Next time you hear of monsoon approaching be prepared to enjoy it to the fullest, both with eyes wide open and eyes closed
The smell of the earth after the first shower reminds me of childhood days spent in Assam, my mama ghaar. I used to run outside just to smell the sweet smell of the parched earth as the first rains hit it. Oh yes I got a good scolding for getting wet in the process too. I remember the farmers rejoicing the arrival of the monsoon. Rains meant good harvest, if it did not go overboard. I also remember the swollen Brahmaputra. My next memory of monsoon is from our stay in Kolkata.
I remember the smell as the rains hit the blacktop streets of Lake Market. It was a different kind of smell: much different than that from the village in Assam. I remember the flooded streets when traffic came to a total standstill and human pulled rickshaws became the thing of high demand for transport. My next stop down the memory lane is Banaras. There I found out sleeping outside on the chhat during the hot summer nights was a tradition.
Yes it was fun looking up in the starry sky but no one liked running inside with our belongings in the middle of the night because of rain. One day it started to thunder and there was lightening in the sky in the early hours of the morning and we all were forced to run inside. I could not sleep after that. It did not rain but scared us all. As morning approached, the magic gradually continued to unfold. It felt wonderful hearing a bunch of birds chirping in the morning. It was five in the morning and the sky was flawless without any hint of the mischievous drama of the early morning. Rather there was a promise of a beautiful sunrise.
During our stay in Banaras, I spent my summer vacation watching cloud formations. Especially during the monsoons, I was fascinated by the different colors formed due to the interplay of the sun and the clouds at different times of the day. Usually people think monsoon as damp and dull season, but for me, those were the best times spent watching all the drama. Usually the dark bluish, black clouds that started from the horizon and gradually spread to the whole sky, shutting the rays of the sun and creating darkness enthralled me. Then again after a few showers it became bright like playing hide and seek with the sun’s rays. Changing colors all the time. Each time they disappeared, I felt a sense of loss.
Then again the next day it was a whole new adventure with the clouds. I never thought watching clouds would be so much fun. Every day with different cloud formation my imagination ran riot. Always coming up with different stories. I never was a poet but I loved reading poems of Rabindra Nath Tagore. According to him, monsoon rejuvenates and emancipates, but is chaotic and destructive as well. I feel the same way.
Rain as life force
Just imagine the dark sky lit by lightning generated amidst the swirling rain clouds from which are descending torrential showers to drench the dried up, cracked earth. People running out to welcome the storm for it being a life saver on one part of the countryside and the same rain bringing down landslides and wiping of trees and houses that stand in its way: taking lives in the process on the other part. Clearly depicting the actual power of monsoon, reviving and destructive, both equally powerful.
The rains do give a new life. At the same time considering the number of instances of flooding and landslides that occur in our country during the monsoon, its capacity to create chaos and destruction cannot be undermined. After the scorching heat of summer, the showers appear in restless vigor, and the mind and the body respond to their vibrant rhythm.
Nevertheless, monsoon is rejuvenating, life giving and one that helps flow creative juices in writers and poets. I can identify my feeling with that of American writer Richard Bach about clouds when he says: “A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed, it feels an impulsion.... this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reason and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons.”
I feel the need to add on to this. It also does not know where to unburden its load of water or what impact if has on the humanity. It just has to let go, when saturated with water. I guess this innocence of the clouds always got the better of the writers and poets. Clouds fascinated Rabindra NathTagore.
I still remember the innocent explanation of rain by the five-year old protagonist Mini’s friend Bhola in “Kabuliwala”. Mini tells her father that according to Bhola, ‘there is an elephant in the clouds, blowing water out of his trunk, and that is why it rains.’ So simple yet so full of meaning. The poet’s imagination of the huge black clouds full of water in the form of elephant is just as fascinating.
Colors of clouds
Equally fascinating is his colorful expression: “Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” Clouds have always been used as a great metaphor in literature and poetry, symbolizing both the negative and the positive aspects of life: misery, life’s obstacles and aspirations, unveiling of answers, hope, dream and love. Often I wonder how clouds can mean so many different things to so many different people.
Then again I look up in the sky and answer my own question, imposing my own feelings on to them, as I see their constant shifting shapes in their movement. In the process they look beautiful and benign or ominous and angry, depending on my mood. In literature this is called “pathetic fallacy,” where the clouds come to emphasize our emotional states.
All these expressions of the clouds and relating them to our emotional senses are because I can see them. If I lost my vision clouds would mean nothing and rain would be everything because I could smell, feel and hear it. Clouds are a visual treat for someone who can see and rain is a sensational treat of smell when the rain hits the dry earth, the pleasant sound of constant pitter-patter on the metal roof, a constantly soothing shhhhhhhhh along with occasional thunder, a calm air that relieves the heat, and cool feeling of wetness for those who cannot see.
Finally, just listening to the different sounds of the rain is a wonderful experience, creating an aural image is equally pleasant visual treat. So the next time you hear of monsoon approaching be prepared to enjoy it to the fullest, both with eyes wide open and eyes closed and soak in the experience without getting wet. So parents enjoy this monsoon with your children and teach them to look at it differently, something extraordinary in mundane monsoon rain. Don’t forget to spend some time watching the clouds go by with your children. Get their imagination going. After all you only invest a fraction of your time in it. Right, parents?
Pokharel is an educationist and author of several children’s books)