The specter of a drought loomed largely over us all through summer of 1999. Southwest monsoon had reached Bombay ahead of time but now seemed hesitant to cross Dahanu. In Bhuj, in the sweltering heat one heard of travails of people who had to wait endlessly for water tankers or ladies who had to trudge miles to fill just a few pots of water. The countryside had become bare. The notorious Keekar of Kutch too was reduced to thorny stems. The ground was parched and cracked. On the highway we frequently encountered herds of restless cattle, all moving towards the towns in search of water and fodder.
The famous Hamirsar Lake in Bhuj had been reduced to a large muddy puddle. In winter Pelicans and many other varieties of large and small birds were a common site there. Now the lakebed was home to hundreds of cattle waiting out the long hot days. There were no signs of birds other than a few crows sitting desultorily on the cows. I had heard of a particularly bad year when the lake had dried out completely and a circus was able to camp there. I prayed fervently for things to be better that year even if it meant not enjoying the circus!
And then suddenly the Heavens opened! Dark heavy clouds poured the nectar of life onto us. Every creature, leaf and twig drunk up the water with glee. Children danced in the rain and no one denied them the pleasure of enjoying those first showers. I am sure some of the adults envied them wishing that they too could join them. I know I did!
Over night the landscape around me changed. The bare brown cracked earth of the day before was now an endless carpet of green. It was almost as if the seeds in the soil were only waiting for the rain to burst to life. We could hear the birds chirping and sparrows were soon busy building nests. The air was filled with the smell of wet earth and was full of Hope and Promise again.
It was only after two days that the weather cleared up enough for us to venture out for our evening walk. The area was suddenly full of different types of birds. Some splashed in the plentiful puddles of water while others were feasting on the large number of insects who too were out to savour the cool rainwater. I watched the antics of the birds in wonder. Each one seemed to have an area marked out for itself, pecking away at every little bug who dared to come out. All of a sudden they would break into a cacophony as if alerting each other of some intruder. One of them stood on the tarred road with wings wide spread, as if, inviting me to come fly with him. My husband said they were Egrets but their name meant little to me, as I watched them enjoying the aftermath of the rain.
Along the road I counted at least six different types of grasses growing. Some of the tiny plants had even flowered in these two days, their little purple blossoms making a flamboyant show on the green carpet. It was almost as if each plant however tiny, was exercising its right to bloom. All the plants, trees and bushes had donned a new wardrobe bearing no resemblance to the thorny stems of yesterday. The desert had become green in an incredibly short time.
The insects continued to amaze and irritate me at the same time! Over the 3 days of rain, we had several varieties of winged invaders in our home, buzzing around the lights. Their life was to last only until the next morning as some strange force of nature drew them to their end towards the lights.
Out on the roads the earthworms, snails and caterpillars were out in full strength. I saw a bewildering variety of 6 and 8-legged creatures all running to hide under a blade of grass as soon as they heard a footfall. The Hamirsar Lake was full again. The water reflected diamonds as it picked up the weak sunlight and its surface rippled in the breeze. The cattle on the lakebed had long gone back to their villages led by the farmers who hastened home to sow their fields.
As I watched the raindrops fall, I was struck by the life giving powers of the rain. The flora and fauna seemed as if infused with a new life and I vowed to recharge my mind with each cloudburst. The sound of the falling raindrops, the birds and crickets singing and the wind whispering in the leaves has the power to instantly bring peace and tranquility.
The monsoon is upon us again and the urban jungle responds differently to the downpour. Yet the first showers bring a welcome respite from the summer fury. I do not fret for the loss of a days work but sit back and let the rain work its magic.