Some weeks ago I saw a strange sight and was as struck by it as Wordsworth was by the sight of a host of daffodils. However, in my case it was a host of heads popping out of balcony doors to take in the unusual view of a heavy shower of rain. This was the first time I was seeing residents of the building where I live.
It was a Friday and most of us were awakened by the pleasant pitter patter of rain on window panes. Soon video cameras were brought out to preserve the scene for posterity and to prove to family and friends back home that we do indeed experience this phenomenon here.
As I watched the rain cover my balcony in a sheet of water I thought back to similar times in India. The monsoon is what all of us longed for after the searing heat of an endless summer. We followed news of its first appearance in the southern state of Kerala and knew it was only a matter of days before we would enjoy cooler weather. Out came the wellies and brollies from the depths of cupboards. There were even rain holidays announced when traffic was clogged and schools could not run classes due to poor attendance.
There were only positive thoughts about the rain. Long forgotten was the inconvenience of flooded roads and clothes that wouldn’t dry, or laundry men who didn’t turn up as they had the perfect excuse. The smell of rain-soaked earth, splashing in puddles and going for long walks after a heavy shower under a rainbow-streaked sky are some of the unforgettable memories. For the children the sight of teeming insect life in the garden almost overnight was another sight worth beholding. The piles of worms churning the soil made us shudder and yet we were fascinated by how they separated and came together as if in social gatherings. Then there were the resplendent red spotted beetles or mites, which we called velvet boochies, with soft coats which we couldn’t resist touching. Somehow the sight of them never scared us. We were determined to imprison these beauties. So, we coaxed them into glass bottles into which we inserted blades of grass. These were proudly displayed in our rooms. After a while, when we had satiated ourselves with possession, they were set free in a green patch outside, free to roam at will.
Perhaps the best times were the evenings and nights when we were forced indoors by sheets of rain cascading down, accompanied by peals of thunder that made us start and streaks of lightning that lit up the darkened rooms of our homes. The first casualty in such weather was always the power. As soon as the first drops of water fell, candles and lanterns were brought out and kept within reach. None of us owned a generator back then and we took the inconvenience in our stride. As long as we were assured of food, we weren’t really bothered about the power outage.
We usually gathered in the living room and played board games by candlelight. Or we would have a ‘ghost or scary story hour’. Each one had to tell a story, which was often concocted on the spur of the moment, the product of overactive imaginations. The shadows on the walls made the atmosphere suitably eerie and some of the older ones took great delight in sudden movements or pregnant pauses during the narration, which made the blood run cold as we cast uneasy glances around the room.
It’s completely different now. As soon as the lights go out, the generator is switched on and life continues as if the interruption hadn’t occurred. It certainly is convenient but I still miss those times when the weather played truant and made for quality family time.