© 1996 by Monisha Das Gupta

"Do you think people in sunny places are happier?"

"No, I don't think so. Just depends on what you're used to, I guess. A lot of people love this weather."

Sidestepping puddles forming from quickly melting snow blackened by car exhaust and islets of crunchy ice, we navigated Harvard Square parting ways at the subway station. At least it was up in the 50's, and I didn't have to juggle hat, gloves, scarf to get my t-pass out of my wallet.

Muddy bootmarks and sand tracked the train floor. Trying not to smell the wet wool and the winter stuffiness of an enclosed space, I desultorily flipped the pages of the book I was reading. What would I do on this wet and windy afternoon once I went home? I didn't really want to go home.

"Next stop, Charles/MGH." It was the conductor instead of the automated voice approximating perfect diction. The train surfaced for air and light. This is always a moment of thrill because one caught a glimpse of the ever-changing Charles, Boston sprawled on one side and Cambridge on the other. My eyes, tired of avoiding the dirty floor and glum faces, raked the landscape. They met an uneven grey: eeriely still waters, glassy stretches of ice, bare trees bending to the wind. And then, wet brick. Wet brick, familiar but repulsive bringing to mind monsoons in Calcutta. Wet brick would, in time, grow a layer of moss and as time went on it would take on a deep, velvety feel.

God, how I used to hate the monsoons! I don't think I ever got over the fact that I was born in August, a month that would often bring cyclonic depressions, unremitting grey, lashing winds and a rain that was never constant in its intensity. It was an insult for a sun-worshipper like me to be born in August. "Don't let it rain," would be my desperate birthday wish. But of course, it always did.

The train had long since plunged back underground. The car was filling up. The woman, who had just taken her seat next to me, smelt of tamarind balls. Tamarind balls. I could taste the sweet, tart, salty sting on my tongue. In all probability, it was the musty smell of her coat's silk lining. My mind still dwelt on greyness and monsoons.

There was something portentous about Calcutta monsoons, those rain-laden clouds that lugubriously made their way inland from the Bay of Bengal. They obscured everything and when they burst, it felt like buckets and buckets of water being poured down on a hot dusty city, that in the next three months would swell and swelter. Jamunarma (Jamuna's mother), the woman who did our dishes and clothes and whose rented room would often flood during these severe downpours, had an apt description for the season. She'd called it God's incontinence. I'd snigger, careful to be out of my parent's earshot. My parents, two very refined people, were always pained and embarassed by any mention of physical functions.

Imagining how the rain would feel when I stepped out of the subway, I was possesed by a desire to recapture the driving force of the monsoons at times beating furiously down on tarred pavements, tin roofs and already gushing gutters, and at others, coming down steady in sheets. The wind was as wild as they had promised in weather reports. Leaning into it, letting it do the work of propelling me, I lurched out to the mouth of my subway station to walk home. It occurred to me that the bay was a few minutes away in the other direction.

Why not walk that way? Aww, that's crazy! The wind will probably be really high and it's not smart to be blinded by the rain crossing major arteries. The wind will be really high? Perhaps the waves too? Perhaps they will crash in a crazy dance on the desolate beach. Perhaps they will rave and rant, tear the coastline into bits and pieces, throw spray and sand to the winds. Perhaps I will witness the whipping up of an elemental fury. I rushed.

It was desolate alright. Greenish grey waters lapped the shore. A few gratifying, frothy crests surfaced far out in the sea. Soft, charcoal grey clouds rolled toward Boston. It was a bay, afterall. Restrained. Citified. Contained. No unleashed fury here.

With what would I console myself on a day like this? On those heavy monsoon days in Calcutta I'd dream of glowing fireplaces, hot chocolate, jigsaw puzzles, paper boats in gutters (the only fancy I was able to realize in my modest Calcutta home)--exotic, fascinating images from the Enid Blyton books we were addicted to. The images would amuse and entertain me until the sun struggled out. Now, with fireplaces, jigsaw puzzles and hot chocolate demystified, all that remains is a sense of restlessness and a need to have it washed away by a purging, relentless rain.

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Copyright 1996 by Monisha Das Gupta. Readers may redistribute this article to other individuals for noncommercial use, provided that the text, all html codes, and this notice remain intact and unaltered in any way. This article may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author. If you have any questions about permissions, please contact <[CONTACT PAGE]> Preferred Citation: Monisha Das Gupta, "Mooning over Monsoons," DISSONANCE (September 30, 1996 [http://way.net/dissonance/monsoons.html]).