Saturday, April 4, 2009

SUMMER RAIN

In Mumbai, the sun and the rain are like a quarelling Page 3 couple, they never appear together. It is always an either-or situation, either it is swelteringly hot (as it is now), with summer stretching for endless weeks; or it is raining, in drip-drops or deluges, for months without any sun in sight. I know that I am exaggerating, but that is what it feels like.

When I was child in Bengal, the sun and the rain had a different relationship, especially in summer, more especially in April. They were like an amorous couple, chasing each other throughout the month. The daytime would see the sun, all melting-concrete-hot and blinding-eyes-yellow. Coming back from school would mean a long walk in the sapping afternoon heat, when the sweat would seem to drip from our eyelids into our eyes and the schoolbag would leave a wet patch where it stuck to our backs.

But in the late afternoon, the white wispy effeminate clouds floating in the sky would be replaced by black billowing clouds which meant serious business. Even as the sun would hurry to the western horizon, the clouds would hustle the winds to sway the trees and rustle the leaves. In relief and gladness, we would come out into the balconies and courtyards, feeling the wind lift our hair and dry the sweat on our brows.

And then, riding on the back of the wind, would come the rain. Blessed, beautiful rain would pour down in huge drops on the parched soil and the hot rooftops, cooling us all. This was the Kalboishakhi, the summerstorm which was Nature’s own relief-measure and heat-control mechanism.

Sometimes, we would be allowed to get wet in the rain, especially if we had prickly heat rashes (as the first rain was supposed to be a miracle-cure for itchy heat-rash). Sometimes there would be hailstorms, and the roofs and gardens would be white with hailstones. Some would be tiny, melting in our hands as we tried to gather them. Some would be as big as golf-balls, which we would reverentially gather in bowls. Their cold crunchiness was a delight to taste.

Another epicurean delight of the Kalboishakhi were the green unripe mangoes which would fall off the madly swinging branches of our neighbour’s mango tree (which overhung our garden wall). We would rush out with laal gamchhas (thin red towels), unmindful of the fruits pelting down on our heads, eager only to collect as many fallen mangoes as possible before the rain became too heavy.

After discarding the tiny inedible ones, we would then peel the rest of our booty, and sit with outstretched legs in the balcony, eating our stolen goods with salt and red-chilli powder, watching the rain pour down. The next morning the sun would be back, in all his fierce glory.

The word Kal in Kalboishakhi probably refers to the 'black clouds which bring the rain', but as a child I always thought that Kal referred to 'tomorrow', and that Kalboishakhi meant that there would be another summerstorm tomorrow, to take away the heat in the evening and give us some more green mangoes.

ANY MEMORIES OF STORMS IN SUMMER?

14 comments:

seanag said...

We lived in Denver for a few years when I was in 5th through 7th grade. We used to have summer storms that lasted for an hour or so in the afternoon. I am not sure if this was always the case, but often there was thunder and lightning accompanying an otherwise mild rain.

We had a couple of litters of puppies and kittens one year, and i would get quite worried about what we would do if the house was struck and caught fire. I remember having a sort of evacuation plan involving plastic laundry baskets for them.

HAREKRISHNAJI said...

You have written so well

ugich konitari said...

Although I live in Mumbai, my most enjoyable rain memories are from my Pune childhood. There is , always what is called a "walwacha Paoos". Suddenly a summer afternoon will cloud over, with a beginning of winds, slowly going up in speed. Folks rushing around roads, and there is a downpour, with the great smell of the earth, and the hailstones you mention. But what we also did, probably 25 years before you, is run out to collect the crashing raw mangoes. And yes, we also did the business of sitting in the balcony, with red chilly powder and salt and hing, and the thought of the raw mango dipping into that makes my mouth water even now......Thanks for posting this wonderful memory...

Kavi said...

What an analogy ! the sun and the rain as courting couples !! Hmm ! Super cool.

The Mumbai sun and rain are not quarelling couple. They are divorced, banished and separated on rebirth ! As well !

:0

Hobo ........ ........ ........ said...

Yes, I used to sleep on house roof. One night I woke up and found the sky was red in color and storm was there. I was scared. I jumped from the roof top hurting myself and my heart was pumping fast when mom opened the door.
It was sacary because when you woke up in the night hours you find dark all over places not red color all around.
:)

lopamudra said...

The memories are 'ditto'. Very very beautifully written, I could almost smell the rain soaked earth,hear the thunderous clouds and taste the tart green mangoes.

Lazyani said...

Having spent ones growing up years in place located close to the districts of Bankura and Birbhum in Bengal, I have brilliant memories of Kalboishaki -- some of them fun-filled and some quite frightening.

Thanks, for rekindling the memories once again.

Mampi said...

Love your style.
'white wispy effeminate clouds' stole my heart.
Great expression.
Want to eat those mangoes, NOW

Sandeepa said...

Khub bhalo laglo tomar lekha pore, beautiful memories. Koto katha mone koriye dile

Lady Hope said...

i've experienced a hail storm just once. when i was visiting my aunt in pune and was a school going gal .


i held one in my palm. white and round. I popped it in my mouth thinking that it would taste like kulfi... and boy!! was i disappointed....

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks for sharing your summer shower memories.

Koel said...

could relate so much to the rain memories at Kolkata....I am fortunate to have seen different types of rains in Kolkata, Mumbai, Jaipur, Delhi, North East...The summer being severest- hottest and driesy, the first drops of rain are most looked forward to here, in Delhi....

Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, yes! My brother and I shared a room in the country house that my grandfather built. The room had two windows, each with a tattered green blind. During thunderstorms, we would kneel on a bed at the windows, one window per brother, and we'd watch the storm through the frayed blinds. I will never lose that wonder at how lightning could make night into day.
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SGD said...

How did I miss this one?
It's a beautiful post...brought so many memories...