Wall of Rain - The Monsoon's Opening Act

On Adimalathura Beach on the southwest coast of Kerala, ARATI KUMAR RAO watches the southwest monsoon make landfall

May 30, morning:

The air hangs about me moist, thick, inert, sticky. Beads of perspiration run down my forehead to the tip of my nose. The overworked fan continues to whirr overhead, industrious but ineffective.

Far below the balcony where I sit overlooking Adimalathura Beach at the tip of the southwest coast of Kerala, fishermen tug at a net bulging with the day's catch. Waves pull the net back five steps for each step of sandy ground gained. The "hai-ho" chant of the fishermen cuts through the dense air to where I sit, watching. 

Catches from the sea are variable. On a good day, like this one, everyone will get about INR 500-600.
Their womenfolk rush back up the beach with their share of the auctioned catch, yelling frantically at autorickshaws as they race to reach the market ahead of the competition. It has been a great day for them; the menfolk have returned with bountiful catches, unlike the previous day – but there are no smiles, just a wipe of the brow and a carefully balanced basket of fish on their head as they race towards the market.

The sea is a featureless, uniform ashen grey from shore to horizon. The sky is a spectacular jay-blue, with arcing wisps of white cirrus pulling at soft fluffs of cumulus. The clouds are content to stay where they are, in the absence of the absconding wind.

Between the sea and where I sit, the landscape is peacefully pastoral. Butterflies drink deep from ixoras and hungry crows hop about with gaping mouths while above, hoarse-voiced kites churn the skies, their movements languid in the jello- thick atmosphere.

There is a permeating sense of expectancy. We are all waiting for the wind to turn, to blow from the southwest, driving fecund clouds towards land; waiting for when the dam will burst and it will rain without cessation.

Lying on a chair in the verandah, surveying all this through one open eyelid, I bide my time.
May 31, 2013 dawned gray and wet. But it was not the monsoon yet: the wind had not changed direction, the clouds …
May 31, 2013, morning.

There is no need for breaking news bulletins and the internet and other external sources -- one glance from the verandah out towards the southwest horizon is enough.
This morning, there is no horizon. The sea, the horizon, the sky have melded into one mass of dull grey. Oblivious of these portents and intent on their livelihood, the fishermen are out there again, hauling at their nets to the rhythmic ‘hai-ho’, waving their gamchas, toiling while they still can to put fish on our table and food in their bellies.

It is still hot, but it is no longer stifling. There is a breeze of indeterminate direction or rather, one that seems to come from all directions at once. I make my way to the beach and by the time I get there, a steady drizzle has begun.

The rain falls in hesitant drops and it is feather-soft on my skin. Local football teams practice hard on now-slushy fields without missing a beat; fisherwomen yell for rickshaws, shout, jostle as they rush to market.

There are no umbrellas in sight. For the locals, oblivious to this light rain, it is business as usual.  

May 29, 2013: Fishermen at work under a brilliant cotton and blue sky. “Two days,” they said. The monsoon will come in two days.
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Yahoo Lifestyle | Photo by Arati Kumar Rao
Mon 24 Jun, 2013 11:30 AM IST
 

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