Monday, Nov 28, 2022
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Monsoon In India: Rim Jhim Gire Sawaan...

A torrential rain triggers songs in me. I hum 'Rim Jhim Gire Saawan'. I am a lesser version of Amitabh, I hold the invisible hands of a non-existent heroine and wander around: Durga Prasad Panda drowns in memories of monsoon.

Rim Jhim Gire Sawaan...
Rim Jhim Gire Sawaan... Shutterstock

I had always been a 'rain man' throughout my life. A torrential rain triggers songs in me. I hum "Rim Jhim Gire Saawan". I am a lesser version of Amitabh, I hold the invisible hands of a non-existent heroine and wander around in the town with gay abandon. The passion intensifies not just in me but in everyone else. I reflect on this song from the movie "Manzil", perhaps the best 'rain song' Bollywood has ever cast, and oh, how can I forget "Pyar hua ikraar hua" where great showman, the inimitable Raj Kapoor wooing a fully drenched Nargis under a single umbrella? Bollywood's penchant for 'rain songs' is as old as the art and craft of filmmaking itself.

I don't exactly remember how many times I have come home from school after getting fully drenched on my way back, only to get beaten up by an annoyed father or given a severe dressing down. At times, I would catch a mild fever, cold with a running nose and body pain but my fascination for getting wet in the rain never dimmed even a bit. Rain has also been a great metaphor for a life full of vibrancies and resurgence, ushering in all-round creativity; augmentation of lush green earth, lovers itching to get intimate, the invigorating cackle of birds, tree leaves with layers of dirt all washed up, looking greener than ever, croaking of the frogs coming from all sides at night with the toads making gruff sounds in between the lull, something sounding like "trrrrrr...". Monsoon actually lets loose a whole range of emotions and stirrings not just in the lives of human beings but also in plants, animals, birds, insects and weeds. In the monsoon, even a rugged block of stone looks green covered with moss. The spectacular rainbow born out of a marriage between the sun and rain actually gave wings to our imagination.

Dark clouds gathering on the distant horizon, looking menacing and apocalyptic with flashes of lightning and earth-shattering thunder before bursting forth with a vengeance, is something to experienced and felt deeply, to realize the tumultuous moment where fear, awe and beauty coalesce together to create a surreal atmosphere; soothing frayed nerves, giving a sense of release and abandon, blurring the lines between the mundane and esoteric. During the whole rainy season, the sky looks ever-changing, malleable and liquid, with clouds of different shades and shapes pregnant with rain hurrying up for other, distant lands. Also, at times, there would be damp squibs: looming of clouds, clashing with other clouds in a war-cry of sorts; thunder, lightning, dust storms but not a single drop of rain.
 

Raindrops and melancholy.
Raindrops and melancholy. Getty Images

In our village, there used to be some rain experts who would predict the time and intensity of the imminent rainfall. They would study the behaviour of some insects, flowering of some plants, location of some of the stars in the night sky, the smoky layers of rings around the moon, specific directions from which the clouds manifest themselves, and predict the course of rainfall with a substantial degree of accuracy.

During our childhood, we used to have long spells of rain stretching as far as one to two weeks with some intermittent breaks: the sun not appearing for days on end, clothes exuding strange smells, walls getting seeped and damped from below, cattle remaining chained in their shed making a shitty mess; on the whole, life coming to a standstill, confined to home. Rural roads getting muddy and sticky, chappals heavy with stuck mud, cycle tires jammed with mud. The ceaseless downpour also meant leaking roof and utensils being set up below the holes and cracks dripping water, to check it from spilling into the interior. Such long-lasting rain also meant waking up all night in the anxiety of an impending flood in the low-lying areas caused either due to non-discharge of rising levels of water or the breaking of some embankment. Thus, it is during the rains that the life-sustaining rivers, that hitherto look calm and docile come to be in their elements and wreck havoc overflowing into adjoining areas, causing irreparable loss of lives and property.

