August 7, 2009
This is the longest monsoon that I have been experiencing in my native village since last fifty years. There is no other season that takes one close to the nature as the monsoon does. The monsoon period, roughly from June to September is a lively and exciting season. The surrounding greenery with fresh vegetables and flowers are a treat to the eyes. With festivals at regular intervals, people try to find peace with God and nature.
With the first showers of the monsoon, the peculiar smell of the wet soil remains in memory till the next monsoon. The croaking of frogs and squealing sound of rain birds proclaim the beginning of the monsoon season. Within few days of the pre-monsoon showers, the once dry and barren land comes to life with sprouts of grass. The thirsty plants and wild bushes become greener and the atmosphere cooler. With the insects coming out of their hibernation, verities of birds perched on trees or electricity wires wait patiently to feed on them. The cats too have a field day hunting bigger insects for fun and food.
Monsoon season has been a busy time for the agriculturists since ages. Ploughing and preparing the fields for paddy transplantation has been one of the chief activities. Not any longer, as many of the agriculturists have given up this activity or have reduced the number of fields they cultivate. Gone are the days when buffaloes were harnessed to the yoke to do this job. The sound of the plough-hand enticing the pair of buffaloes to move faster or the shrill words commanding them to move to the right or left or straight are no longer heard. The tiller-machines have taken the place of the buffaloes with monotonous sound that sometimes irritates.
Transplanting the paddy saplings by women in large number was a common sight in the past. The folk songs that they used to sing (pad'danas) to entertain themselves have disappeared. In modern times, the few women labourers, hired with great difficulty, neither have interest nor knowledge of the legends and stories to sing such ‘pad'danas’.
The sound of the wind accompanied with heavy rains used to evoke awe and fear of the nature among the people. With the trees and tall coconut trees swinging in the wind, the fear of their collapse would force everyone to invoke God’s mercy and say a little prayer for the safety of the houses and life.
The continuous rain would confine practically everyone in the house. Watching the downpour, stretching the hand out to feel the rain or sitting on the veranda and extending the feet to feel the water streaming down the roof was an experience to remember. The spray of rain would send mild shivers across the body and force us to run inside for safety wrapping our bodies with bed sheets or blankets.
As heavy rains usually immobilized the people, they craved to eat something or the other. The roasted tamarind seeds were common that would test the strength of the teeth and last longer in the mouth. Fried sweet potato ‘happalas’, jackfruits and even boiled jackfruit seeds were good enough to satisfy the craving to eat ‘something’ during the monsoon. Women of the house, being free from outdoor work would prepare varieties of eatables-some steamed, others fried. ‘Pathraddes’ has been a common preparation, other being ‘gatti’ prepared from ripened jackfruit mixed with rice paste. Besides the mango pickle, boiled mangoes and raw jackfruits seasoned with salt were sometimes usual preparations substituting vegetables for morning conji.
In those days ‘Channamanne’ was one of the exciting indoor games played on a wooden block with 12 holes, 6 on each side, using seeds of ‘pongara’ tree that looked like ‘rajma’. Girls usually played a game known as ‘pokku’ with five pebbles throwing up and balancing on the back of the palm and catching them again and picking up the pebbles of the competitors throwing each pebble up in the air and catching it along with those of the competitors gathered in one swing. With various means of entertainment presently available, these indoor monsoon games have not only disappeared but have gone out of the memory of many. ‘Channamannes’ are hard to find even as relics of our cultural past.
Floods were the phenomena that always excited the children. With incessant rains, as the river being close by, the low lying paddy fields would invariably get flooded. Gathering in groups, children used to prepare paper boats and float them in the flood water to be carried away by the flow and current of the water. This year, within a span of 15 days there were three floods evoking the memories of the past. The entire area across the river looked like a mini sea with trees and higher level ground appearing like islands.
During the monsoon, fishing was a pastime that I cannot forget. My father would ask me to dig for earthworms as bait for the fish. I had to dig the ground, pull out earthworms and collect them in two coconut shells, one for me and the other for my father, covered with loose soil in order to prevent them from crawling out.
Sitting quietly in isolated spots on the bank of the river with the outstretched angling rod, the first bite of the fish and the first catch was something to be proud of. The catch was usually sufficient for the curry which i would savour with delight. Presently, there are neither angling rods nor isolated spots as wild growth has taken over vantage points on the bank of the river. Presently, few venture into the river with nets when the water level is low.
The memories of playing and rolling on the ground with carpet-like grass and the typical smell of the young grass are still fresh in my mind. However, these lush green grounds have been converted into coconut or cashew nut gardens. The remaining patches of the land have been invaded by thorny bushes and wild growth-some call it Communist weed, while others have named it Congress grass.
The purple wild berries (bensam) that we used to pick during the monsoon while coming back from school have practically disappeared. No longer can people stray from the road into wilderness or hillocks in search of these gifts of nature as the fences guard the tracts of land as private property.
The crickets and other insects still pierce the silence of the rain-soaked night with their shrill sound. The glow worms emit green light manifesting their presence in groups on trees and bushes. The caterpillars, greenish large ones and reddish small ones still crawl in the wet courtyards and on damp house walls. Occasionally, the advance of the rains can be heard as the droplets fall on the leaves of the trees as the rain borne clouds pass above them. However, with the memories of the past monsoon can never be same again...