We, especially in India, are truly blessed to have five seasons – summer, spring, monsoon, autumn, winter – each making its impressionable presence felt in the way we lead our lives.
Each season comes with its own set of peculiarities and distinctive character, its peonies-in-my-garden feeling and prickly situations. Yet, it is the monsoon that we romance with the most, over and above our brief flirtations with “Dilli ki Sardi” or “It’s snowing in Shimla” or the summer sunsets in Kausani. It is an intrinsically strong love affair we have with the rainy season. We love it, despite water-logging of our streets, partial flooding of our homes, the unwelcome presence of smut and spores, the mustiness that sets in and is difficult to shake off, the leeches and ants, the soaked-to-the-bone mishaps as we struggle with pretty umbrellas turning turtle on us.
Monsoon returns our affection by inspiring us like little else does. From creative writing to penning of songs, from painting to lateral thinking, it seems to rain ideas and inspiration and stirs something soulful within us. It is like the moment of truth. Everybody has one or maybe several. So it is with times of inspiration. Everybody has that reference of sight, smell, sound, touch, feeling or piece of imagination that inspires.
For me, one of the strongest times of inspiration is when the sky opens to pour its heart out in a manner unrestrained and unabashed. The good thing is I am not the only one raising a toast to the rains.
From Bollywood’s ‘Tip Tip Tip Tip Baarish’ to Hollywood’s a la Gene Kelly Tap dancing to the beats of the peltering rain; from Pop music’s ‘Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain’ and ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head’ to our very own Raag Megh Malhar; from art to fiction to poetry; monsoon has always inspired the positive and bright side of things all over the world and from time immemorial. So, who am I to remain stoic towards such a divine sensuous intervention! But the charm of monsoon has everything to do with the place where you are. Imagine the traffic jamming, gutter flowing, drain clogging, humid rains of Delhi and you will instantly know what I mean.
My association with monsoon spans different continents and saddles varied time zones. There have been the good times and the not so good. Walking on an old street in quaint little Alexandria in Virginia to the tune of talented buskers playing to the gallery, with dogs of various shapes and sizes and their owners – so much the same – for company. Cruising over River Seine in the heart of Paris with soft rain, caressing my face like a paramour would. Raindrops falling on my head in picturesque Engelberg at the foothills of Mt. Titlis in Switzerland, falling in step with the jingling of cowbells. The other lovely brush with rains that will remain etched forever in my mental scrapbook is around being driven in the black BMW convertible by an old friend in the wavy range of the Topanga Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains. Like a stubborn lover, I refused to get the hood over, just as it began to rain down feather fine drops, each as pleasant as a gentle kiss.
But not quite the torrential rains in Amsterdam ruining our otherwise pleasant canal cruise – said to be the best way to see the beatific city. Or the angry downpour in Volderdam that drowned all our plans to seek vicarious pleasure in the country’s famed and legal nightlife! Not even the angry, unabated lashing that kept us under house arrest once in Bangkok, another time in Lansdowne, yet another in Goa!
The best and the strongest memories are those that belong to the hazy realms of childhood and are either exhilaratingly or excruciatingly sensory. The whiff of a freshly baked apple pie from a loving mother’s kitchen on a rain-kissed Sunday or the set-in-stone fragrance of aftershave used by Dad as he stepped under the stretched out umbrella to be walked to the waiting Staff car come flooding back to me every monsoon. Even the blotches from jumped in puddles on spic and span white uniforms – a mandate at super-strict convents – have been hard to wash away from the memory bank. Such has been the dalliance with the monsoon.
Rain has also been a sort of personal hideaway place lending a sense of secrecy and privacy even when in public. Whether it was pining for my unrequited love in my infatuation years as I call them, or remembering a loving father who went away too soon or now losing my furry children when it’s time to shed copious tears crying in the rain bears such a special significance. It lets you be, yet it guards you from the harsh, judging glares from others.
The smell of earth after the first fall of rain has always been romanticized, with volumes of poetry and film lyrics wasted on it. It continued to stay inspiring for me too until that telling moment when a desensitized science-type friend opened my eyes to it. She matter-of-factly stated that it was actually earthworms that smelt thus and not the heavenly marriage of waters from the sky and mother earth that led to it. Sadly, ‘petrichor’ will never have the same sensorial influence it once did. Even the name sounds so prosaic and earthy.