There must be a certain fun to burst upon the unexpected.
Who knows it better than the monsoons! They always pick a dull night, nondescript, to explode over our houses, markets and dreams. To sting us into a jittery wakefulness and then to laugh madly at our bewilderment. All we hear is a slab of ocean rumbling down from the skies. The rest is deluge.
The world has been long tired with summer. Even the watchful eyes of stars could have blinked a few hours ago in the heat. Or else how could these big rolls of dark clouds sneak in quietly between them and a blue planet throbbing deep below in heat?
There could be winds which stand outside on ceremony waiting to be invited but the monsoon wind breaks the very moulds of such customs. It tears into houses in the dead quiet of the night, without asking, without ever letting its eyes lock with ours. All you hear is an unending clap of windows, calendars thrashing about and aluminium vessels crashing down on the kitchen floor.
You will find monsoon inside your home with the tang of distant places still hung to it in patches and tatters, and searching out every corner of your rooms with his cold breath. He wouldn’t leave until he sees the last relics of summer disappear and the whole house shivers in excitement.
On the yard the tulsi has gone mad. See, she is so intoxicated that she can hardly breathe in this rain, but whenever the wind gives her a respite she doesn’t fail to steal a naughty glance at me. Just to see if I am watching her play.
In the muffled light from street lamps I see a mango tree quiver. The cold rain could be searching out her deepest pore now. The green garland wound around its warty branches grows succulent, shivers, clings closer to the warmth of the tree. I must warn you dear, with this coyness and play, you will burst into jasmine flowers tomorrow.
My eyes climb the thick ropes of rain, to grope, to see the zippers wide open in the sky. But there is only darkness. The sky has become an invisible ticker tape which keeps unrolling endless streams of water.
This can never rain itself empty. Monsoon showers.
Take a deep breath. Don’t you hear love, which you thought had long dried up, trickles in, sloshes about in your soul?
Not flu, not cold, but love is the most mischievous epidemic during the season. Every time you hear somebody opening his windows in cold monsoon nights, realize this. They open them to their past, to rekindle old fires and warm themselves by their heat.
The monsoon is here to stay, and you may catch him again in the morning. Fold yourself now under the blankets, with one hand tossed over the pillow or a woman, listening to rain belting out its numbers in different platitudes, sometimes gruff, sometimes flutey, until he finds a sweet spot and drones on from there.
Morning. The whole air is redolent with petrichor, that heady mix of first rain on soil. “Snakes will come out,” my mother warns me, as if I am still a child to believe that. “But that is true,” my mother insists. I brush that away with a smile but hurries back in time from the bushes.
Monsoon comes in other aromas too: that of cashew nuts getting fried in open fires outside kitchens. The dank smell of certain walls of old houses inside which I had abandoned myself in deep slumber also lingers in my mind.
Some rains do not bring any odour , but toss a welcome idea across and waits.
As we sit on either sides of the windowpane with a half-filed glass of an amber liquid, there will be winged ants (eeyal) flitting about us drunken with the showers. We see how they dare the tube lights, mate away from our eyes and come back again to the light to shed their gossamer foils as a relic to a wonderful night, in which they grew and shed their wings.
We chat throughout the night. I talk attic, and the rain talks cellar but in the morning we will tell each other how enlightening our conversation was, last night.
But the best thing in monsoon is to walk with him. I told you we are walking in the rain. Why do you hold an umbrella?
Let the doctors take care of fever, but we will walk at least once in the rain, this monsoon to drench ourselves. Let the rain screen off the cameras, we will make one bike ride without the helmet. Don’t you want to see how the silver strands from the sky slant and slap on your face with their frozen hands as you drive?
Be watchful when the monsoon tries to get too intimate.
In the bus stop I see a woman shudder. The rain has just found her out through the clothes, I can read it from her face.
You too have shuddered like her, at least once in every June, when your innermost garments sponged the rain and passed it in.
Monsoon comes like enlightenment a little late after the rain. It can sting you inside the bus while you pay for the ticket, inside the class room while you answer a question, inside the church when the clergyman drones on or sometimes while you ride a bike and thinks that the rain is over.
Why do you look around fretful and then break into an inward smile, girl? You encourage an already naughty monsoon.
Do you know a rain which invites you to gather your garments from the clothesline and then prowls around for that last piece of cloth to get stuck in the cord. You will be frozen dead between your home and a blouse, begging to be extricated from the string, when he rumbles down from the sky and devours you both.
But the real fun in every monsoon is to enjoy the rains in countryside where frogs clear their throats throughout the night.
If I could hitch myself to a monsoon cloud I will rain down on strange villages I have never been.
At touchdown I will leave the monsoon to join with the villagers scampering to get under some shades, beating them to that bus stand in time. “Mazha!” I would say gasping for breath (Holding them from the truth that I brought it) once inside the shelter.
Monsoons hurl you into strange companies, in bizarre places and time especially if you are a traveler.
Sometimes watching this rain from such a place or time, I desperately wish to go back through time to pick that last cigarette in my life I had pitched through my window a decade back. Nothing beats the feeling of blowing smoke rings against the electric-green rice fields glistening in the rain.
Have you ever seen a rain coming?
As a child I sprinted back home from the playground the moment a friend shouted “rain” but wondered on the way how they knew.
Now I see hazy sheets of rains on distant fields thrashing about like rogue animals. I see them rolling, clombing, tripping, gliding, flouncing, hobbling, traipsing, strutting, plodding, waddling, skulking…suddenly pirouetting on their feet as they catch sight of me, stare for a while, and then scuttle towards me breaking leashes and gathering more sheets of rain on the way….
I find no point in running. With hands thrown away from my body I wait for the monsoon to come, to drench me, to seep deep into me, to grab hold my soul as if it is a kaleidoscope, and give it one twist to change the vistas inside.
Here I go into water. Tell them I went with the monsoon.