It is drizzling outside. It has been so throughout the night. It rained heavily yesterday; and the day before … and the day before. In fact, it has been raining almost continuously since the past week. I enjoy rains ... light or heavy ... or drizzle ... at home or in the rain... in gloomy or happy mood... with an umbrella or without it. This reminds me of my childhood in Kerala. It used to rain heavily during monsoons, sometimes continuously for several days.
I enjoyed watching water pouring down through the tiny pathways in the earthen roof tiles. The continuous 'jhil-jhil' when the water falls on the ground was heavenly music. Small and large insects roamed around freely. They had been displaced from their hiding places by the rain water. Little frogs used to jump around croacking merrily. You should be watchful lest they might jump on your feet or you step on them. I used to sit in the verandah watching all these. The tiny plants, tall coconut trees, and all the vegetation used to sway continuously in the breeze which invariably accompanied the rain. The breeze also showered one with those tiny droplets all over. It was heavenly feeling.
Yes, rain is heavenly, indeed!
Monsoon reaches Kerala every year invariably in the week the school opens, that is the first week of June. And it usually happens on the first Monday of the month, when the schools open in the state. With all the climate change, with the climate in several parts of the world turning topsy-turvy, the monsoon has not failed Kerala even once. Even this year it reached on 31 May, two days before schools opened.
Our class rooms were not fully covered. The outside walls were only a few feet high with only temporary partitions between class rooms. They were unlike some present day class rooms with only a door and a couple of windows, or even air-conditioned ones. There is no dearth of air or light coming into the class rooms. We never used to have fans in class rooms, for the simple reason that we didn’t need those. Nor did we have electric bulbs. Our school timings used to be from 10 in the morning to 4 in the evening.
During rains, which, as I have already said, arrives immediately on opening the schools after the annual holidays, it was very common that they close the school earlier than the scheduled time. By afternoon we could see clouds starting to gather. By around three or nearly four, it becomes quite dark on most of the days due to the heavy clouds. Our hearts start beating faster as the clouds gather. For two reasons. One, due to happiness because school is likely to close earlier, and two, the mere ecstasy of running all the way home, about a kilometre or more, to beat the rain and reach there before it can catch and drench us. We didn’t want our precious text and note books to get wet!
I always wanted to run out and sing and dance and jump and shout in the rain. It feels fantastic when rain bathes you in its pouring waters. You feel like it is embracing you all over. And you thank the rain profusely, “Thank you, Thank you.”
But mother would not let me. She would say, 'Jayanthan, don't go into the rain, come inside, or you will catch cold'. But I was allowed to go out in the rain without an umbrella while I go to take my bath. We used to take bath in a pond in the family land. The pond is not very large, but big enough for us children to swim around. I learned swimming in this pond. I don't remember who taught me swimming. But I still remember how I did it.
There were long lines of steps along the length of the pool. During the rains, the pool always overflowed. I started swimming along the topmost steps. I touched on the large stones with my hands and moved forward, hitting the water with my legs, careful not to hit the stones. After practising thus a few times, I swam on the second steps. Since the water was slightly deeper, this was more comfortable. I could also use my hands to swim a few feet by taking them off the stones below. When I was able to swim along the steps without touching the stones below with my hands, it was time for the next step. I took small semi-circles. I swam a few feet towards the middle of the pool and returned. And the semi-circle became larger and larger. And I learned to swim.
On one side of the pool there is an 8-feet high wall, and stairs to climb up to the land above. It was my favourite pastime to jump into the water from this wall head down. The moment you hit the water, you stop all movements and allow yourself to be carried down by the force of the jump and the consequent movements under water. You feel completely weightless. The feeling used to be celestial. You remain that way till you can't hold your breath any more. And then you come up. I again go up the wall and jump again into the pool.
That was when I was a small boy.
Well, my house has been sold off along with the pool. The pool no more belongs to us. But even now, when I visit the place to pray to our family deity, I make it a point to take a bath in the pool ... and to jump into the pool. Head down.