I suddenly hear a crow. I listen more carefully and hear a bunch of other birds chirping too. I turn around and look at the clock; it is five in the morning and the sky is crystal clear. There is a hint of sunrise, but the sun is not fully out yet. I stand on my balcony and look at the different trees around. They are covered with dust and the greenery seems almost dull. It feels like they are all desperately waiting for the rains to give them a thorough rinse. I look up again and spot a tiny cloud, almost like a blemish in the clear blue sky.
Observing nature has always fascinated me. During my stay in Varanasi, I spent my summer vacation admiring various cloud formations in the sky. During the monsoons, I looked up with child-like enthrallment at the different colors formed by the interplay of the sun and the clouds at different times of the day. Monsoon is usually thought to be damp, dull and gloomy, but for me, it is the best time. The dark bluish-black clouds that start from the horizon and gradually spread to the whole sky, blocking the sun rays and creating darkness pull me towards them. Then again, after a few showers it becomes bright, as if the clouds are playing hide and seek with the sun.
I had never thought watching clouds could be that much fun. Watching a different cloud formation and the unpredictability of it allowed my imagination to run wild. I would always come up with different stories while looking at the clouds. Though I have never been a poet myself, I love reading poems, especially those written by Rabindra Nath Tagore. His monsoon songs celebrate the vivacity of life. According to him, monsoon rejuvenates and emancipates, but is chaotic and destructive as well.
The dark sky lit by the lightning amidst the swirling clouds from which torrential showers drench the parched earth, people running out to welcome the storm and little children allowing the tiny drops of rain to give them a nice cool bath are common monsoon sights. However, while rain rejuvenates and is cooling on one hand, it also brings destruction in the form of landslides, uprooting of trees and houses that stand in its way and taking lives in the process, on the other hand. This is the power of monsoon; it is both revitalizing and destructive – with equal passion.
After the scorching summer heat, rain pours down with restless vigor, and the mind and the body respond to their vibrant rhythm. The monsoon, despite its downside, is rejuvenating and ignites the creative fire in writers and poets.
I can relate to American writer Richard Bach when he says, “A cloud does not know why it moves in just such a direction and at such a speed, it feels an impulsion....this is the place to go now. But the sky knows the reason and the patterns behind all clouds, and you will know, too, when you lift yourself high enough to see beyond horizons.” The cloud does not know where to unburden its load of water or what impact if has on humanity, it just has to let go. This innocence of the clouds can never be fully captured by writers, poets or artists.
Kalidas’ ‘Meghdoot’where he uses clouds as the messenger, or Rabindra Nath Tagore’s innocent explanation of rains from the eyes of a five-year old protagonist in ‘Kabuliwala’ are beautiful examples of some marvelous creative interpretation of clouds. In Kabuliwala, Mini tells her father that according to her friend Bhola, ‘there is an elephant in the clouds, blowing water out of his trunk, and that is why it rains.’ The poet’s imagination of the huge black clouds full of water representing an elephant is absolutely awe-inspiring. Equally fascinating is his colorful expression, ‘Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky’.
While rains are rejuvenating and cooling, they can also be equally destructive. This is the power of monsoon.
Clouds have always been used as metaphors in literature and poetry, symbolizing both the negative and the positive aspects of life - from misery and infinite obstacles to aspirations, hope and love. How can clouds represent such varied things and mean so many different emotions for different people? Then again, I look up in the sky and find the answer to my question. The clouds are constantly changing shape and direction; reflecting a gamut of moods - from calm and benign to ominous and angry. In literature this is referred to as ‘pathetic fallacy’, where the clouds come to emphasize our emotional state.
Clouds are a visual treat for someone who can see them but they also do not deprive those who are unfortunate to have lost the gift of vision. They provide the sensational treat of smell when the rain hits the dry earth, the pleasant sound of constant pitter-patter on the metal roof and a cool breeze that rejuvenates you. If you close your eyes and listen carefully, you can almost hear the sound of each individual drop. It becomes muffled when the raindrop hits the cemented roof and loud and musical where it hits tinned roofs, being much softer when it hits the leaves.
Just listening to the different noises the droplets make is a wonderful experience that allows you to create an aural image even with closed eyes, as pleasant as the sight of the vibrant clouds. The next time you hear monsoon approaching, enjoy it to the fullest, with open as well as shut eyes, and soak in the experience without getting wet.
The author is an educationist and children’s writer