When monsoon — one from the west and the other from the east — embraces the country from June to September, a vibrant and messy life hums around us. The rains usher in the beauty of hues, sight and sounds and give relief from heat and dust.
The Meteorological department’s forecast of a normal south west monsoon this year rings in comfort and cheer. Reading authors who have talked about or pictorially depicted the magic and madness of Indian monsoon is perhaps the best thing to do if you want to love the rains without being an adventurer.
Alexander Frater's Chasing the Monsoon follows the advent of the South West and North East monsoon before the rain unites over Central India, during the next few months. Frater shows how to sometimes stay ahead or at times behind the rains to enjoy nature's magic. He observes the influence of different phases of the rains on people — from the anxious period of waiting to accurate weather forecasting to the joyful period of the rain falling and sometimes ending in a phase of devastation with rivers flowing in full spate. Frater's two-month journey, from Kerala to Meghalaya in 1987, is a lyrical description of India's annual rendezvous with rains and how the country's future depends on it. He tails the monsoon winds from Trivandrum to Cherrapunji via Bombay, Goa and several big and small cities, and provides evocative vignettes of people and their rain-centric behaviour that changes from region to region. He talks about the erratic weather patterns dictating the mood and emotions of people back in the eighties. Written like a witty travelogue and filled with his personal experiences, the book is kind of a monsoon manual that teaches one how to read the weather before stepping out.
Everybody loves the rain and the feel of it till it brutally batters our lives. An award-winning Indian photojournalist Victor George was fascinated by the rain and deeply inspired by Frater's book. While Frater wittily played with words to help understand the relief and torment the monsoon rains bring, Victor captured the spirit of the rain in his home State Kerala through his evocative frames. For him, the torrential rains in Kerala symbolised beauty and drama. Unfortunately, he himself became the story while on an assignment to cover landslides in Idukki district in 2002. His photographic ode to the monsoon It's raining was released after his demise. Victor worked for two years travelling and waiting for days for the arrival of the moisture-laden clouds, followed its riotous passage over the hills and valleys, spent endless hours listening to the howling wind, got enveloped in moody mists and drenched in rain. Each frame he froze told an intense story. Nothing could be more ironical than to be swept away in an avalanche of rocks and gushing waters from the hillside with his camera in hand. Paul Liebhardt of the Brooks Institute of Photography, California, wrote a moving tribute for Victor's collection of rain photographs describing it as his odyssey with the monsoon and commending his tireless pursuit of the season's splendours.
Ruskin Bond's The Blue Umbrella takes you to the rolling hills of Himachal Pradesh, where rain paints a pretty picture that makes you forget the daily drudgery of the concrete jungles elsewhere. The story takes you back to your childhood to relive the tussle of the protagonist in acquiring a precious blue umbrella and eventually giving it away.
The rains cast a spell in every story of Rabindranath Tagore's Golpoguccho (Collection of stories). In Buddhadeb Basu's Raat Bhorey Brishti (Raining through the night), rain plays an aphrodisiac and a catalyst in a triangular love story.
When Steve McCurry came on his first monsoon trip to India, he described a near fatal fall onto rocks, leeches crawling up his back and a wade through water with dead animals all around, as part of an unwavering focus on "monsoon masochism." His words and photos in Untold: The Stories Behind The Photographs, match in impact. The coverage of the Indian rainy season in Life magazine in 1962 triggered the American adolescent's passion to turn into a travel photographer to understand the emotions of the pouring rain.