On a rainy day when the wind gets wild
My untamed mind wakes up.
Outside the realm of the known, where no path can be found
There goes my mind on its own.
Will it ever go home-ward now?
No, no it will not go there-
All the impediments are gone.
The evening is rain-intoxicated,
which god’s disciple I am,
They dance around my mind enmeshes the votaries
all the votaries.
I ask what I shouldn’t ask for
Once cannot get what cannot be got
Won’t get, won’t get,
I vainly lay myself at the feel of the impossible.
–from Selected Songs of Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Abu Rushd (Found this poem of Tagore sometimes back while surfing the net. I had not come across this poem earlier.)
It rained the first monsoon showers of Mumbai this evening. The sun-smitten dusk slowly faded into a rainy darkness by the turn of the evening. It’s been beautiful! Seeing the parched earth breathe a sigh of relief with the first droplets and the trees suddenly arching skywards to welcome monsoons is no less than a feast for the eyes. Yet another monsoon of my life is here…flooding me with memories and remeberances of people and events from past.
In Orissa, my homeland, monsoons are different affair from the way it rains in Maharastra. We have stretches of wet and dry spells unlike Mumbai rains which when come… just do not stop. It rains in Orissa and most times with huge thunder storms. Moreover, the difference is that between black cotton soil of Maharastra and the paddy fields of Orissa. Temperatures drop into abysmal lows there and you just feel like sitting by the windows and watching the rain pour down for hours or getting into bed with your favourite quilt. Electricity is no more than an occassional guest in most of our villages and small towns during monsoons. Begin rains and you have to be loaded with kerosene lanterns, candles or emergency lights (if you can afford them).
The most luxurious delicacy of monsoon nights at homes in Orissa would be mom-made khichdi and steaming hot aloo sabji (rice cooked with turmeric, sugar/salt, pulses and very light gravied potato curry, gravy made with generous tomato puree and ginger-garlic paste). In the evenings it is usually, samosas along with hot tea which would be waiting to be devoured eagerly by people in the family. These samosas were especially interesting since they had boiled potato not mashed but cut into tiny rectangular shapes, admixtured with coconut strips and boiled chanas; they were basically made on the roadside hamlet-stalls and sold for no more than 50 paise per samosa. Another hot fav were the freshly plucked ground nuts — the nuts still very soft and their covers mud-soaked , boiled with salt and pepper…ummmmm…just heavens! But I have left that state for many years now and unfortunately the culture is changing very fast and the hamlet-stalls have now paved way for fast food joints.
Another remarkable memory of monsoons go with the festivals that are celebrated in that state. The advent of monsoons mark the celeberation of Rajo — the harvest festival in the Oriya almanac. Farmers start plowing the ground after worshipping earth an age old tradition: personified as the Goddess of fertility. A three day elaborate festival marking the advent of monsoons is celeberated with pomp and splendour. New dresses, new agricultural equipments, new lands…everything mark the celebrations. The thing that captures most to my imagination is the way women are revered on that occasion. Alta (a red liquid applied on female feet), sindoor, sarees are plundered from the market/haat. Girls are not allowed to step on the earth barefoot and neither are you allowed to wear slippers. Small feet slip-ons are specially made of palm leaves for the ladies. They are given complete freedom to sing-dance, play cards and special swings made of wood and jute-rope are hung on every mango groove for the ladies to relax — the philosophy being, if the females are happy these days there will be great fertility in the soil too. I wonder what feminism would make of this ritual?
The thing which I did not like about the rains was going to school each morning at 7.30 am. A born late riser, I hated school in the mornings and especially the sleepy morning assembly, where you stand for half an hour (I almost dozed off) watching the Prinicipal’s stern gold rimmed glasses. My mind constantly strayed into some or the other romantic dreams when the first classes began. I would love to watch from the big galss windows of my class room the cows straying in the rain-ladden grasses grazing lazily, My mind would be wildly animated by the pitter-patter of the rain drops attempting to lash the glass panes with a shoosh…Until….ah! My maths teacher would sharply drag me into the reality of the class room and ask me to do a sum on the black board (my worst nightmare). I would fumble with the chalk near the blackboard until finally asked to do one round on the school fields as punishment. I hated running…but loved to run out of the class into the rain-washed grounds 🙂
But things are now fading into oblivion. These days when it rains here…we love to go out in a group for Icecream to the neonlit ice cream parlour at HN. No! I am not being a pessimist! I love this too…But there it was tropical romance and a dreamer which posessed my soul and here it is a realist trying to give a shape to that romance into concrete form.
I know critics might blame me for making Orissa a beautiful rememberance/romance overlooking all its ugliness…I don’t care…someone has to see the beauty in all ugliness…I might be that soul :)…