The rain is music with its own beat. It is a time when the earth is unashamedly itself
After the rains, it is the world of insects. Termites will come out, looking for places to start new colonies. Their short life often ends near a tube light or bulb; a fatal attraction. A light left on overnight will attract heaps of insects. But nature her ways of balance, if left undisturbed. Geckos wait for insects after the rain. If you don't swat away the geckos, they will swat away insects for you
Neha Sinha 30 July 2019 8:24 AM GMT
And the night — replenished with rain — is another world. White flowers often bloom at night. And moths pollinate many of these flowers
It starts with one drop. Your heart stops. You wait for another. A silence. And then it falls, like a coin on to a terracotta tile, a beautiful sound, a quenching sound, a sweetly anticipated sound.
It is a march of droplets. The raindrops follow each other, like puppies running joyously in a garden. You are still waiting for the confirmation that this is real rain, and not a drizzle. You want to feel it is the monsoon, that yearly event that makes farmers laugh, takes the mechanical stock market up, and makes the earth sing.
The rain is music with its own beat. It is a time when the earth is unashamedly itself. You can't shut Nature out. It does not stay out. It comes into the verandah, the house, your floors, gardens and bathrooms. Seeds become saplings. Leaves become bushels. Grass grows inches overnight. Earthworms, with their inky smell, emerge from the flooded soil. Millipedes curl into tight balls. Life extends its arms.
One of the first indications of rain are little arachnids, red velvet mites. These little things, related to spiders will make you want to stroke them, not scream. They are covered in red velvet hair, like little coats taken from a school ground. And they run over the ground, making it sparkle.
After the rains, it is the world of insects. Termites will come out, looking for places to start new colonies. Their short life often ends near a tube light or bulb; a fatal attraction. A light left on overnight will attract heaps of insects. But nature her ways of balance, if left undisturbed. Geckos wait for insects after the rain. If you don't swat away the geckos, they will swat away insects for you.
Through gaps in the rain, and especially at this time of the year, moths will come to the light. Moths are the unknown cousins of butterflies. If butterflies prance and frolic during the day, moths like the darkness of the night. A bulb left on in a rainy night will attract many moths, circling around the light's head like an old love story.
And what creatures they are. Soundless, enigmatic, looking like aliens, like saree patterns, like pieces of the fabric of the universe. The lovely Cyana Puella moth seems to have paint carefully spattered on its body, in delicate, polka patterns. The Hummingbird hawk moth hovers like a sunbird on flowers, with beautifully brown wings. In the day, moths hide under leaves, or stay still in a corner. A meditation for all the activity at night.
And the night — replenished with rain — is another world. White flowers often bloom at night. And moths pollinate many of these flowers.
In the rainy nights, frogs start a chorus. They call for mates, but may also be calling for the heck of it. The night is pierced by these sounds, like punctuations and a telling of time. The Fungoid frog, brilliantly coloured, will call from the side of a pond. That call sounds precisely like a drop of rain falling on water. The wet mud gets everywhere, swirling, sticky, viscous, but also carrying life and seeds; the future of fields and saplings. You can't escape the mud in the monsoon. But you can embrace it. In cities, people have forgotten what earthworms look like. Mud is packed into concrete. But in other places, mud has a different meaning in the monsoon.
The rains carry silt from the river, and deposit it in the flood plain. Acres of Khadar land get laid with alluvium, polluted but also desired. This is a new lease of life for farmers, refreshing the soil. Water from rivers also carries fish and molluscs, filling pools and wetlands in the flood plain with life. Birds follow the full wetlands to feast on fish, and the story of life will continue.
Wildlife and the city stare at each other in the monsoon, full in the face. Badly planned cities flood over. Blocked drains are like blocked dreams. Cities flood each year for decades, streets waterlogged with trash and neglect. We want to grow, but we don't respect water. We assume it will do as we please; but water has its own mind and its own body.
Monsoon may be the only time when centres of power think about water, and the inconvenience it causes by existing where we don't want it – on roads, on our clothes, in old tyres which breed mosquitoes.
I wish the rains could also be a reminder for us that water is precious and needs more respect. Cities should not build over wetlands. Flood plains should be water recharge zones. Reservoirs and drains should be desilted to prepare for the monsoon. Water harvesting pits should be made under flyovers and in colonies.
As I write this, it is raining. Angry jungle babblers, sodden with the rain, will scream at each other as soon as the rain stops. A little later, moths will come out, fluttering against the night sky.
It seems a miracle to me that the skies open up, pouring the stuff of life right at us. I wish we considered this with more attention. We can still change this. Pay attention. Listen to the rain, collect the water in rainwater harvesting. Ask your government to restore wetlands, not block them. Prepare yourself for the gift of the earth.
The best return gift for all creatures is our respect for the rains.
Neha Sinha is with the Bombay Natural History Society
(Views are personal)