– Dr C.K. Mathew, IAS (Retd)
Only He shakes the heavens and from its treasures takes out the winds. He joins the waters and the clouds and produces the rain. He does all those things. – Michael Servetus (1511-1553) (Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer)
The monsoons are just about upon us. In Bengaluru there is no particular sense of expectation: no excitement at its impending bursting upon the scene, nor anxiety should it fail. Here where the weather is salubrious and rains splatter over the city every now and then, there is no suspense as there is no real uncertainty.
But for one like me, who has spent a life time in Rajasthan, there has always been a special sense of trepidation blended with suppressed exhilaration as the event approaches. There, under the desert sky, the monsoons drizzle down love and life and prosperity and bliss. The cows would bellow in excitement and the grass would, enticed by the wetness in the air, suddenly green a barren hillside in a matter of days. Very literally it could mean the difference between penury and plentitude, between the long, slow chafing of drought and the sudden burst of joyous wetness and fecundity. But what would Michael Servetus know about the Indian monsoon? The manicured lawns in government houses turn jade green, wet and luscious under the evening sun. The clamour amongst the leaves, the susurration in the grass, the explosion of insects and birds, the screaming of wild parrots and the baboons slinking by with gleaming eyes: could the Spanish theologian know the magic and untellable enchantment of the arrival of rains in a dry land?
After relocating to Bengaluru, I find that my special worried upward glance when June approaches, the dull anxiety of scanning cloudless bright skies, no longer means what it has all these years. For the farmer in western Rajasthan, it is a matter of the security of his family, the presence of precious grain in the home granary. One good year is enough to feed themselves for a couple of years; if the rains fail, and sometimes they do three-four years continuously, then there is the long haul of impoverishment, the grasping clutches of the money lender and the long walk to faraway places as a migrant labourer. I recall the many years, when as an SDO or a District Collector, or even as Secretary to the Government, we all used to scramble to faraway districts, to arrange for drinking water and health coverage and fodder for the animals and work for able-bodied men and women to earn a decent working wage. How hard their lives, how the summer sun beat down on their bare bodies and how desperate the fear in their eyes.
Lives could be lost, there was the spectre of hunger deaths, (especially amongst the impoverished Sahariya community of Baran district) and then there would be hell to pay. The credibility of the Government would take a dip and there would be long political arguments on the State’s incompetence and failure. The Vidhan Sabha would resound with abuses and counter claims and the poor family would be photographed and displayed on TV, with strangers claiming to befriend the hapless victims. How cheap the deaths and the how cheaper the points scored in these acrimonious public debates.
So there, all that is behind me now: what is out of sight is out of mind, right? Here in this yuppie city, with the best of restaurants and fine dining eateries, with a certain style of je ne sais quoi, where the young live life with style and panache, where the old have a genteel life of books and gin and tonic, where there are exquisite gated communities with its obvious money, why should I harken back to the three and a half decades of my life gone by. Who cares if the Sahariya child is malnourished? Or there is no water to sustain a whole village as the sun glares down mercilessly?
Let’s enjoy the coming monsoon: very shortly it will be upon us. I might go out to the verandah with my face upturned to the slate-grey sky and feel the coolness wash upon my cheeks, so very like cold tears, and know how lucky I am to be where I am.