Song of the Rain- Monsoon in Literature, Journalism and Films
The distant thundering and the heavily cast skies bring a sense of awe to many people. The grey clouds engulfing the sky with a cool breeze hovering around indicates the arrival of the mighty monsoon showers that the earth awaits with its widely opened arms. We are like the peacock which majestically dances on seeing the darkest of clouds in the sky. It is a season we all eagerly wait for after the fiery summer which made us wither and fade. Monsoon for some is harsh and ruthless and for pluviophiles, rain is ecstatic as it cleanses and purifies your soul.
Anyone who has enjoyed rains would have fond memories of getting drenched. The joy of dancing in the rain with friends is a memory we are very fond of. As a child, I really enjoyed playing in the rain and quite naturally I have passed it down to my two daughters who equally love the same. It's also the time when the school reopens after the summer holidays. Children encounters rain on their way to school and back. They enjoy jumping into the muddy puddles of joy, laughing and giggling along with their friends. They do not remember the angry face of mother for getting drenched in rain and making their clothes dirty. I would like to share some anecdotes from my life where I got punished by my mother when I jumped into a puddle ignoring her warning. We also waited for the school to close down for a day or two when the rain becomes torrential. We waited for such days without knowing what calamities it brought to others. Such were the innocent memories associated with childhood and monsoon.
When Peacocks Dance
Apart from that the season is also enjoyable for those who like to sip a hot cup of chai, reading a favourite book while enjoying the rain. Rain also becomes the central theme of many writers who weave stories around the monsoon season. There are many books which talk about the Indian monsoon. Memories of Rain by Sunetra Gupta is the first novel which comes to my mind when it comes to monsoon. It talks about the love of a Bengali woman and an English man in the backdrop rain swollen dark Calcutta. Chasing the Monsoon (1990) by the British Journalist and travel writer Alexander Frater, is his journey through India in pursuit of the astonishing Indian summer monsoon. Monsoon by Uma Krishnaswami is a children’s fiction that talks about the season and how people eagerly wait for its arrival. When Peacocks Dance is an anthology where Juhi Sinha beautifully compiles different excerpts from prose, poems and also include snack recipes which can be relished during the season. Who can forget the amazing works of Victor George, the Chief Photographer of the Malayala Manorama, who died while capturing the landslides in Idukki district. Thousands of his photographs are a treasure for researchers on monsoons and its influence in the country.
When rain comes in the literary scenario, it not only constructs an atmosphere, but also it initiates a narrative. The rain can either be rejuvenative or destructive and it symbolizes many aspects like rebirth, revival, foreboding and often perilous. Khalil Gibran, the famous Lebanese poet in his poem “Song of the Rain” where rain comes as the narrator. Rain is beautifully described as
“I am dotted silver threads dropped from heaven
By the Gods. Nature then takes to me.
To adorn her fields and valleys” (Khalil Gibran)
When Gibran praises rain, the famous American Poet Henry Wardsworth Longfellow represents rain as “dark and dreary”. He deems that every individual should experience a day where unexpected things happen to them like “a rain fall”, which is cold and weary. These are two different perspectives of how people opine about rain.
Monsoon on Celluloid
Monsoon season has an intense relationship with Indian films. Rain symbolizes love, passion and also destruction. Let us take a look into some of the movies that use monsoon season as an important part of their story. Monsoon Wedding, a comedy drama directed by Mira Nair, talks in detail about an elaborate Indian wedding in the midst of monsoon. Here, the rain is metaphorical of a cleanser which washes away the unpleasantness from the family. In the Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, the monsoon, or the lack of it becomes the catalyst of action. The villagers enjoying their victory are brought about by the heavy down pour which is symbolic of the nature rejoicing with them. In the movie Raincoat, the Indian adaptation of the famous short story The Gift of the Magi, rain plays a pivotal role. The characters’ mental agony is similar to that of a heavily cast sky ready to downpour. There is even a raga in Hindustani classical music which is associated with monsoon. The raga Megh Malhar has the power to bring rain to the place where it is sung and many films songs have been composed on this raga.
The monsoon season has an inseparable bonding with human beings. It gives pleasure as well as it carries us to past and memories associated with it. After a hot afternoon when we see the clouds getting darker, we eagerly await of it as Aah! The rain is coming!!
Published in Pallikkutam, The Education Observer, May 2022. To read more such articles-subscribe