This Season

This season stirs the rain, reminding that the wet’s fury will soon be gone, prodded along by winds that hurry to find their break. It is the beginning of a season of festivals and will continue across months until it culminates in fireworks marking the turn of another season. There are festivities across the length and breadth of the country, all accompanied by flowers and foods of the season, offerings and benedictions, passed on from generation to generation. Some homes ring with peals of tradition while others bristle against it.

This season stirs more than rain, it whips up memories of a mute month by the sea. The grey skies blur into grey waters or is it the other way around? Perhaps, it is best not to find out. The ambiguity is better, a blending into rather than a separation. The seas are rough, their dance too wild for domesticated festivities. It is the season of storms and the sea has to spend herself, so she whips herself into a frothing that will die multiple deaths on the sand. Her churn is restless and sometimes you can hear her wails that beckon you to walk unarmed into her reckless bruising. Some have been known to succumb to her beguiling calls. Maybe beneath the undulating unrest, there is silence, comfort and stillness like in the womb.

This season stirs torrents, banks that overflow and floods that lay stake to the right to devour- in the sky, on the ground. It also feeds, a lush feeding of greens that are goaded into awakenings. Shraavan’s rain is the mother of all things that birth in the soil but a capricious one that will leave her offspring to the vagaries of the next seasons. The price for making a verdant world- lives demanded through uncontrollable waters or claimed by millions of invisible fevers festered in winds. It is just the way of the seasons, always has been.

Birth, Growth or Death. Awake, Dreaming or Sleep. Morning, Night or twilight. Earth, Heavens or the nether worlds. In threes. The trinity of creation, sustenance and destruction. A three sided coin that is the currency of existence.

Lilies in the rain

lilies strain to taste the showers

slanting lines of rain- ambrosia

soon, they’ll yawn flower blushes

pink, yellow, white

it is their season after all

of rain kissed lightness

IMG_20200522_065520.jpg

meanwhile unblinking people stare

into blue screens

scrolling, rolling, roiling, toiling

until their eyes stray to

growls of thunder

and a burst of lilies in the rain

Raindrops keep falling on my head…

This morning, I was awakened by the fragrance of the parijat in the balcony. Maybe it peaks in the wee hours of the morning, I don’t know. But, smell pervaded the day in all its textures. Mother cooking food, junglee roses in the garden, paints, the woods and piping hot medu vadas.

The woods smell different at different times, the air in there varies too. Sometimes there is a viscosity, at others a lightness. The breeze can be loud like the ocean or then imperceptible and ranges from warm to cool. Often, there are little swirls of wind currents that don’t match the general direction of the larger flow. I’d feel it really strongly when barefoot.

The trail was devoid of any walkers as expected. Pune rains though generally mild, make it easy to sit at home and watch the grey pitter-patter. Out in the woods, the rain has a soothing sound as the drops hit the ground, the tones depending on what surface they meet.

There is more green now, different kinds of grasses and little plants or weeds depending on how one sees them. It’s always fascinating how plants and trees lie dormant until it is time for them to wake up. Right now, there are a few hundred thousand seeds that have burst open from the pods in the woods. Many have been stamped into the pathways and across the length and breadth of the little urban wild. Perhaps a few will take root and go on to survive into adulthood. Most will not. I find thoughts like that too, dormant until woken up and like the innumerable seeds, they too remain scattered in a continuous churn far below the surface, coming up only when the moment calls. The mind truly is a wonderful instrument but it can also be thoroughly unreliable.

IMG_20200612_164740

An interesting sensation was the rain on my head, first time on a bald pate and the soundtrack that was on repeat loop on my lips was Raindrops keep falling on my head…

Time out in the open provides a much needed balance to the weight of the screen. I got to know about Covid deaths of family members of some people I worked with recently. And terribly tragic too, one of them a woman who delivered a baby about week ago. At such times, the statistics come closer and start to feel more personal. In another case, a young man, the son of an acquaintance took his life because living became unbearable in isolation. I can’t even begin to imagine how terribly lonely he might have been. How do parents cope with the loss of a child?

How much transpires in a day? Highs, lows, joys, sorrows, terrible news and exquisite beauty. And all transient, none permanent.

 

Power Off

One of the things I took for granted as someone who lived in Bombay for over two decades was 24/7 access to electric power. Pune was different as I discovered when I moved here a few years back. Once a week, usually on Thursdays, there would be an outage from about 10 in the morning to 5 in the evening. And in the monsoons, any time we had rain a little more than a drizzle, it would go off. I never figured out if it was a preventive act or one of a breakdown. It didn’t matter since I had backup which could power up lights and fans and charging points.

