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?