It is a sound most beloved to me. The sound of rain in the night. A sound that makes me glad that I am where I am ─ In my little cottage in Mundakotukurussi hearing the rains fall─ That I have a roof over my bed and bedclothes to snuggle into. It brings to mind well being while lost in meandering thoughts.
For days now I have waited for the rain as each summer day emerged wrapped by the heat. A woolen shroud that held within it the legs of time, stilling all movement, hindering every thought and breath.
The cicadas vent their fury. All day from all around. At times the vigour subsides but the music of the trees do not cease. It is a dry sound like the rasping hiss of tinders rubbing against each other. The sound of summer.
The fields lie brown and baked. Tufts of paddy stand. Brown flowers that crackle even as you look at it.
Wells dry. Sweat prickles every brow and rushes down the temple. Exhaustion lines every face and dogs every step.
Most evenings the clouds gather; a herd of grey cows bearing rain in their udders. Sometimes they consent to being milked and allow the rain to flow…
Sometimes they wander away leaving a restless parched land in their wake.
The thunderstorms seldom last long. The land sizzles and splutters under the impact of the rain. Every drop is lapped up by the thirsty land. A puddle is rare. Wetness even rarer.
The nights are still. The fireflies have gone into hiding.
In the morning you know the heat will reappear. A daytime ghoul strangling the breath of the hour. Harder and harder. In your heart you know a fear then. The worst fear of all: Will this ever end? And then what next?
Everyone starts talking about the monsoon then. Everyone I know and meet. Our conversations weave around the monsoon. It perhaps becomes the only way to live the summer through….All through May, newspapers are scanned for meteorological reports on the monsoon sightings…’When the monsoon arrives’ becomes the mantra of survival. And sanity.
Late in the afternoon the heat seems to hit an absolute crescendo. The whirring fan circulates the warm air. Around and around. There never will be respite, one sighs.
Then it begins. One day the listless air begins to move. Clouds gather and move up the coast. Leaves rustle and the skies darken. Lightening and thunder. The bars of heat loosen and with its first drops, the rain snap apart the inert month.
The earth feeds of this rain. A greedy baby devouring the colostrum of fecundity. More, more, more, the earth craves for this thin watery rain. Then sated for the moment, it belches. A deep dank fragrance. Moist earth laden with the memories of sun-baked days and crumbling surfaces.
The wetness of rain. The wetness of release.Rain falls. On the skin it feels as if it were a thousand arrows shot by a god. A tingling, a ringing, a singing that punctured pores and raked the senses.
In my little cottage, I lie on the bed staring at the roof. As the thunder roll and heave, I cock an ear. For that first plop. I hear it then. All over the cottage are plastic cans. Old paint buckets to capture every errant drop that escapes through the roofing tiles. Plop. Plop. Plop. The rain make its presence known.
Ever since I built the cottage, the onset of the monsoon causes a nervous flittering in the pit of my stomach. I do not know what it is I can do to stop the leaks.
Then someone suggests we toss hay on the roof. “It is only a temporary measure but it should work for a while,” he says. “The poor do it all the time. But, tell me, why did you get a tile roof put in instead of a concrete one?
For the rain, I think. I hoped to lie in bed and hear that beloved sound. The soft magical music of rain on tile roofs. The drip and drop from the eaves.
The power goes off. It comes back in a minute and then goes off again. On and off, on and off. In affluent homes, the emergency light or the inverter comes on. I light a candle and place it in a saucer. There are no harsh surprises, none of the not-knowing-what-to-do. With this I will make do till morning or whatever time the power chooses to return.
I get up and go to sit in the verandah and watch the rain fall. A frog leaps joyous with wetness. A world washed in rain is entertainment by itself…
Anita Nair is the bestselling author of The Better Man, Ladies Coupe, Mistress and Lessons in Forgetting. Her books have been translated into over 30 languages around the world. Her new novel Cut Like Wound will be published in August 2012.