22 year old Akshaya, who would now probably be happy to know that Vishy did indeed win the top Chess crown last week.
Even a good, long shower would be a welcome, say Chennaiites.
"This year, throughout May we did not get any rains in the city as such. Let us hope we get some good spells from the south west monsoon," hoped Nitin.
Rains do have a way of lifting our spirits, as our filmmakers have found out.
I am personally tuning into Vaan Megam
song from Mani Ratnam's Mouna Ragam
. Other columns by the author... Will TN graduate with top honours in higher education?Petrol trumps politics in ChennaiBooze curfew stifling Chennai's IPL fun Swamy Nityananda & an unholy controversy over MuttsSchool fee issue: Should TN look at an annual hike structure?Who's behind Leela Samson's ouster from Kalakshetra?Time for Tamil Nadu to rock the cradle Karunanidhi's wrong call for Tamil 'Eelam'
Bhama Devi Ravi is a Chennai based journalist