The sky opens up, and it pours, and pours.
The mist can be morose, and the sameness of the rainscape can cloud the mind. You may crave the rains when you are not in them, your favourite seat may grow mould, you may not be able to travel freely, away from quarantine zones or the threat of a vehicle breaking down in the waterlogged streets.
Here are a few things to do in the monsoon, to fight the feeling of moisture seeping into our very soul.
It’s been an intense monsoon over India. Farms and streets are flooded, places in Rajasthan have not seen so much rainfall in recent memory. Yet when it stops raining, make the effort to look at the sky. Cloud formations will stun you. What you see before a rain shower is a bank of clouds creeping over the sky, coloured a slate grey or the purple of a bruise. As this mass of clouds rolls closer, creating a thick blanket – the rest of the sky will be a different, lighter colour.
After the shower, you may see puffy layers of clouds. A rainbow may break out occasionally in the midmornings or late afternoons. At sunset if it is not raining, the clouds turn pink and yellow – oil paintings in a sky that has recently looked like a washed out watercolour.
And on the days it doesn’t rain, the monsoon presents cornflower blue skies with pure white clouds, like shaving cream froth. I often wonder whether what is more beautiful – the blue that is so brilliant, or the white that is so pristine. The answer, I think, is the combination of the two. The colour of the azure blue brings out the purity of the white, and vice versa.
Plant a seed:
In a hot country which is arid in many parts, monsoon is the time for pushback by a seed. This is the season where almost everything you plant will have a chance at germinating. What kills a small seedling at other times of the year – too much aridity, too many heatwaves blowing at the sapling, too little fecundity – is non-existent at this time of the year.
If there is a germination goddess, she certainly blesses plants at this time. If you live in a normally hot or dry place, the monsoon is the time to germinate shrubs, plants and trees. Put a mango seed you have sucked in the ground. Throw tomato seeds in a pot. From a massive Neem to a small flowering vine, plant a seed in the monsoon, keep it in a place which catches moderate quantities of rainwater, and watch the magic unfurl. For a few weeks of the year, the world is a moist greenhouse.
Plants also grow faster during the monsoon, drinking up the moisture with metaphoric open mouths, throwing out leaves which are much bigger than usual, and spreading their vines like arms.
Create a recipe book:
As plants grow, so do other things, because moisture is also a laboratory for bacteria. An unwashed dish, a car seat, a glass of water – all of these may have cultures of bacteria you can’t see or feel until they enter your body. Monsoon is also the time when people fall sick with colds, fevers and upset stomachs.
This is the time to make a recipe book for the food that comforts your soul and days, strengthens your immunity. From my own amateur experience, I recommend honey and hot water first thing in the morning, hot turmeric milk at night, and eating the herb giloy every day. I put jaggery in my tea on misty days, and crushed black pepper on chilly days. I bake cakes with atta, dates, honey and bits of chocolate for monsoon days that feel the same in the morning, afternoon and evening, attacking the cakes like a bear guzzling honey on a forested slope.
The monsoon is both beautiful and claustrophobic, complex and demanding. In short, it is like most challenges in life. Make the most of it.
Photos: Neha Sinha
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