"The clouds advance like rutting elephants, enormous and full of rain.
They come forward as kings among tumultuous armies;
their flags are lightning, the thunder is their drum ..."
Curling up with a book seems to be the most natural pursuit on a rainy day. It’s nice to be on literary cloud nine. Pick up your favourite – the current bestseller or a vintage classic — from the shelf to revisit. And if you’re in a clouded state of affairs, perhaps an inspirational book showering some sunshine would do.
One of my most magical monsoon moments has been with Rain in the Mountains by Ruskin Bond. "All night the rain has been drumming on the corrugated tin roof. There has been no storm, no thunder just the steady swish of a tropical downpour. It helps one to lie awake; at the same time, it doesn’t keep one from sleeping ... It is a good sound to read by – the rain outside, the quiet within." None to beat the gentle muse from the mountains for a bond with the rains.
The multi-sensory experience of rains makes me gaze at the panorama outside. As the rain settles into a musical trill, the hitherto arid and dusty landscape is awash with magical colours of green and grey. The silver oak trees in front of my house sway merrily with the strong gusts of wind, and their feathery leaves flap up and down in glee. A royal palm collects cupfuls of water in its huge leaves, from which small waterfalls trickle down, along its smooth stem. But the small bottlebrush with its tiny leaves can only clasp a few water droplets; that shine like jewels on its boughs.
They remind me of the one of the most poetic prose on rains in God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. "Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, ploughing it up like gunfire. The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat. The walls, streaked with moss, had grown soft, and bulged a little with dampness that seeped up from the ground. The wild, overgrown garden was full of the whisper and scurry of small lives. In the undergrowth a rat snake rubbed itself against a glistening stone. Hopeful yellow bullfrogs cruised the scummy pond for mates."
For more on the monsoons and the vagaries of wind and weather, there’s nothing to beat the all-time modern classic Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater. It’s the most ‘wet travelogue’ dripping with riveting experiences and insights on the ‘grand Show.’ It’s the story of a meteorological pilgrimage, "an English weather buff’s account of people and places, meetings with weathermen, poets and politicians, monsoon massage men, waitresses and doormen, following the monsoon on its journey from Trivandrum in South India onto Cochin, Goa, Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and finally Cherrapunji."
Monsoons touch the Indian shores mostly by the first week of June in Kerala. Frater describes their dramatic arrival, "Thunder boomed. Lightning went zapping into the sea, the leader stroke of one strike passing the ascending return on pillars of fire. Then, beyond the cumuliform anvils and soaring castellanus turrets, we saw a broad, ragged ban of luminous indigo heading slowly inshore. Lesser clouds suspended beneath it like flapping curtains reached right down to the sea. ‘The rains!’ everyone sang."
Following Frater’s classic is Binoo K. John on his rain-drenched tale of the ‘wettest place on earth’ Cherrapunji; in his well-researched Under a Cloud. "At night the music of the rain is likely to make you dream of floating in the clouds. If you have left the windows open, the clouds come inside too, reassuring you of their friendliness, smothering you with a wet embrace."
For a combo of exquisite photographs and writings on the monsoon; a collector’s item is the July 1985 issue of The National Geographic. Their arrival at Kanyakumari is described by Priit J. Vesilind too, "Fishermen scrambled to lash their boats to the wooden frames that lined the beach. Palm trees thrashed like gladiators. Darkness covered the earth, and the monsoon, in a churning mass of ‘rutting elephants’, rode majestically into the Malabar Coast. The Grand Lottery had begun."
So as it pours, bond with
the best of books.