I still remember one such dreadful night of August 1982 in Sambalpur when we remained awake through the night of rain and thunder and saw my school box floating in knee-deep water alongside shoes, footwear, utensils, and other household things. Flood waters started receding when a large block of landmass adjacent to river Mahanadi buckled under the pressure of water and got swept into the full river, releasing the waters that got logged in the town. Despite minor losses, personally, I had an interesting reason to be happy because our school remained closed for a couple of months for serving as shelter to the flood-affected people of our town. Another incident around the same time also remained etched in my mind: a rumour erupted that the world's longest earth dam, the Hirakud dam, broke. It was around lunchtime that the rumour started spreading like wildfire and we saw people running helter-skelter mounting housetops, some running towards the high-lying areas and even trying to climb nearby tall trees. There was absolute chaos all around us. We were at a total loss as to what to do amidst such confusion and cacophony when father appeared from nowhere; he came running from his office to just to tell us that it was all a rumour, probably spread by some miscreants with an intention to loot and plunder the houses of those who fled in panic and forgot to lock.

Back in the early nineties, just out of my teens when I was a student at Delhi University, the rain held a separate, flamboyant charm altogether. Even now my heart skips a beat whenever I recount this particular incident. There were just two of us in the library waiting for the rain to stop so that we could attend the next class. She had an umbrella so she could easily have gone ahead all by herself, but she insisted that I come with her. I hesitated a bit but before I could say something, she almost dragged me under her umbrella. Ah! Those few hundred steps of walking together in rain, our bodies touching each other's, the aroma of naphthalene balls wafting from her dupatta, and the unbearable weight of silence that had made time to come to a halt. While ascending the staircase, I could smell the heartburn of all others watching us part ways with smiles on our lips, our faces reddened awkwardly.

Much later, just one year into our marriage, I was at my in-laws' house that overlooked a vast stretch of vacant space adjoining some farmland that lay bare after the harvest. That day it was raining since morning when suddenly I felt this strong urge to get wet in the rain and simply walked out into the rain fully clothed, got drenched to my heart's content for half an hour. When I came back, water dripping from every limb of mine, all my in-laws stood transfixed wondering what this madcap of a son-in-law, a little crazy in the head, was thinking! They gazed at me in total disbelief as if they were looking at someone who had come from some other planet behaving in so child-like a way, almost doubting my sanity as if all I care!

Even now when I see it raining, the child inside me feels like jumping out in elation. Recently, not so long ago, my nineteen year old daughter turned up before me all soaked in the rainwater. I reprimanded her for being so careless about her health. After drying herself, she came to me dancing her mischievous eyeballs to reveal that it was all deliberate on her part to get an intimate feel of the rain.

I looked into her eyes intently and found the trapped image of a twelve year old 'me' standing his face down, meek with all the pleasures of guilt writ large on his face, dripping water from his entire body and clothes.

I had always been a 'rain man' throughout my life. A torrential rain triggers songs in me. I hum "Rim Jhim Gire Saawan". I am a lesser version of Amitabh, I hold the invisible hands of a non-existent heroine and wander around in the town with gay abandon. The passion intensifies not just in me but everyone else. I reflect on this song from the movie "Manzil", perhaps the best 'rain song' Bollywood has ever cast, and oh, how can I forget "Pyar hua ikraar hua" where great showman, the inimitable Raj Kapoor wooing a fully drenched Nargis under a single umbrella? Bollywood's penchant for 'rain songs' is as old as the art and craft of film making itself.

I don't exactly remember how many times I have come home from school after getting fully drenched on my way back, only to get beaten up by an annoyed father or given a severe dressing down. At times, I would catch mild fever, cold with a running nose and body pain but my fascination for getting wet in the rain never dimmed even a bit. Rain has also been a great metaphor for a life full of vibrancies and resurgence, ushering in all round creativity; augmentation of a lush green earth, lovers itching to get intimate, invigorating cackle of birds, tree leaves with layers of dirt all washed up, looking greener than ever, croaking of the frogs coming from all sides at night with the toads making gruff sounds in between the lull, something sounding like "trrrrrr...". Monsoon actually lets loose a whole range of emotions and stirrings not just in the lives of human beings but also in plants, animals, birds, insects and weeds. In the monsoon even a rugged block of stone looks green covered with moss. The spectacular rainbow born out a marriage between the sun and rain actually gave wings to our imagination.

Dark clouds gathering in the distant horizon, looking menacing and apocalyptic with flashes of lightening and earth shattering thunder before bursting forth with a vengeance, is something to experienced and felt deeply, to realize the tumultuous moment where fear, awe and beauty coalesce together to create a surreal atmosphere; soothing frayed nerves, giving a sense of release and abandon, blurring the lines between the mundane and esoteric. During the whole of rainy season the sky looks ever-changing, malleable and liquid, with clouds of different shades and shapes pregnant with rain hurrying up for other, distant lands. Also, at times, there would be damp squibs: looming of clouds, clashing with other clouds in a war-cry of sorts; thunder, lightening, dust storms but not a single drop of rain.

