BANGALORE: Our collective romance with the rains began with Kalidasa and Meghdootam and extended to our films, where a downpour is always an excuse to burst out into song.
City Express spoke to some contemporary writers and poets to understand what the rains mean to them.
"My Shivamoggeyalli Male (Rain in Shimoga) was published in 1965, and I based it on my monsoon experiences as a boy in the verdant mountainous regions of Karnataka," N S Lakshminarayan Bhat says.
His poem talks about people walking along the streets with umbrellas, crossing the flooded river Tunga, and gazing at the fresh new streams of red soil.
For ten days,the rains came down,
Buffeting, buffeting our town.
Like a thousand nails, all at once,
Being hammered into the ground.
mocking the town's face It screams, striking fear in every heart.
Rains and monsoon bring happiness to some, but the suffering of the poor is universal, too, says Subbu Holeyar, who has written four poems on rain in a collection.
For him, rain waters wash away caste divisions as they flow into the river (Kaagada doniyalli).
Hailing from the Malnad heartland of Sakleshpur, Subbu Holeyar says, "It was a pleasure walking in the rains, even without the umbrellas, which we could not afford. I refused to use the traditional bamboo rain umbrella as it would give away our caste, and generate painful thoughts. Our house would leak every season and we would keep vessels in every corner to prevent the floor from flooding," he adds.
I watch the rain:
A string of pearls,
When it's no longer day,
I open my fist
to gaze at my wet palms.
I twist, squeeze,
pile up, spread those wet clothes
to dry, out there on the fence.
K Y Narayanaswamy
Rain is beauty coming to life. It is an assurance from heaven that all is well, says K Y Narayanaswamy. For him, rain eases the pain and suffering of humans. "Water is nothing but a giver of life. Rain works as a metaphor, an element and a dream. It becomes a paradox when it destroys life," he says.
Last year, in his love song album K Y N Love Songs, he wrote some this..
The river in our village is flowing, as always.
Not with monsoon showers,
but tears from your eyes.
However hard the sea sweeps its wet hands,
it can't wipe away your name from the sands.
Novelist Anita Nair wrote about the monsoon specially in Where the rain is born - Writings about Kerala. She says, "I can never work in the summer months and I feel parched and start getting restless, waiting for the rains, and when it rains, the iron bands in my head disappear, giving great relief."
Time for the buds to spread their petals
Kalidasa's epic poem Megdhootam is a beautiful, ancient work that describes the feelings of a demigod following some transgression against his master, Kubera.
The demigod is condemned to leave his home in the Himalayas, and spends a year of exile on a peak in the Vindhyas. He wishes to comfort and encourage his wife, but has no messenger.
In his despair, he begs a passing cloud to carry his words. The poet writes about the rains and the rich imagery in Sanskrit cannot be translated easily. Here is an excerpt from The Cloud Messenger's Journey, as Meghadootam is translated by Navankura: “Begin your journey, O Meghadoota, by sprinkling rain on the parched earth. The fragrance of wet earth will spread happiness among the country men and women. They will take to their fields singing joyously, and run their plough through the supple soil. The green and brown kadhamba buds will spread out their petals as soon as the rain water touches them; the bees will make a ‘beeline’ for kadhamba trees, attracted by the fragrance of the fresh blossoms; the deer will gather in groups on the marshy river banks, eager to feast on the fresh kandhali leaves..."
She says she associates rain with growth and a sense of hush, of being cut off from the world. “Every summer, I used to go from Chennai to Kerala and catch the monsoon in all its glory. It used to be pouring continuously and we used to play in the puddles, making paper boats and putting them in the dancing formations of various streams.”
For this well-known poet and lyricist, hailing from coastal Uttara Kannada region (Gokarna), the monsoon is an intrinsic part of life, and an inspiration. “The rains not only cleanse but also green the environment. If two neighbors or brothers are fighting, the wall between them starts flowering, such is the magic of rain.”
He says the smell of the earth is common, but the emotions are unique to each individual.
For 24 years, Kaikini worked in Mumbai, where the slums are immersed in knee deep-water and households struggle to lead a normal life. “There is no work for the shoeshine boy when it rains and it is a big struggle for small vendors,” he recalls.
When he came to Bangalore, he saw no preparation for the rains---”no getting ready with rain coats, umbrellas and rain shoes.” In Mumbai, the rains bring an urgency.
The monsoon also brings romance, making people look at life differently. “The showers fall on everyone at the same time, at the same place, in the same way, and there is distinction of caste, religion, wealth,” he says.
The column he wrote for two years was called Bogaseyali Male (Rain in the Palm).
His rain lyrics for Kannada films have been a big hit with their evocative imagery:
Here are some examples:
Male baruva haagide/Manaveega hadide.
(It looks like rain/the heart is singing)
Male nintu hoda mele haniyondu moodide/Matella mugida mele daniyondu kadide
(The rains have stopped, but a drop has appeared/The words have ended, but a voice haunts)
Ello maleyagideyendu/tangaaliyu helhutide.
(The breeze tells me/It is raining somewhere).
A disciple of Dr U R Ananthamurthy, she has written poetry and prose about the rains in many dailies and magazines.
She says, “The first rain is heady, and the smell of the earth is intoxicating. It relieves your pain and distress. Rains are always associated with romance, and drenching yourself in the pouring rains is such a great experience you are not bothered about illness.”