India: The Thirsty City

In Bombay last week, prayer was on every lip. Hindus chanted ancient Sanskrit devotions. Moslems turned toward Mecca and sought Allah's mercy. Fire-worshiping Parsis invoked Zoroaster. For 30 minutes one day, even the frenzied babble of Bombay's stock exchange subsided into a quiet whisper of prayers. All were looking to the heavens for the same thing: rain.

Because of a tardy monsoon, India's No. 1 port city faced the worst crisis in its history. Usually the annual rains boil up out of the Arabian Sea in June, cross the Indian coastline around Bombay,...