Before the Monsoon
Trip Start Jan 14, 2009
21Trip End Mar 25, 2009
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The days and weeks before the monsoon are a bit like what we might call "indian summer," only it is the heat, not the cold, which increases.
Leaves hang yellow on the trees--falling. Waiting not for warmth but for moisture. Rain to awaken, rain to bring the rice paddies back from their yearly death. Rain to soak and flood the poorly drained cities. Rain to swell rivers, to deliver both life and death to the withered landscape and people.
Until that time, the sun hangs, relentless, baking all in a reddish clay tandoor oven vista.
Village people huddle under lone trees in fading shade, with each leaf fallen a spot of sun opens, affording less and less protection from the ever-burning fire in the sky.
Colorful cloth and clothing hangs from lines strung between mud-and-straw huts. Women are the ones seen doing most of the work, domestic, while the men crowd in the shade of shack-shops and on hard fruitwood benches in tiny dhabas.
Dust and smoke thickens the air incrementally, filling the bronchi. The periodic coughing of all most prevalent in the morning, a sort of pulmonary alarm clock for the families.
The day comes too early, the heat making sleep impossible by the time the sun is but a finger's breadth from the murky horizon.
At some time before the rain arrives, the flies come; too profuse to wave away from food, shit, eyes. Flies seek the same as humans: moisture, food, a place to procreate.
The too-numerous babies cry in the arid heat as if knowing that half of their peers may not see adulthood alive, or healthy, or with limbs intact.
Toward the end, clouds arrive in the afternoon, darkening more each day, threatening, though not delivering the precious drops from the sky that will bring the rebirth of the hardscrabble earth.
People pray. They pray to Shiva, Hanuman, to Hadimba and Gonesh. They pray to Allah, some to Jesus. "'Barish' is coming," they collectively hope.
The sky itself, once hazy with an occasional puff of white seen, turns to gray with more frequency, tantalizing with at first a few blasts of precipitation. Brief periods become prolonged, finally merging into one, a rain as persistent and unstoppable as the now-forgotten sun.
The fields to green.
The Monsoon has begun.