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On Indian Monsoons

“The summer sun was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.” These lines from Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe are an exception to the general western ideas about rain. What we value is often born out of what gives us comfort. In the geographies of the world where the cold was vicious, the summer sun became beloved. In the geographies where the sun was a cruel headmaster most of the year, the rain was freedom, it was break-time.

So while much of western literature connects life’s somberness with grey clouds and heavy rains just like these heart-wrenching lines by Jack Gilbert “Suddenly this defeat. This rain. The blue’s gone gray. And the browns gone gray… Joy has been a habit. Now suddenly this rain”, the literature where rain had been loved could teach us a thing or two about this abundant grace that falls upon us. Indian literature, for instance.

The rain has held back for days and days, my God, in my arid heart.

The horizon is fiercely naked — not the thinnest cover of a soft cloud, not the vaguest hint of a distant cool shower.

Send the angry storm, dark with death, if it is thy wish, and wish lashes of lightning startle the sky from end to end.

But call back, my lord, call back this pervading silent heat, still and keen and cruel, burning the heart with dire despair.

Let the cloud of grace bend low from above like the tearful look of the mother on the day of the father’s wrath.

Rabindranath Tagore, “Gitanjali”

Festivals, books, songs, poetry, raagas (ancient melodies), folklores, and art too have drawn inspiration from the Indian monsoons, and often the summer monsoons. It’s believed that the pied cuckoo’s migration to India marks the oncoming of the showers. The monsoon is probably the single biggest cultural event in India. But what is it about the rain and its pitter-patter that not only inspires the things that make our soul come alive, but also holds the powers to heal? Rain, here, is seen as a relief, as a positive outcome, as finally being blessed with the fortune of healing.

The sound of rain. It’s the sound of something falling fiercely as if that something doesn’t fear having a hard fall or dying. The rain, it falls on streets, roofs, trees, grass, people – anything in its way. And then it goes even deeper sometimes to the soul of the earth. It seeps into the earth’s broken bones, crevices and cracks, and meets the earth’s soul that has been waiting for it at the rendezvous.

Every single time this happens, the earth is never the same again. It rises like ground water.

To the human eye, it all begins with the rainfall, but the rendezvous was planned a long, long time ago when the rain wasn’t even born. The soul of the earth had patiently waited to be met. Having lived long enough, we know that life will always fall and it will fall fiercely. It will then get in, the way anything with the power to raise us ever gets in, through broken bones, crevices and cracks of our faculties before meeting that within us that has for a long, long time been patiently waiting to be met.

There’s no harm in believing that it all starts with the pied cuckoo taking its flight from Africa, flying over the Arabian Sea ahead of the rains, landing in India and announcing the arrival of monsoons with its shrill, metallic calls.

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