I grew up in a state bordering the coast of the Bay of Bengal. It rained at the drop of a hat. Monsoon was fun. Sometimes, the school would declare a holiday on account of incessant rains. There was a pond in the school compound which would overflow risking the safety of children. On other days, we would have to paddle through knee-deep water. As children, it brought in a sense of adventure. You never knew where your foot landed next, as you walked.
Playing football in the rain was so much fun. Slipping in the wet mud was a badge of honour. The dirt on your clothes and body after indulging in the beautuful game was seen, by others in the same age group, as a mark of an accomplished player.
Watching and hearing the rain fall can be relaxing and peaceful. As a child, I got used to that. It had a calming effect on the mind and momentarily relieved other worries. It would rain for hours and sometimes for days.
Odisha is a green state. Growing up, there was no dearth of greenery wherever one went. The state lost its green cover almost entirely when the supercyclone of 1999 devastated the state.
I remember taking a bŕeak from my work in Delhi to visit home a few months after the state had been ravaged by the cyclone. The trees that lined up both sides of the highway during my childhood, had completely dissapeared. The Ashoka trees all round our house in Cuttack were gone. There was no shade, wind or privacy from neighbouring dwellings. But it all came back with time.
Odisha has witnessed many cyclones since then. 2021 is the third successive year when the state was hit by a cyclonic storm in the month of May. But none of these wrecked flora as much as 1999.
When I came to Delhi to live and work here, Delhi was suitably green. The roads were wide and the city looked lovely in the rains. I remember folding my trousers up to my kneè, carrying my shoes in hand, socks in the pocket on my way to work, as I tried to negotiate my way out of the lane near my rented accomodation after rains had lashed the city.
Over the years, rains have dwindled to such an extent that, except a couple of times, I can’t remember when else Delhi witnessed heavy rainfall in the last decade. It just does not happen. Summer temperatures have been moving northwards each year making it unbearable while the citizens pray for rain to cool the city. But rain, if at all, lasts for a few minutes leaving the city more humid.
I live in a relatively green zone in South Delhi. It used to be a forest before DLF developed the area more than half a century ago. One would expect substantial rainfall here but it hardly rains. Even when one hears of rain in other parts of the city, it mostly eludes the area around my home.
Sometimes the Delhi sky ignites hope and excitement by creating the environment for rain. The sky turns dark, brings in some breeze fleetingly and then a two minute sprinkle. Why tease with an attractive trailer if the movie has to fall far below expectations?
This year the Met department forecasted monsoon to arrive in the city two weeks before usual. It did not happen. The department had to revise its predictions a couple of times, unsuccesfully. The same department had got its act together in the last few years after a disappointing history of getting it wrong. It seemed that our weather forecastings systems had improved significantly in the last decade. And it did. Till a month ago.
Finally, the date has been set for today. Monsoon is expected to arrive as I write this. The city has been waiting for it with bated breath. Will it, won’t it, I can’t be sure. But one thing is certain, I miss the rain in my childhood, more than ever before.