The days of those Olympian inter-monsoon storms are far behind us now. As March turned to April, and now May, the heat has risen, unabated: no rain, no cooling breezes, or fresh dewy nights. No more delightful cool mornings on the terrace, listening to the birds and monkeys competing with the temple down the hill to provide our joyful morning chorus.
It’s ten days now since the Met Department sent out its’ warning: the Southwest Monsoon is becoming active. Be prepared for ‘heavy showers’, it said, a euphemism for flooding rains and landslips in the mountains. Down here on the plains, nobody thinks of disasters. We’re avid for the rain.
Ten days of intensifying heat, and that imperceptible rise in pressure that nonetheless contributes to national grumbling and crankiness. Every day now we watch, ever more hopeful, as the clouds gather in the late afternoons, bruised black masses accumulating toward the west. Or in the mornings, lethargic and leaden as we rise from our sticky sleep, we look longingly at those encouraging, lowering skies, speculating – will it be today? Like an old tart, the monsoon taunts us with a couple of hammering strikes of thunder, a minute’s precipitation leaks from the sky, barely reaching the parched earth below, then again it turns away, insolently, like a practiced coquette. Oh the cruelty of waiting.
Farmers attended to their final ploughing weeks ago – Pied Pipers to flocks of canny white ibis, and fat little brown sparrows – as they turned the soil one last time, in preparation for the monsoon’s life-bringing rains. Parched, that land will be now: cracking and baking under the unrelenting sun. Each day that passes the humus is being burned out of the dark rich soil, changing its character, increasing the chances of hydrophobia, putting at risk the planting season to come.
You must remember: this is paradise. Where it’s hot, but not too hot, where the monsoons bring invigorating rain in the afternoons, perhaps a thrilling, cooling storm at night, where a twig plunged into moist loamy soil bears crops within the span of months. This is paradise; except in the build up to the Southwest Monsoon.
We’re all gasping for the rain. Waiting to be re-hydrated, to be cooled by the heavens.