June 6, 2012

Rainless in Edison

There is an occasional drizzle here in Edison, New Jersey, USA. It starts with a mild shower of mist and ends up in something like a drizzle. I wouldn’t like to classify these sporadic spills of water as rain. More so because I belong to Kerala and I am an ardent lover of our rains, especially the monsoons.

                                                                       (pic courtesy: http://flickriver.com)

Last Sunday morning, when the rest of Edison was still under warm comforters, I stepped out for my morning stroll. The previous night it had rained quite heavily (for Edison standards) and I was eager to see and feel my surroundings, up close and personal. It was still raining mist. I bathed myself in a million tiny droplets of water, too small to even leave an impact on my hair or clothes. Even after I walked for good thirty minutes, at times stepping into the canopy of long lines of oak trees, I didn’t get to feel the rain on my face or under my feet. I came over to a small brook that flows through my apartment complex. Nearing the brook, I sharpened my senses, trying to absorb the sound of the flowing waters. From the sound, I could make out that the brook was fuller than its usual self. The night rain had certainly added to the impact created by the irregular April showers. I stepped on the wooden bridge over the brook, stood by the side of the fence looking for a wonder, a mystery that wasn’t there. The brook flowed by with more vigour than I had seen it to possess during my previous visits. A few warm, orange-breasted Robins tugged earthworms by its side. Many sparrows tweeted on the itsy bitsy branches alongside the brook. Grey furred squirrels tottered by. I saw my first Ground Hog of the season come out looking for food. I had enough company. But, I felt something missing.

                                              (pic courtesy: http://malayaleejunction.blogspot.com)

I don’t know when I will learn to come to terms with reality. The rains here are very different from what I have seen, heard and felt back home in Kerala. Every time it rains here, I try to enjoy whatever little impact it creates. However, I find myself traveling home; every single time the rains decide to come down.

                                                     ( pic courtesy: http://www.chitra-aiyer.com)

I grew up in Alappuzha. But, most of my holidays have been spent in the foothills of Chamampathal, a village in Kottayam District where when it rains, it’s magical, mystical. The Rubber trees change their avatar to remind me of ‘mudiyattom’ artists. Coupled with the furore of winds, they cast an eerie spell on me. Just after a few minutes of downpour, small water channels flow down the hill, making their way through the backyard to the front yard, in harmony with the contours of the land. Even when I confine myself to the Verandah, the raindrops don’t spare me. They respond to the wind like obedient children. They follow it wherever it fancies taking them. They lash on me. With much vigour, they come in through long, open Verandahs. They peep through half-opened windows and leave their imprints on the walls, and even on beds inside. They flip through pages of the book that I was reading, just to get a sneak peak. They blow off burning candles and kerosene lamps and nudge us to come out and be one with them.

                                                                ( pic courtesy: teambhp)

After the initial drama, they mellow down and then continue to rain for what seems like ever. In between when the rains settle (if at all they decide to), I step out and often get carried away by its impact on life around. I don’t know what to call the multifaceted green that greets me. Wherever I turn to, it’s the plushest of greens. If green can be multi-hued, it is in Kerala. Sprightly grass heads dance with little raindrops perched on their tiny heads. You walk under a tree, and if a wind decides to come by, the tree bathes you magnanimously in a zillion big, rounded drops of water. You could even ‘hear’ them coming down! You go stream-visiting after the rains and often stand by its side, taking in the sights, sounds and fury. By the sides of the streams or rivers, green takes on wild forms. With no axe to grind, they flourish and celebrate life in all its richness and vibrancies.

One of my most vivid memories of rain dates back to my pre-degree days. The day the University exams got over, three of us friends decided to explore Alappuzha. We walked by the side of the canal, near the KSWTC boat quay towards Punnamada. Just minutes after we started off, it started raining. And then, it poured for hours. Undeterred and determined to enjoy every bit of the moment, we danced in the rain and watched the raindrops meander out of our soaked canvas shoes. Jumping in the many muddy puddles on the road, we teased the silvery smooth water droplets out of the yam leaves. Some of the rain water settled inside the wooden cavities of canoes anchored on the sides of the canal. Trees, big and small, already green, turned magically verdant.

                                                       ( pic courtesy:http://impeccablez.deviantart.com)

Here, even while it rains, the flowing waters are missing. At times, I long for the rain to come in through my shoes. But, they don’t bother to. They settle down too quickly and disappear into oblivion and into designated underground channels. Though I try to take in as much as possible of the little showers that come by, I miss the loud, animated, vibrant rains back home. I miss the spontaneity of life in Kerala where often we are caught unawares by the rains that decide to come down at the drop of a hat. Even while trying to appreciate the fast advancements in technology here, the big leaps in convenience it offers, I miss not checking the ‘chances of precipitation’ on weather.com. I miss the camaraderie of the innumerable rain water strings that roll transparent pearls down our tiled crimson roofs in unison. (Here, they are all collected by efficient pipes that are too sleek to be even noticed, only to be gathered into the designated storm drains below.)

                                                   ( pic courtesy: http://www.karmakerala.com)
 Having seen a variety of rains in a handful of countries across the globe, I touch my heart and say proudly that the best of all is in vibrant Keralam. Be it the celebrated idava-pathi, the south western monsoons that catch us by surprise with its arrogance and sudden onslaught, or the thula-varsham, when rains befriend thunder and lightning to turn more sonant, or the retreating monsoon, the one that bears a forlorn, depressed outlook, or the venal-mazha, the one that comes with its occasional cool showers; rains in Kerala evoke a host of emotions and keep calling a rain loving Malayalee back home.

First published in Vibrant Keralam, June 2012 issue.


Rose from Magpie's Recipes said...

How beautiful to remember the Kerala rains! Although I must admit I prefer enjoying them warm and cozy indoors watching them from the window sipping a hot cup of chaya!

Minu Mathew said...

Thanks Rose! Rain is a purely personal experience...just as it takes each one of us to different worlds, we have our style of responding to it as well!

Bejoy Peter said...


Your friend Gouri Karthika had brought a printout of your post on Rain to BPPS public speaking class. The post as such is wonderful. But some lines and presentation of ideas are brilliant. Lines like, "The Rubber trees change their avatar to remind me of ‘mudiyattom’ artists. Coupled with the furore of winds, they cast an eerie spell on me." and "Even when I confine myself to the Verandah, the raindrops don’t spare me. They respond to the wind like obedient children" really create unforgettable images in mind. Congratulations on this wonderful post on rain.

Minu Mathew said...

Thank you Bejoy for stopping by this post. Your words really encourage me to write more. But I must say I miss the rains again- roughly after a year of writing this, your comment took me to rainy days back home!

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