Monsoon Greetings


I heard a few greetings right away when arriving at Malumghat. Lots of higher pitched "namoshkars" from the school children going to and from class, for instance. I walked home for lunch the other day and found myself upstreaming in a veritable river of uniformed school children heading out on a field trip. So many namashkars. And, oh, so cute they are. Many had black umbrellas up, so turning around to observe them walking away, it looking like an army of shiny black beetles heading off up a path.

Other greetings waited until nearly the end – tonight walking home, my first "torq-tang" call of the trip. For those unaccustomed to even the little harmless lizards crawling around every wall (innocuously named "tik-tikkis" after their battle cry), a torq-tang is a dragon-sized lizard of terrifying demeanor. In reality, I think they each eat the same bugs, the latter just goes after the bigger ones. And speaking of bugs, when it's not raining deafeningly, the all-night cricket band starts to play. Fortunately, I'm somewhat used to it, as background; but I do remember being paid 10 paisa per bug to flush them out their holes around our house and stomp 'em when I was a child. I suspect my mom's violin-adjusted hearing found the crickets' pitch grating. But it's all so lyrically jungle-y, so Kipling-y, so Subcontinental. And I'm sure I will miss the general atmosphere that it arouses.

Gathering CloudsThe rain has been tremendous. Apparently, for those who publish about such things, monsoon was to officially begin June 12. It may have begun a day or two early, but the predictors were right. The clouds are dense and white, and rise to 50,000 ft or more, brilliant against the blue sky when the sun is out. The heat is oppressive then, the sun beating against you, as direct as it ever is all year. The clouds keep thickening, and approach in appearance an Oklahoma tornado cloud, in their dark, moody character. Little pats of rain start hitting the dusty surfaces everywhere. Soon the approaching roar is heard in the distance, like a crowd enclosed in a stadium from a few blocks away. The rain comes rattling through the trees, raindrops like bullets on tropical vegetation and thick waxy leaves. If you're anywhere near a building (and they all seem to have corrogated tin roofing), the noise rules out all verbal communication. Hand gestures suffice (or texting, I suppose); it's like trying to converse during a goal-line stand at the Big House.

Rain off TinThe water begins pouring off the roofs, each corrugation a 1-inch wide rivulet, each collecting trough an inches deep river. As you look down the block, previously visible details have disappeared behind a silver screen. A quarter mile is too far to see; sometimes even a hundred yards is impenetrable. And unlike the occasional heavy thunderstorm front that passes through Michigan (which might often contain a little hail), you can hold your breath for 5 minutes here, waiting for it to pass, and it's just picking up steam. A half hour later it has often intensified, or waves of intensification have passed; and an hour later one is looking for Noah to float by. The street is a river. The brick path is slick, like smooth rocks in a creek. You can roll your pant legs up, but the upspatter is hitting your thighs. The umbrella, a black waxed muslin thing, is shrugging as if to say, "What? You expect me to handle this?"

And then the pace slackens, conversation can resume, the air is cooler by 10 degrees at least, but the respite is brief. The rain will keep hammering for another hour or two at a reduced rate, then abate to a sprinkle for a while. And the temperature will begin to climb, and the steam from all the hot surfaces will again make the air dense and heavy. The foreboding clouds will withdraw to the near horizon for a while, contracting and gathering strength, awaiting their next assault on the sodden earth.

Submitted by Dr. Dan DeCook