Thursday, October 13, 2005

Travels on a monsoon evening!

Despite the inevitable disparities in the way rainfall was distributed geographically and over time, it has been a good monsoon. Much of the country has got normal rain, and Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Gujarat have received far more than they usually do.
The Hindu Editorial on October 7, 2005

I sit inside the bus, warm with the human warmth of passengers, and alive with murmurs of conversation and occasional outbursts of laughter. It is dark outside with heavy, water laden clouds hanging so low that you can see their passing forms on the rocks on either side of the road. The monkeys that I usually spot are nowhere to be seen. Poor creatures! I wonder where they would be. Will they also sit, like crows, completely drenched and still on some tree branch?

Lightening flashes at the horizon very mildly, as if somebody is dipping and dimming a motor-cycle lamp on a far-away road. Occasionally, even when a stray lightning splits the sky with its strange dendritic form, the distant rumble of the thunder is lost in the sound of the bus engine, and the murmurs inside. The water droplets are heavy; the earth, completely wet and drenched may be to a few millimeters deep, no longer exudes heat as it does during the summer rains. There are ruddy water poodles everywhere, with waves that arise with each falling droplet of water. The water droplets are so heavy that when it falls in the pool, the water from the pool splashes a transparent screen of water at least an inch high.

All colours, even in such darkish tone, look startlingly fresh - the green of the leaves of the tamarind trees, the red of the flowing water, the darkish blue-black of the tarred road, the brown of the rocks with their blue veins. The hardness and rigidity of the spotlessly wahsed stones are palpable even to the eye. A bluish smoke rises like a fume from a tea shop - a thatched affair where a lady is brewing tea; she stands facing the road, but her face and her upper torso are turned to her right towards the small TV. A few old men, with beedis in hand, and two kids, are also intently watching the (black-and-white) song. A mongrel at their feet is looking lazily at the bus as it passes by.

But for the continuous fall of water droplets, waves in the poodles, and the flowing little streams, everything else is stilled. The trees just stand as if they are enjoying a shower, but are too lazy to soap themselves. There is an old, dead tree standing alone; having lost all the bark, it is white with dark lines running. The tree reminds me of a similar dead ashwaththa tree (full of screeching parakeets) at the threshold of my village. I wonder why people never cut such trees; may be there is a taboo against cutting a tree which is hit by lightning. I have to ask Anna. He may know.

As the evening ages, it is becoming darker. There is a continuous sound of falling water drops and running water outside, as if the heavens are murmuring secrets into the ears of the earth. Once in a while, there is a slight movement in the trees, and the water droplets ahead of the bus fly at an angle; it looks as if the earth heaves and shivers a little. The river of my childhood is full to the brim. In its muddy waters I see the image of us kids and our cousins fooling around in the water while our mothers sat on the stones chatting among themselves.

A strange peace descends. The passengers complain to the driver about the time he is taking to cover fifty kilometers. But the complaint is just an excuse to engage the driver in a conversation; the driver looks into the mirror on top and smiles indulgently. At that moment, my destination disappeared from my mind. I wanted this journey to be eternal. It was sad. It was pleasant. It was a rainy, rainy monsoon evening.
O Krishna of the Ocean and rains! Enter the ocean;
Take and give, fill and throw. Don't hide a thing.
Darken your body like the First lord of Pralaya,
Dazzle, in the hands of the Padmanabha,
Whose shoulders are well formed, like the ocean; and
Vibrate like the right-handed conch in his hand;
Stop not; Rain incessantly - like the arrows from Saranga.
Rain - so that we may live in this world.
May you be happy with our Margazhi bathings.
- Andal (in Aazhi mazhai kannaa...)

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