IMG_20200603_093158
the gulmohurs begin their descent

Yesterday, we had heavy winds and lashing rain and the power went out sometime in the morning. It was restored only post noon today, a little more than 24 hours without electricity. My current place has no backup and all the devices drained out quickly considering they were in use from 6 in the morning for class and work. Half written documents, notes and e-mails sat inside my screen and I shut the lid on them. Afterwards, I lay on my bed and watched the clouds hurtle past, the winds were really strong and it seemed like they were being herded along.

IMG_20200604_110024
looking out at the sky before it poured

One of the nice things about my present home is a small terrace balcony attached to my room. It faces a green patch and I wake up to an expanse of sky and treetops. The woods here have many winged creatures, both visiting and resident and it is a delight to watch them. There is a pair of grey hornbills that comes by sometimes and a family of 7 peafowls call it home. Some evenings they fly their bulk to the top branches of the trees as they prepare to rest for the night. This is in addition to a whole host of common birds like drongos, bulbuls, koels, sunbirds, crows, mynas etc.

But in the last few weeks, clouds have caught my fancy. They were always fun to watch but in the mood of these times, they also became a point of contemplation. I’ve been watching them lately and when there’s no distraction, it makes for a fascinating viewing. The white ones were sunbathing companions while the grey ones have been viewed best from my room. The edges diffuse, disintegrate and disappear into the sky, like the cracks between continents as they moved into the shapes we are familiar with today.

It made me think of disintegration. As I clean up the trail, I pick up plastic items in varying stages of decomposition. Plastics, paper, foil, cloth, laminated packs etc. all have a different rate of ageing and decay. It speaks of a passage of time and there’s a sense of measure I get looking at their state. Not so with the glass bottles and fragments. I did manage to salvage a few interesting looking bottles and they now hold greens in my house. The youngling was inspired enough to attempt a second oil painting looking at it one night.

And then I see the death and decomposition of dried leaves and flowers on the forest floor. First the intact dry crunchiness until it disappears into the soil, becoming part of the mud. But it takes time. Relationships also disintegrate- marriages, friendships, familial bonds too. It is just the nature of things, the blossoming, the dropping off, decay and disintegration and final disappearance. Sometimes it happens slowly, at other times fast but eventually if nothing else it disintegrates with the death of one or the other. In a larger context, there is breakdown whether in political or economic power. Old technology gives way for new and the cycle continues.

Rains are welcome after the heat but they are also a more introspective time. It feels like the middle of the monsoons right now with the grey skies and clammy weather. Perfect for adrak waali chai and bhajiyas. Maybe I’ll make some today. Yesterday was for snuggling under a blanket and reading the most delightful book, A man called Ove. I meant to read it after little K did but the book disappeared in the pile of her mad artisty things. It is such an endearing read, so much so that I sat by candle light to devour it until my eyes were tired.

 

Reading in that light reminded me of a few summer holidays at one of my aunt’s homes in Kerala. She lived near the beautiful Periyar river in one of the hillier districts in Kerala. As city children, we were enamoured with the lush green and flowing waters. The section near her house had a rocky river bed and the waters were so clear that we could see our bodies in it when we would bathe in it. In the distance, was a rolling hill and beyond a dense forest where elephants lived. The houses there were the last to receive electricity and as children we were equal parts fascinated and repulsed with the lack of modern conveniences. We were city kids who lived in sterile houses.

Now, I find a little longing for a similar slow existence but would I be able to live like that? One day is novelty but to actively choose such a way of life, I’m not sure I have it in me but then I’m not sure I don’t either. It does simplify life to its bare essentials and provides much time and space to live in rhythm with the day and seasons. There is more opportunity for a living meditation so to speak. Perhaps I might upgrade to such an existence, hopefully sooner rather than later but that’s still in a future and I don’t even know what today will unfurl.

There’s a bit of a cell phone declutter happening yet again and after the first couple of days, I wonder why do I go back after these month long breaks. The world is too much right now and knowing what’s happening doesn’t change anything.  All it does is make one spout updates. What does it add but empty noise to a screaming world? Life still goes on in its messy spirals whether one is relatively insulated from a pandemic and other violence or thrown right into its boiling centre. It is wearying and staying away from the onslaught of information has increased focus and concentration. Maybe this time could be better used to grow inwards and be of assistance in the most basic of ways, by a fuller presence.