Rains have always enthralled me. My childhood memories are interspersed by the smell and colour of the rains. But back then, the monsoon rains never made surprise visits. The Northwest monsoons, what the malayalis call ‘edavappathi’ or ‘kaalavarsham’, made its appearance on June 1, every year. I found it amusing and surprising how the rains lashed down on us suddenly one fine day, when the sky was so cheerful and clear till the previous night. But that was always so. And we could plan our days well ahead, with the rains always keeping a routine. The southwest monsoons, or ‘thulavarsham’, came in October, creating a hullabaloo with its thunder and lightning.
And the rains were a beauty. I could sit in our balcony for hours together, gulping down its splendour. Our courtyard had an assortment of trees and flowering plants. The sound of the rains falling on them was music to my ears. And during nights, it was like a sweet lullaby, transporting me to another world.
Though the rains drenched me on the first day of school every year, and soaked my new uniform, shoes and bag, I used to look forward to its visits. The new umbrella did little to stop the drops falling on me. But even that did not dampen my spirits.
I found my trip to school and college most enjoyable during monsoons, be it in the school bus or the public transport. Once inside, you could hear the clattering of rain drops on the roof of the bus. It then slowly streamed down the glass panes of the closed windows, dousing my mind and soul. Maybe even the other passengers shared my mood, for though claustrophobic and drenched, no one complained. There was always a silent understanding and enjoyment.
After marriage, I went to Chennai. There the rains had a different appearance, and it lacked the charm of the rains back home. It came only once a year, lashing out on the denizens, flooding and dirtying the whole city. I very well know my partisan thinking and that I am biased about Kerala. Though Chennai has a major place in my heart, it is only second to my feelings towards Kerala. Our (my husband’s and mine) trips to the office were an ordeal during monsoons. Every evening, my husband grumbled about his torments maneouvering his motorbike through knee-deep water. And my journey in the Chennai Transport bus was no less arduous. Caught in a bunch of loud-mouthed commuters, I felt like a fish out of water. Though I lived in Chennai for 12 years, I never came around to enjoying the rains there.
Then I happened to have a brief stint in Kerala. And to my great chagrin, I realised that the rains there had lost its charm and I did not enjoy it anymore. It was no longer music to my ears. And it no longer put me to sleep in the night with its sweet lullaby. I didn’t have to go far in search of the reason. Our courtyards now boast of no trees or flowering plants. We have cut them to give way to development. I looked out of my balcony and saw stretches of rubber plantations. With its fragile trunk and high water consumption, rubber trees are more a curse to us than boon. At the slightest provocation, it breaks and falls on the nearby electric lines, disrupting power for days together. But the ever-increasing price of rubber is highly lucrative, and we are ready to forego everything else. Once the monsoon sets in, and storm and heavy rainfall become the order of the day, we fall in perpetual darkness.
When this became a regular affair, the rebel in me awoke. Once when I had to bear this for two continuous days, I decided to call up the Electricity Board for an explanation. I asked the guy who picked up the phone, “Why is it that though metros like Mumbai and Chennai have their share of showers annually, they don’t face power cuts?” Pat came the reply, “because there are no rubber trees there”.