Art & Culture · Life

Desert Rain


Amidst the searing heatwave here in north india, the gods gave us a surprise. Wonderful mild showers all through last evening and well into the night. No air-conditioning was required all of last night!

Incredible!
Heaven!

Till the time the sun shone again the next morning, that is. Then, its a steaming swamp.
Rain in India is such a well researched, debated and thoroughly beaten to a pulp topic that i won’t waste much energy dwelling on the subject.
There are government departments, media and the corner ‘paan’ shop chatterati to deal with it.

Rain holds special meaning in the desert state of Rajasthan – where I grew up. Prior to the rain, a few days, it is unusually hot, oppressive and just a bit more humid than we can tolerate. My grandmother called it ‘amoojha‘ in marwari.
Then, hot dusty winds would blow across the city – well known to Indians as the title of a movie too – Aandhi. Leaves, dried to a thin paper consistency, mixed with fists-full of fine sand blowing all over stationary vehicles, entering our homes. Fine sand, a known irritant got into everything – clothes, the cat’s hair, curds in our meal. And yet, this irritation would be much looked forward to!

For it foretold that rain was around the corner.

It never starts gently around here – a confident marching sound in tandem is to be expected. Just the size of drops is unpredictable. Sometimes, there’s hail.

Drops, small. I am outside and mother is calling me to come in.
Drops, Big. I am outside and mother is rather seriously calling me in.
Chains of water course down the awing of begonia . I enter the house reluctantly, soaked to my last pore. Mother gives me a stern look. And then, as usual, i know she’ll clean up after me.

The earth smells different – a lovely fragrance. Indescribable to anyone but to the one who has experienced it first hand. Lovely wet earth.
The dry desert sand drinks it all, like a lover waiting for long, smothering the beloved in kisses. That hunger! Streets are empty- only the homeless or those unlucky enough to be caught in the downpour are about.

And there are the peacocks on the branches of the old peepul – they sit quietly – their tails folded like the folds of a bride’s dress when she sits in the limo – it’s not showtime, yet. Little birds find spaces to hide. Sparrows, parakeets, pigeons, all looking for shelter from the rain. A dove on my window, an eye on the sheet of water that comes down the overhang and another on me – potential predator.
Rain comes down so hard, its impossible to see beyond a few feet.
Large drops, they wet the cat’s head.

It comes down with such gusto, like it’d never end.
The tail end of this performance is unheralded – sudden , sometimes in just an hour. Or maybe it was less. The scorched earth drinks the runoff rapidly. This vanishing act of water disappoints children who had barely formed their paper boats.
The clouds hang around like old relatives – feeble and ignored. A Neem scented breeze picks up. Families drive out of their homes hurriedly – one wonders what they’d miss – a train perhaps?

They rush for the good weather lasts not long – a few hours at best – as long as the sun stays away.
Extended families – dozens of members, helpers in tow, ascend the nearby hillocks of Aravali, to celebrate a traditional picnic called ‘Goth’. On wood fired, makeshift open stoves, they cook daal, bati and churma. Baatis look like these below (but without the shop behind)

(Photo courtesy wikipedia under cc license)

Aravalis – the garland of Jaipur – mountains older than the Himalayas. Always dusty and dry, they have turned green in hours.
Little plants rise mysteriously, like faeries in a garden, enticed by the rain.

Where did the desert hide?

Brings a smile to all faces.
Those are the rains of Jaipur. Much needed, always missed and never enough. Like the love of those you love most.

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