Allah Megh De… Paani De…

Published: Mon, 07/05/2010 - 13:05 Updated: Mon, 07/05/2010 - 13:06

July: Editorial
Hardnews Bureau 

This folk narrative from the magnificent oral traditions of the Indian hinterland pleading to God for the clouds and the rain arrives like an annual longing in a full circle of despair and hope. There is nothing normal about the Indian monsoon. And despite the universal cynicism about the meteorology department's perennial prophesies (which even a cub reporter on a routine weather story distrusts), the unprecedented heat this summer, perhaps the most extreme in one hundred years, especially in the north and Commonwealth's deconstructed Delhi, is a sign that the skies might finally open up this year with cloudbursts of sweet rain. If it does not, it will mark a tragedy. It if does in excess, it will still mark a tragedy. And if it just about arrives and goes away, like the fleeting music of four seasons, then yet again it will leave the bitter foretaste of a promise betrayed. Either which way, the monsoon marks an arrival and a departure, and in this transit lounge, we have no choice but to accept nature's elemental unpredictability, despite the inevitable debate on global warming and climate change. 

That it has arrived in the endangered islands of Andamans, moved to the pristine backwaters of Kerala, and is now leaving a drenched Mumbai panting with its systems collapsing and no lessons learnt from the wet catastrophes of the past, is a prediction of a good monsoon. It is hoped it will wash away our sins, uplift our senses, bring poetry and joy in our summer scorched lives - paralysed and satiated by the tropical heat and dust. It is also hoped that it will mark a moment of resurrection for our vast landscape of agricultural land, earth and forests, thirsty for water, where the farmers, as in Vidharbha, have been left to their tragic fate by the establishment, especially by a cold-blooded Union agriculture ministry so brazenly more obsessed with the cash rich milch cow of Indian cricket. Compare the abysmal index of Indian agriculture and compare it with the glorified growth index of 9 per cent, and the dichotomy between pampered corporates and condemned agriculturists (including millions of landless and small farmers) becomes as transparent as a rainbow. Rains also bring floods, displacement and devastation, as in the Kosi belt, or in the Brahamputra basin in Assam. Especially when clueless, inefficient and corrupt regimes turn nature's unpredictability into man-made tragedies, even while science and technology seem as helpless as homeless families without a roof. And yet, the rainbow must arrive, like the eternal folk song of happy optimism and sweet ecstasy. 

The monsoon is also a moment of life affirmation. For the imagined communities in the invisible mappings of Indian geography, it spreads layers of moist feelings, forgotten intimacies, strange longings, old books with the smell of trees, humidity and leaves, and hot snacks with tea and narratives shared in cosy communities of friendship and love. After an apocalyptic summer of infinite, relentless suffering, humans, animals, birds, flowers and trees, poor people who labour under a brutish sun and sleep in hot furnaces under burning tin shacks, their children on the heated pavements, even stones, streets, walls, objects, substances, they all seem to find relief. The valleys and meadows turn pristine green, washed leaves of trees exiled by the eternal dust of mindless construction swing as if drunk with wine, muddy rivers find a new wave of strength - even those turned into sewage drains - and mustard flowers, crops and vegetables inhale the waters of renewal. The black umbrella unfolds new wet journeys and nights are full of the soft sounds of silence. That is why we say, Allah megh de... paani de...

This story is from print issue of HardNews