Breathing new life
In the plains of Pakistan, monsoon is a celebration. The rains breathe a new life into the landscape, cracked open by the scorching sun. The heat that sears the plains drives humans and animals to water. The leaves on trees look grim, drying at the edges in high temperature. It is the rain that rejuvenates all these life forms.
The annual occurrence breathes a new verve into the life dulled by the long and dry summer. Temperatures begin soaring in April. By May, the mercury touches 50 at some places. June is no better. The grime of sweat, dust and smoke is exhausting.
The coming of monsoon plays out like a perfect climax to the rising action in a drama. The heat drives people to water — to canals in Punjab and to the sea in coastal areas. Young men are drawn to big waves crashing against the coast. Some lose their lives on their fun trips to the beach. But clouds sporadically pour, though they sometimes fill the sky in the evenings.
As monsoon arrives by the end of June — completing their long journey from the Arabian Sea to the plains in India all the way up to the Himalayas, where they are directed southwestward into the plains of Pakistan — the arid lands sensuously wake up to the first drops. The first showers raise more dust than they settle, the dryness refusing to wither easily. But the rains prevail.
Sheets of water pour down from the dark clouds in the sky. Everything that meets the eye is drenched. Every street is flooded. People welcome rain on their rooftops; the acidic rain is believed to cure skin from the torment of heat and sweat. Small rivulets are formed
everywhere. Kids play in them, concerns about health and disease thrown to the wind.
Once a while, a paper boat will swim past you in one of these rivulets. Rivers, languidly flowing as snow melt from the glaciers diminishes, gush again. The mighty Indus gets back its form; its branches fill the creeks of the delta with fresh water that fish come looking far from deep oceans. They lay eggs here. The earth is awash, cleansed and moist, perfect for seeds to come alive as saplings.
For millions of years, monsoon have repeated this cycle of lifting moods, ensuring yields and providing to one and all. But monsoon have been destructive too — floods that wipe out swathes of crops, torrents that drown humans and animals, deluge that dumps sewerage in pools of water next to homes, disease and hunger that follows this deluge. Probably destruction is as much a part of rains as creation. The differential in their effect may well be attributed to humankind more than their own power of destruction. The congested cities, the polluted air and the disregard for watercourses leave an unpleasantness about rains that did not always occur.
Monsoon is changing, at least that is the indication we are getting from the patterns of rainfall over the past decade. These rains have shaped a culture that seamlessly and doubtlessly pervades society in the shape of folk songs, food patterns, paintings and architecture. In the years to come, if the change continues, a resistance will first come from the same culture that monsoon have shaped and nurtured.