There is abundant cause for relief when dark clouds gather in the horizon bringing hopes of welcome showers. The situation is not as desperate as that which was depicted in Lagaan where the rain was perilously connected with the livelihood of the peasant community.
Kolkata has other interests connected with rain that make the monsoon a much awaited event. Of course it means an end to the profuse sweating and grumbling in April and May for those who are not so privileged as to live and work in air-conditioned comfort. June has its pleasures that come with sometimes a steady downpour and often just a drizzle that serves to bring down the temperature, which is pleasant enough.
There is nothing quite as exciting as staying indoors when it is pouring outside with extra hours of unscheduled sleep. The gentle breeze blowing through the window makes the siestas irresistible, often wrapped in dreams of a better life, of a visit to a restaurant that one cannot afford or of a long drive through a deserted road to one&’s favourite weekend spot. Remember the protagonist in Parash Pathar – the dhoti-clad, paan-chewing babu – emerging from his office in Dalhousie Square and getting caught in the heavy shower? He falls asleep in a shelter that he finds – to start dreaming of a magic stone that will change his life.
Fortunately, no such dreams have been reported in newspapers or television bulletins when the Met office strikes the right note by announcing that the monsoon has arrived. But there are monsoon surprises to be sure. The last few days have seen the streets being washed, tele bhaja shops in Bagbazar and Bhowanipore coping with the rush and music schools turning to the inspiring chapter of Tagore&’s monsoon compositions. Standing on one&’s balcony, one would discover a casual interest in the stunning variety of raincoats covering school children who must make it on time for the first class in the morning. Ditto ditto for the new brand of umbrellas produced for the coming season.
Sadly, with the visual and musical attractions come the discomforts and uncertainties of life in Kolkata. Can anyone avoid the traffic jams that occur at the major road junctions at the slightest hint of rain? Is because of vendors who run helter-skelter to protect their goods? Or is it because of traffic sergeants who are strict about enforcing the rules of the road but mysteriously disappear when it begins to rain? The other hazard exists on pavements that are in any case in terrible shape.
The rain brings puddles that conceal the gaping holes. When was the last time that the Kolkata Municipal Corporation made a concerted effort to restore what is left of the pavements after the hawkers have occupied large portions of the footpaths? Now the excuse would be that restoration work can only take place after the rains. But if these are inconveniences that people have learnt to live with, the silver lining is that there are compensations enough – from hurriedly organised street football contests to a good old khichuri lunch on Sunday with fried hilsa if one can afford it. In any case, the rains bring a spirit of freedom that the city can never miss.