For lonely people, rain is a chance to be touched…
Simon Van Booy
Having spent almost half of my life in Delhi, I still sometimes feel like an outsider. Someone who somehow couldn’t completely connect with the city. This particular feeling becomes more evident on some occasions, the monsoon brings the most intense experience of this disconnect.
Varsha Ritu, or the monsoon has always been like a raga for me. The way it starts with its soulful alaap of light rain and persistent drizzles. And then journeys through the changing rhythms of vilambit and druta layas to finally reach its crescendo with torrential rain.
Everything one expects from nature during this season, comes very late to Delhi, sometimes really late. Most of July, when the sky is supposed to remain overcast, here in Delhi, there is hardly any rain. No heavy moisture laden wind; instead, the heaviness of the polluted air makes me feel suffocated. And that’s when I long for my home the most, for the town where I grew up.
Years spent in this city have not altered my feelings, I am still a small-town girl who finds joy in trivial things. Who longs to see dark clouds, and flashes of lightening followed by rumbling thunder. And revel in the first drops of rain and breathe the rustic smell of wet earth.
Post lockdown due to covid-19, the air quality of Delhi has become much cleaner and the pollution level has dropped drastically. This year I am waiting with renewed hope, for my most favourite season and that essential element of life called rain to arrive sooner.
The other day, sitting in the veranda with a glass of lemon-lime, I was looking out at the slow-paced rain and listening to its soft pitter-patter on the Champa leaves. Nostalgic memories of my hometown rushed back. I recalled how during these days the sky would be covered with dark inky clouds and ponds would be filled with water. There was a small water body in the backyard of our home and a gorgeous Kaath Champa tree stood next to it; I can still smell its fragrance sitting here in Delhi.
During the rains, we would often reach school to discover a surprise day off called a ‘Rainy-day Holiday’. On the way back, we would splash water on the streets, like a soccer player aiming for an invisible goal. And reach home completely drenched, followed by a compulsory scolding.
Sometimes when neither of my parents would be present, my cousins and I would go out into the courtyard, which was with knee-deep water. We would make paper boats and float them with so much love and sincerity.
Quite early in life, I discovered someone; someone who loved the rain so intensely that it opened up a new world to me. Rabindranath Tagore. Through Tagore’s songs, I realized another side of the monsoon that was profound and rich with emotions. Monsoon, a season steeped in beauty is a recurrent theme that has been beautifully captured by Tagore. His work lingers with you forever and takes us beyond his compositions.
Rabindranath Tagore has shaped our minds and intellect with his life and work. Without him our lives would have been less intricate. Whenever I see dark clouds, his words resonate inside me. Inspired by the work of great poet Kalidasa, author of Meghdootam, whose protagonist imagined the cloud as a messenger, Tagore wrote one of his most celebrated songs on Aasadh, Bohujuger opaar hote aasadh elo (here comes the month of rain Aasadh … crossing many time zones).
Emono dine tare bola jay (this day is perfect to speak … amid all the darkness and rain) this song of his will remain closest to me till the very end as an epitome of Varsha Ritu.
With songs like Aji shraban ghono gohon mohe gopon tobo charan phele (by overwhelming Shravana … you arrived escaping all the prying eyes … with furtive footsteps), he wove sublime magic with both his words and his music.
As we know, he was greatly influenced by the work of great the Vaishnava poets Vidyapati and Chandidas, we find frequent references of Radha, taking the risk of being caught, yet going out for clandestine meetings with Krishna in the comfort of darkness. Tagore connected this deeper sense of loneliness and the intense desire to meet, with human emotions and nature so thoughtfully. In one of his songs Megher pore megh jomechhe (clouds heap upon clouds and it is getting dark…why am I kept waiting alone at the door?) one can feel how on a dark lonely day, when clouds pile up at the horizon, the heart pines for a far-away beloved. This song exudes a deep sense of melancholia heightened by the ambience of dark clouds and rain.
Many of his compositions have blurred the line between desire and devotion. In the song Soghono gohono ratri, jhorichhe shraban dhara, ondho bibhabari, songo porosho hara (in the middle of a dark night … it pours, bereft of warmth, the night is blind), he touches another level of brilliance.
It is rare to not find an apt Tagore song, which would reflect our state of mind. That’s the kind of vastness we see in his body of work. In his songs he has covered a myriad of emotions across all genres and the monsoon is an important one. He has given us countless sweet sounds like rimjhim or rumjhum, which have now become an integral part of monsoon songs and poetry.
His portraiture of rural Bengal during the rains is unparalleled. The way he felt for farmers and rural India and wrote about the first drops of rain filling their lives with hope shows his understanding and awareness about people and nature and their interconnectedness. Tagore established a link between people and nature in many of his works. For him rain brought tranquillity to both the earth and the human mind.
Tagore was a cerebral idea where I grew up. He reminded us to acknowledge every subtle emotion we have within us. His songs give us a feeling of déjà vu, like an emotion, or a known chord from a familiar tune or sometimes like the sound of the rain.
July has given way to August. This year, I hope the monsoon of my memories, a familiar monsoon, comes to Delhi. A monsoon like the words of a Tagore song.
Photos: Debasish @debasishmukherji