Parched is the Land, Thirsty is the Desire, Thirsty is the Sky
August 26, 2012 10:17 AM   Subscribe

The Saawan So Far: In Hindi, as it is in other Indian languages, they are simply the Nairutya Marut, the Winds from the South West. "Bursting" every year at about June for the last sixty million years, the Monsoons are the pre-eminent weather formation for the lands south of the Himalayas; over a period of three months, they travel all over the sub-continent in a north-easterly direction. They are India's meteorological tryst with destiny; as a past Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor once said, "If it rains everything is well on earth and cordial in heaven[...] I am once again hostage to monsoon;[...i]f it rains, the monetary policy works. [...] I want you to realise that all of us are 'Chasing the Monsoon'":

In the last thirsty weeks of May, India turns its satellite eyes to Malayalam-speaking Kerala, where the Monsoon winds would be collecting themselves for an eventual "burst" in a fusion of Hindustani and river blues:
The breeze that climbs over the mountains,
The newly-wed breeze,
That worships the cross on the church steeple,
To that breeze, the land of Kerala extends a warm welcome.
(full translation)
The approaching winds present us with a dramatic scenery at landfall:
Dark rain clouds are approaching [us] like tusked elephants in a procession.
Gods of Hardship! Pot by pot, bushel by bushel, you're pouring [water upon us]
A rainbow blooms and withers away in front of your temple in the sky, melting and fading, melting and fading.
Bright and colourful as a peacock's bloom, the dark rain clouds and the rainbow are locked in a frenzied dance,
Moving and colliding, stepping away and colliding, and moving away.
(Full translation)
The Monsoon winds now cross state, and language, borders into the Tamil-speaking lands, where, along the mighty Kaveri and elsewhere, the colours of the lands change, from brown to yellow to red to green. The Monsoon winds would also strike the Konkan coast in the weeks after Kerala, where they inspire Mumbai's Hindi-speaking Bollywood and India's English jazz scene alternatingly.

The Monsoons then travel further deep into the Deccan, into the Telugu-speaking lands, tracing the path of the mighty Godavari, bringing civilization, poetry, ballet and the occasional floods. The rain may be gentle, classic and slow, or contemporary and fast; it may even be welcomed as a "shy relative hiding in the sky", but if he really wants a hug, would the pretty protagonist really say no?

After all, as in India, as in Urdu-speaking Pakistan, the rains set the stage for romance after months of searing heat. The clouds, thunder and rains lash down, they overwhelm, they enclose: Look on what strange paths they shower down!(full translation) If electric guitars don't rock your boat, there's always verse to be soaked in the rain.

Back across the border, in the Great Indian Thar Desert, lovers ask for nose-rings in the sparse, rocking desert rain. Or they may make a big Bollywood-y song-and-dance about the collecting dark clouds(translation). That might be on a sticky wicket; as we saw earlier, given that "the lands, desire and skies are thirsty, let all the lanes be wet, let heaven and earth be wet"(full translation)

While it has been raining in the west and, perhaps, in the northern Gangetic plains, the east remains parched. Which is when you make invocations to Saralel, the King of the gods [to] send us rain" in Bishnupriya Manipuri. The gods may still bestow their greatness upon us, to which we'd sing in (West Bengal and) Bangladesh in Bengali and in Assamese.

So much is the gods' generosity that the wettest and second wettest places on Earth are in the region, a wee-bit north in Meghalaya, literally The Abode of Clouds. The Monsoon clouds would weaken by now (and would come again in a few months as the North East Monsoon), which is why amidst the Shillong Autumn Festival, tie your mund, wear your ghungroo, adjust your ratapfe, and rock to the fusion of Bengaluru's Hindi groove and Nagaland's folk blues (the collaboration): "All the four seasons dance in this boat filled with masti", bringing civilization, poetry, ballet and the occasional floods. The rain may be gentle,
posted by the cydonian (5 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sheesh! This was supposed to have been the travel link. Could a kind mod please fix it? Thanks!
posted by the cydonian at 10:20 AM on August 26, 2012


Oh man! More errors. Seems like the link for bringing civilization, poetry, ballet and the occasional floods got warped somehow, giving this strand at the bottom of the text. Copy-paste gone berserk. So sorry!
posted by the cydonian at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2012


I have no words to express how much I love this post. I've been enamored of the subject ever since I read Frater's book (which you linked to, of course!)

Excellent job.
posted by HopperFan at 10:41 AM on August 26, 2012


Thanks for this FPP! I was just researching the Monsoon the other day and was a bit stymied. So many lovely links.
posted by msjen at 3:13 PM on August 26, 2012


Thanks all! :)
posted by the cydonian at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2012


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