Monsoon . . . A word that is unique to the country. When I recollect the word being mentioned during my childhood, I used to think that it was slang for rain. It was after quite a long time, I realized what it meant.
Childhood memories remind me of the first day to school. In Kerala, usually school starts sometime during the first week of June. And I remember that most of the days, the first day of school was characterized by heavy rains . . .
I distinctly remember one of the years during our stint at Kollam, Kerala. We used to travel by a cycle rikshaw to school. I was in the 1st or 2nd standard. There were about 6 of us, crammed together. It had started drizzling by the time we had made some progress towards school. We could see the dark clouds laden with all the water coming at us when our rikshaw puller decided to put plastic sheets improvised to shield us from getting wet . . .
Our rikshaw driver also had a custom made conical shaped plastic sheet which he draped over his head. It was quite a sight.
As expected, the rains lashed us as we crawled through the town towards our school. It was as if someone was pouring huge buckets of water on us. We had expected the rains to stop as soon as we reached school. On nearing school, it was a nightmare. The roads were all water-logged.
And it being the first day of school - there was quite a large crowd. In addition to parents, there were proud grandparents, uncles, aunties etc who had come to see off their grandchildren, nephews, nieces etc to school. Our rikshaw driver realised that we would have to wade through the water.
I looked down on my shoes with brand new white socks. Then at the brackish water from the overflowing drains . . . It was revolting. Then our rikshaw-driver made the most amazing offer. He offered to carry each one of us to school. I don't remember who he carried first.
I felt very awkward. Although only being in the 2nd standard, I was not exactly of that built that anybody will want to lift me up. Being on the heavier side and being a bit self conscious, I did not my friends to see me being carried to school through the flooded road.
I made up my mind. I was going to remove my shoes and socks and walk through the water myself. As I prepared, our friend was back for his next trip - but confidently told us that he has found a short cut to take us nearer to the school gate. I was relieved. . .
Over the years, I've realized what monsoons mean for the country. If reports are true, 60% of cultivable land in the country depend on the monsoons exclusively and 60% of the country's population depend on the farm sector for a livelihood, although it only accounts for only 15% of the Gross Domestic Product of the country.
Years later, as I sit in the hot environs of Jharkhand, I wish I could be witness to the magic of the monsoon as it hits Kerala. The idle evenings after school spent watching the rains fall and fall, the nights when the pitter patter of the rains seem like a symphony gone awry, the days when we had to run in the rain after we had forgotten to take our umbrellas, walking through the slush with the unexpected puddle hidden somewhere, vehicles dashing through the road splashing mud and water on us, the Sunday morning walk to church . . . I miss all of those . . .
Last year was a blessing for us. We had enough rains. Our pond had got filled up. We had put fish in it. . . and harvested about 250 kilograms of common carp, grass carp, silver carp, rohu etc . . .
Today, I heard that the rains have hit the coast of Kerala. . . We pray that we would receive a sliver of it as it progresses towards the North. . . Palamu district is known to be a rain shadow region. But, we pray that 2012 monsoon would remember our region. We dream to see a filled up pond. . . and to grow fish for the next year . . . we dream to see greenery around us, people working hard on their fields, people not needing to go away from home for work . . . and of course temperatures to come down . . .
It was only recent that I read about theories of how successive years of monsoon failures may have wiped out the Harappan civilisation . . . Amazing that we are the mercy of the winds bringing moisture from the southeast seas to fuel our supposedly trillion dollar economy . . . We can only pray and wish that we would have a bountiful monsoon 2012 . . .