It is a sight-and-sound show the Subcontinent waits for with bated breath. After the scorching heat of April and May, punctuated with the occasional downpour, the clouds arrive over the seas off the Kerala coast close to June 1. Then, a streak of light traces a line over the skies and a rumble breaks out. On land, people take cover as sheets of water sweep past. The exhilaration of getting drenched in the rain soon makes way for worries about leaky roofs, flooding and the breakdown of normal life. On the seas and the ghats, the monsoon also evokes a sense of fear, and terror; the rain is merciless as it launches killer waves and triggers landslides. When peace descends after the downpour and the world turns into a canvas of shades of green, the monsoon assumes a spiritual self; it is a time when man and nature are in communion.
Traders from the West, Romans and Arabs, rode the monsoon wind, Hippalus, named after the Greek scientist who is believed to have discovered it, to dock on India’s western coast. Thus began a transaction of material and spiritual goods — spices, languages, religions including Judaism, Christianity, Islam. In modern times, the monsoon has its use value primarily in agriculture. The southwest monsoon replenishes the Subcontinent’s water resources; a weak monsoon spells disaster for the crops and launches a thousand queues at street corner taps. Kerala is now learning to encash the monsoon by packaging it for tourists. Lazing by the rain-drenched sea to Ayurvedic massages, tourists are offered a range of options that hold the promise to spice up the local economy.
The Malayalam word for monsoon is Kalavarsham — the downpour of time. Year after year, for centuries, nature has put up this show, the magic refusing to recede.