In our village there used to be some rain experts who would predict the time and intensity of the imminent rainfall. They would study the behavior of some insects, flowering of some plants, location of some of the stars in the night sky, the smoky layers of rings around the moon, specific directions from which the clouds manifest themselves, and predict the course of rainfall with a substantial degree of accuracy.

During our childhood, we used to have long spells of rain stretching as far as one to two weeks with some intermittent breaks: the sun not appearing for days on end, clothes exuding strange smells, walls getting seeped and damped from below, cattle remaining chained in their shed making a shitty mess; on the whole, life coming to a standstill, confined to home. Rural roads getting muddy and sticky, chappals heavy with stuck mud, cycle-tires jammed with mud. Ceaseless downpour also meant leaking roof and utensils being set up below the holes and cracks dripping water, to check it from spilling into the interior. Such long-lasting rain also meant waking up all night in anxiety of an impending flood in the low lying areas caused either due to non-discharge of rising levels of water or breaking of some embankment. Thus, it is during the rains that the life sustaining rivers, that hitherto look calm and docile come to be in their elements and wreck havoc overflowing into adjoining areas, causing irreparable loss of lives and property.

I still remember one such dreadful night of August 1982 in Sambalpur when we remained awake through the night of rain and thunder and saw my school box floating in knee deep water alongside shoes, footwear, utensils, and other household things. Flood waters started receding when a large block of landmass adjacent to river Mahanadi buckled under pressure of water and got swept into the full river, releasing the waters that got logged in the town. Despite minor losses, personally, I had an interesting reason to be happy because our school remained closed for a couple of months for serving as shelter to the flood-affected people of our town. Another incident around the same time also remained etched in my mind: a rumor erupted that the world's longest earth dam, Hirakud dam, broke. It was around lunchtime that the rumor started spreading like wildfire and we saw people running helter-skelter mounting housetops, some running towards the high-lying areas and even trying to climb nearby tall trees. There was absolute chaos all around us. We were at a total loss as to what to do amidst such confusion and cacophony when father appeared from nowhere; he came running from his office to just to tell us that it was all a rumor, probably spread by some miscreants with an intention to loot and plunder the houses of those who fled in panic and forgot to lock.

Back in the early nineties, just out of my teens when I was a student at Delhi University, the rain held a separate, flamboyant charm altogether. Even now my heart skips a beat whenever I recount this particular incident. There were just two of us in the library waiting for the rain to stop so that we could attend the next class. She had an umbrella so she could easily have gone ahead all by herself, but she insisted that I come with her. I hesitated a bit but before I could say something, she almost dragged me under her umbrella. Ah! Those few hundred steps of walking together in rain, our bodies touching each other's, the aroma of naphthalene balls wafting from her dupatta, and the unbearable weight of silence that had made time to come to a halt. While ascending the staircase, I could smell the heartburn of all others watching us part ways with smiles on our lips, our faces reddened awkwardly.

Much later, just one year into our marriage, I was at my in-laws' house that overlooked a vast stretch of vacant space adjoining some farmland that lay bare after the harvest. That day it was raining since morning when suddenly I felt this strong urge to get wet in the rain and simply walked out into the rain fully clothed, got drenched to my heart's content for half an hour. When I came back, water dripping from every limb of mine, all my in-laws stood transfixed wondering what this madcap of a son-in-law, a little crazy in the head, was thinking! They gazed at me in total disbelief as if they were looking at someone who had come from some other planet behaving in so child-like a way, almost doubting my sanity as if all I care!

Even now when I see it raining, the child inside me feels like jumping out in elation. Recently, not so long ago, my nineteen year old daughter turned up before me all soaked in the rainwater. I reprimanded her for being so careless about her health. After drying herself, she came to me dancing her mischievous eyeballs to reveal that it was all deliberate on her part to get an intimate feel of the rain.

I looked into her eyes intently and found the trapped image of a twelve year old 'me' standing his face down, meek with all the pleasures of guilt writ large on his face, dripping water from his entire body and clothes.

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