Oh Monsoon


The Indian seasons are just like the country. They always overwhelm you. The long dusty days of summer get almost unbearable by June. Monsoon watch becomes the country’s national pastime as the IMD trots out wildly erratic and almost always wrong predictions with a +/-4% error range.

Meanwhile way down south over the Indian Ocean, winds are being whipped into a frenzy. Attracted by the hot low pressure zone created over North India by the unforgiving sun, these winds blow northwards, picking up tons of moisture along the way. While India sizzles, these winds shower their munificence over the Indian Ocean islands as well as the Andamans. The imperious Arabian Sea branch, laden with water vapour, breaks upon the West Coast in spectacular fashion with a deep rumbling thunder and frothy sea waves providing the special effects. It however runs straight into the mighty Western Ghats. Pregnant with moisture, it deposits most of it over the Konkan and Malabar coasts before it can overcome the hills. The more sedate Eastern branch sneaks its way through the narrow Bay of Bengal as it approaches the Coromandal coast. Coastal Andhra and Orissa are drenched and so is Gangetic West Bengal. Blowing across the plains of Bangladesh, it gets channeled into Meghalaya hills where Cherrapunji and Mawsynram receive record breaking rainfall year after year. The two branches meet over Central India and proceed to take on the Indian heartland.

There is more drama yet. The Monsoon is preceded by a couple of dusty sand storms that remind Delhi-ites of just how close the ever expanding Thar Desert is. There is hardly any rain but servants and housewives are sent scurrying to pick up the drying laundry lest the wind blow the briefs and vests away. The humid nights only serve to further piss off the already half-crazy Northies. This is short lived however. Thunder and lightning accompany the rain as towns, villages and cities are drenched for days. The trees heave under the force of the rain as people negotiate huge traffic snarls, overflowing gutters and washed off roads. As the winds reach the Himalayas, the mighty Indian rivers breach their banks and cause untold misery to millions.

Monsoon holds many lovely memories for me. The joy of munching pakoras as you watch the rain. The “rainy-days” in schools across the country. The paths that the flowing water cuts through your garden. The fresh smell as the rain unlocks a thousand pores on what was till a week ago,  a patch of yellowing grass. The wet patch that appears after a lengthy downpour on your ceiling. The countless chirping insects that create a racket all night. The stars that look ever more numerous as the rain cleans up the atmospheric dust. The occasional hailstorm. The howling wind that beats on the window shutters and carries the rain into every nook and crevice.

The Monsoons fill one with a zest for life. They give life to a country that just cannot do without them. And cannot be imagined without them.

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