June is the month when school reopens after the summer holidays in many parts of the country. It is on June 1st that schools reopen in Kerala and it is also the day when the south west monsoon breaks out in Kerala, which in Kerala is known as Edavapathi as it starts by the 15th of the Malayalam month of Edavam. The Kerala monsoon is to be experienced to be believed. No words can describe the sheer magic of the rains. It just pours and pours with thunder and lightning. There are sheets of water pouring from the skies. The volume of water that pours down in a shower is so much that within minutes you will find a small stream of knee deep water, but it also subsides minutes after the rain stops.
The children love it. When I was growing up monsoon was the season we all liked best. The stream near our house (thodu) would over flow with brown muddy water. We enjoyed swimming in the overflowing thodu in rain much to the anxiety of our elders, who would caution us not to swim in the swirling waters. It was bliss floating in the water with rain water pouring on you from the skies. How I miss all those little pleasures in life.
We made paper boats and sailed it in the flowing drain water in front of our houses. We had competition as to whose boat would sail farther. We looked forward for our evening visits to the temple. There would be knee deep water in the granite paved compound of the temple and we loved running and splashing the water on each other much to the displeasure of the elders who would get drenched. “Wait until I tell your mother,” they would threaten us. There would be a ban on our going to the temple next day unless we promised to behave. On the way to school we would play in the puddles. We were also mesmerized looking at the little whirls created by the raindrops in the puddles.
In the villages there would be flash floods in small canals and we loved wading through them. The wells would get filled to the brim which made our chore of drawing water from the wells an easy task. There was one house in our village where they had to manually pour out the water from their well because it used to overflow. We had firewood stoves those days and the smoke blowing out of the chimneys on rainy days was a sight I loved and I can still smell the fragrance of the bubbling oil at the end of the burning firewood.
Flickr photo by freebird used under Creative Commons License
We were lucky enough to have a school within 5 minutes walking distance from home. But for many other children, some of whom had to walk upto 5 - 8 miles, it must have been the dreadful season balancing their books, lunch boxes and an umbrella, mostly through paddy fields with knee deep water. By the time they reached school, they would be wet to their skins and they had to spend the whole day with their wet clothes on. They had only an ottayadi patha or a narrow trail dividing two fields, made of mud to walk between the paddy fields. Many times if there was a breach in the mud trail and it was flooded with water, you just slipped and fell in it. Books got washed away, lunch boxes got washed away and still they would reach school with umbrellas in hand. It is quite a sight to behold little children leaving for school with their best dresses and umbrellas in hand. When we were children we had umbrellas made of palm leaves with a long bamboo handle which was known as olakuda or pattakuda. There were big ones and small ones and they were not foldable. This meant we needed lot of space to keep them when we reached school. Mothers wrote their childrens’ names inside the umbrellas so that they wouldn’t get mixed up. The olakuda had a large span and it fully protected us from the rains. The farm laborers used a modified version of this olakuda, which was much larger and conical in shape and had a cap like ring inside the umbrella which would sit on their head, thus holding the umbrella as they worked with both their hands.
After coming to Bangalore, we still had rains in the earlier years, but the charm was not there. You could not get wet in the Bangalore rains as the moment the rain falls it would become chill. We had rains throughout the year. Now Bangalore does not get much rains and I yearn for the Monsoon Magic of God’s own Kerala.