Water falling from nowhere – as a child I used to wonder how could this be.
On occasions I went to my mother who was as usual busy cooking and feeding us, but the time I chose to clear my doubts was not the right time – she just moved me aside and chided me for disturbing her when she was busy. My cousin, about a year older than me, was visiting us with her mother, my mother’s youngest sister. She heard me and said gleefully “Ayye ayye, you don’t even know that!”
“As if you know,” that was me.
“Of course, I know,” she said.
“Why don’t you tell me then?”
“Why should I?”
Back and forth we went, making such a din that my mother drove us out of the kitchen.
“Do you really want to know?” that was my cousin again.
“I will tell you if you give me your ‘marapacchi’”
My marapacchi or the wooden doll I had – yes, in those days we had wooden dolls to play with.
I had three dolls to begin with. And this same cousin had already traded two from me on earlier occasions. She didn’t have any to begin with, and how she used to envy me mine. Now she was asking me for my third and last remaining one, and I had no plans to part with this one. But at the same time I wanted to know from where the rains brought so much water
The thirst for knowledge as to the how and why of things was so great to me, I gave in at the end, after a lot of useless pleading with her. Her being older than me gave her all the advantage.
Even now after sixty odd years, I smile to myself when I think back on how she cheated me out of my doll. I must have been five or six then. And her explanation sounded silly to me even at that age. In all seriousness, with her round eyes even rounder, she said, “Don’t you know that the rain comes when the gods in heaven take a bath?” I was not taken in by that answer, and wanted my doll back. But, as usual, my mother sided with her and I lost my third and last doll to her.
I started schooling – started learning History, Geography, Physics, Chemistry, and got the true facts of rainfall, but that did not take away the charm the rains held for me. How I used to enjoy the rains, though I was never allowed to get wet or play in the rains like other children. Watching the rains from the safety of the verandah was really a pleasure in those days – counting the number of puddles in the courtyard, the number of ‘crowns’ the raindrops made in those puddles. Have any one of you ever watched those crowns? They are there the moment the raindrop touches the puddle, the next minute it is gone. I wanted to capture those crowns and keep them with me.
Rain in Kerala when it comes falls with a vengeance, - in the ‘edava pathi’ once, and then the ‘thula varsham’, the two rainy seasons. The ‘edava pathi’ is the South West monsoon and it always coincided with the academic year. The academic year starts in June, that is in the middle of the month ‘edavam’, when the rains too start. We students would be proud of our new books and the new clothes, and would start cursing the rains. If it started raining in the morning it would mean that both our new books and clothes would get drenched, but once the newness wore off, that is within a week or ten days, the charm of the rains returned. Even then I would be the loser – whether it rained or it was sunshine, I always went to school by car, came home for lunch and returned - all in style driven by the chauffeur. And in the evening too, come rain or shine, the loyal retainer would be there to pick me up
How I used to envy all the girls who used to walk home in a group, chatting and calling across to other groups and all the while getting completely drenched by rain, whereas my old retainer would even produce an umbrella to keep me dry from the car to the school entrance and vice versa.
In those days, that is in the late 1930s, the school system was if there was a heavy downpour in the morning, and the children came soaking wet to the school, most of the children walked to school, - all the students would be sent home and no classes would be held.
So the wet children would be even wetter when they reached home, where they could change into dry clothes, so that they would not catch pneumonia, staying in the school in their wet clothes.
I usually used to look forward to those days, but the old loyal retainer would always be two steps ahead of me. On such days he would take it upon himself to walk up to the office and make sure that the classes would be held. Only then would he go back or wait till orders were issued for the school to disperse, so that I was taken home with not a single drop of water on my person.
How I used to hate him then. But looking back now, I am sure one does not come across such loyal people any more. Or does one?
I don’t know. All I know is that even now I have a soft spot for him in my heart.
I really started enjoying the rains when I started college. I stood firm with my mother when I told her I would walk to and from college with my friends. She too agreed, and I promised that I would carry an umbrella with me all the time. I can now tell you I never opened that umbrella, not even once, in those two years. I really enjoyed the rain in the two years, soaking up all the rain as much as a I could, like the parched earth after a long dry summer.
The parched earth after a long dry summer – that brings me to Delhi from Kerala. That is where I settled with my husband and started family life.
Delhi had little rains in those days The long summer months were really dry and we would be longing for some respite from the withering heat. The temperature would soar to 110 and even 113 and 114 and sometimes up to 118. and then, oh, the respite – this would come in the form of a dust storm
One doesn’t get that kind of dust storms any more. The western sky would turn into an orangeish red hue – with the sun looking like a fireball and if one watched one could see the dust rolling in towards you in waves, and the afternoon would suddenly changed into dusk. The dust would be so thick and would cover everything, and would hit people caught unawares like small missiles. Yes, it would really hurt, for the dust came with such force, seeping into the houses through unseen, unnoticed spaces between windows, doors, ventilators. This would last for five to ten minutes, sometimes even fifteen minutes. And once the sand and dust got blown off, down would come the rains. Oh, what a lovely sight that used to be. I remember how we would bear with all the dust in the world inside our neat and clean homes, just for that rainfall. The most welcome thing at that time.
I get nostalgic when I think of those days, for when the rains started, my husband and I would go out for a walk in the rain, and how we enjoyed those walks. The first time my husband took me out for a walk in the rain after the aandhi, (dusts storm), I told him about my childhood love for the rains, and how I was always kept dry in the rainy season. After that, he took it upon himself to see that I got a good spot of drenching in the rains. These walks in the rain, which we both enjoyed immensely, we kept on till our children started growing up.
The rainy season in Delhi, the so-called monsoon is, and was, always a tepid one. We never get enough rains. “The rain in Delhi stays mainly in the clouds.”
But even a mild downpour was enough to flood the Minto Road Bridge localities. Even today it is the same.
I have seen and experienced rain in other parts of the country and I can say as far as my experience goes that April May showers in the Dooars is the most frightening one; sometimes with hails stones also coming down. And equally frightening are the electric storms we experienced in Champaign a long time ago. The speed with which thunder followed lightning was amazing.
And the rains in Singapore, the tropical storms with lightning coming down with such alarming speed, that anyone in the open can hardly escape the shock, is also awe-inspiring. But the beauty of the city is that within half an hour of such storms, the roads look so dry. I used to wonder where all the water went.
Back to the heavens to bring more rain??!!!!!