(Reproduced in http://www.koi-hai.com/indiantales2.html#An April Day. Copyright Gowri Mohanakrishnan)
The weather plays a very important part in our lives on a tea plantation. After a long, dry spell, and some weeks to go before the monsoon, we are waiting for rain. But it’s a brilliant morning. The sunlight is blinding at even 8.00 a.m. and the heat and glare are harsh upon the
I finish off with my instructions to the
I escape into my cool room. The curtains are drawn, and there’s soothing music playing. The rhythms sound like ice tinkling in a glass of something refreshing. My husband comes back for his lunch break, and tells me what a hot day it is. The heat has slowed the pluckers down. It's rain he wants, and quickly too. I leave him to his 'afternoon lie-back', that great tradition established by planters of old. At about three thirty or so, we come out to find everything changed.
The hills had disappeared in the morning’s heat haze, but now I see a mass of black clouds in the direction where they lie. Overhead, there are clouds of different structures and shapes. It’s as if an artist had gone on a binge in a grey period. Surely we're in for what is called 'hawa-pani' by the garden folk, literally, wind and water, a most inappropriately mild label for what is to follow! In some places, the clouds are already swirling, as if they're forming a whirlpool in the sky. That is something we only see in this season. And soon, the wind starts off. I say wind, but it is like a cyclone. The bungalow servants rush into the verandah, to clear away everything that is in there, from potted plants to chairs and cushions. We're all laughing, now that it’s cool and beautiful. It isn't advisable to stand outside any longer. The trees are thrashing about wildly and at any time one may fall. Suddenly a loud crack of thunder is heard and our dog howls in fear. The lights go off at once. Somehow, the electricity just dies with the appearance of a storm.
Then we hear it, a rushing sound, as if something very huge is moving towards us. It’s the rain, which we can see, like a moving wall of water, before it actually is with us. The verandah is open in three directions and now it seems to be pouring in from everywhere. Strong gusts of wind lift up and carry the water droplets. It’s crashing down on the tin roof. We shout to make each other heard. Lightning rips the sky apart in blinding flashes and thunder applauds loudly, often after a stunned pause. I send up a prayer of thanks that there is no hail, only rain. When there’s hail, it rips through the tea bush and seals the fate of a garden for the season.
Later in the evening, my husband tells me there’s been an inch of rain. Is he happy, I ask, to which I get an inscrutable shrug. Planters are a superstitious lot. He doesn't want the weather gods to think he’s complacent!