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Keep the Monsoon Sounds Pleasant!

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By Roli S

“Rains have to be showered, O Rain-God! Paddy crops have to be ripened, O Rain-God! Dark clouds have to lend the cool rains, O Rain-God! Mother-frog has delivered little frogs, and our earthen pots have filled with water, see for yourself, O Rain-God! Get drenched in the rain, again and again, O Rain-God! The large bamboo baskets at our home have to be filled with twelve varieties of grains, O Rain-God!”

This is a translation of a children’s rhyme in the Telugu language. But these simple lines have poured out so many emotions- from love of life to hope of prosperity. I think there is something about the rain that kindles so many feelings in human beings and especially so in India. Probably the phenomenon of life giving ‘water’ falling from heaven above generated myriads of expectations in humanity, since the beginning of human existence.

Our land India’s survival has depended so much on the phenomenon of the Monsoon. The Indian climate has become synonymous with the Monsoonal climate. I have taught geography to children in schools. While explaining to them the Monsoon system, I have taught them about air pressure systems, about advancing and retreating monsoons, about south-west monsoons and north-east monsoons, etc. While taking my class if I looked outside the classroom window, during monsoon season, I often found myself day dreaming and talking to the clouds. It came naturally to me to be transported to another world with the rain filled clouds.

In India, the Vedic divinity, Indra, is hailed as the God that brings rain and, Varun, is revered as the God of Water, including oceans, rivers, rains, and the like. When it rains for the first time during the monsoon, tillers of agricultural fields in some parts of south India still chant, “Varun-demudu-karunichaadu” (God Varun has shown empathy).

Kalidas in Meghdootam wrote classic verses on the monsoon in which the concluding stanza appears almost like fruits of listening, hailing the rain-giving clouds, going as follows: “May this period of the rain-giving clouds, Charming with its many attractions, The dream of delight of romantic maids, Unselfish friend of trees and vines, And the breath of life of animate beings, Grant you your heart’s inmost desires!”

Similarly, Sant Kabir of the 15th century had wisely said, “Excessive amount of anything is dangerous, either talking more or keeping absolutely quiet; like too much sun and rain are not good.” Later, Mirza Ghalib wrote a stanza showing his displeasure with the cloudy skies representing a romantic soul, “How does one pass the dark, cloudy monsoon night? Alas, my eyes have become accustomed to counting the stars”, which suggests not only lack of brightness, but also the loneliness of a person during the monsoon.

The more I dwell on the topic of the Indian Monsoon, the more I learn that, for those like me who love art, music, poetry, and literature, there is an extensive body of work on the monsoons in India.

I also recollect a Thumri I heard long ago, which is particularly suitable for monsoons with its emotional quotient. In the Thumri the singer describes complex feelings of love, joy, longing, and separation. When I remember the Thumri, I still visualise the arc of the swing as the heroine of the song, Sita, sails through the air, with her snake like plait swinging behind her, on the banks of the River Saryu. I could feel the meeting of the earth and sky along with the swings put on the trees in the month of Shraavan.

It is almost laughable that whenever I try to remember lyrics to show my ire for the relentless rain that happens in Mumbai, the nursery rhyme ‘Rain, Rain go away, come again another day’ and the Bollywood song, ‘Barkha rani zara tham ke barso’ comes to my mind, instantly.

But the destruction and havoc that rain causes these days is no laughing matter. I wonder whether the rain and Indian Monsoons that generated so many soft feelings and emotions in the past will slowly lose their charm? Whether ripened paddy crop, water pools with lotuses, mild breeze wafting over the fields, tall and ripening paddy shoots moving gently, musical laughter of children and young maidens dancing in the rain, will no longer be celebrated in the poems? Whether the tradition of Barahmasa (twelve months), the glory of each month that is lovingly celebrated with poetry, music and art in India, will lose its magnificence? Whether Yaksha’s love notes to the clouds ‘Intoxicating fragrances of flowers and wet soil’ will be replaced by ‘the monsoon of fear, suffering and horror’?  The art and literature of present times, will it only depict the dark side of the monsoons?

Reluctantly, I am reminded now of the geography class where I used to talk about ‘The Ill Effects of Climate Change’ and “Global Warming”. How will the students sitting in the classrooms, today, ever relate to clouds being ‘messengers of love’? For them clouds bring traffic jams, floods, landslides, mudslides, destruction and diseases, not love. And my poetic heart tries to calm my poetic soul by jotting down these lines:

Is baar aman ki baarish barse toh kaisa rahe

Nafrate din saari dhul jaayein to kaisa rahe

Khet khalihanon mein faslein to ugati hai baarish

Gharon ko pyaar mein bhigaa jaaye to kaisa rahe?

The only noise now in my mind is the rain, pattering softly with the magnificent indifference of nature for the tangled passions of humans. I console myself by the fact that I should not be wary of the clouds; they simply do not know how to make the rain fall upwards.

(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Thane)