Friday, April 28, 2006

An April Day

(Reproduced in 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 malis who work on my lawn. The tea bushes shimmer in the heat haze outside.

I finish off with my instructions to the mali very quickly, and postpone my inspection of the vegetable garden to a later,and I hope cooler--hour. That is one area where we never see eye to eye, but today he and I have formed a brief alliance; our common enemy is the heat. I ask him why none of the malis has carried an umbrella to work. The pluckers out in the tea area do. He doesn't have a theory to offer. Time was when you couldn't part the tea garden worker from his umbrella. He wore it crooked into the back of his collar, rain or shine.

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!


Maiji said...

What a beautiful picture of the summer rains you have painted with your words - we can visualise it so well, and if I were a painter, I would use your description to preserve the scene - rushing water, scurrying servants and all

bhayanak maut said...

Agree with Aunt Eliza.

Thsi takes me back to teh onset of teh monsoons in Bombay 2 years ago. Deepa and I decided to welcome the wind & rain from our building terrace. (It's quite a breathtaking view for someone like me - I usually tend to look down at the road / footpath when i walk in the city and i rarely get to view anything; when i'm sitting in an autorickshaw my line of sight doesn't allow me to view the world goign by at 20kmph; it's almost the same in a taxi, train and bus.)So....back on our terrace, the 360 degree view of Bombay is quite magnificent - it's all concrete and smog but the vast blue of the sky is what makes it so beautiful. Add to that a massive wall of black clouds coming in from the south-west bringing in a strong cool wind. The first thought i had looking towards the north was that this was the last time i'd be seeing a blue sky for another 4 months! what an experience....

heckler said...

so, al jolson (who's he?) said it this way:

Life is not a highway strewn with flowers,
Still it holds a goodly share of bliss,
When the sun gives way to April showers,
Here is the point you should never miss.

Though April showers may come your way,
They bring the flowers that bloom in May.
So if it's raining, have no regrets,
Because it isn't raining rain, you know, (It's raining violets,)
And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list'ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

And where you see clouds upon the hills,
You soon will see crowds of daffodils,
So keep on looking for a blue bird, And list'ning for his song,
Whenever April showers come along.

Maiji said...

If you dont know who Al Jolson is see
I remember him as a member of the Black and White Minstrel group - black face and white gloves were their trademark.