Whenever I listen to Raga Megh Malhar I am reminded of two wonderful occasions. One, when I was introduced to the Raga, during a monsoon many years ago, with the sound of heavy rain on corrugated tin, since this sheet of metal served as the roof of our music room at the Film Institute. The other was a summer evening at Nishat Gardens in Srinagar. We had driven down from Gulmarg especially to hear Bhimsen Joshi sing in this lovely outdoor setting . He began the alaap in a leisurely way , slowly and easily impressing the notes of the raag on our minds. As he progressed into the raga, slight rain clouds seem to gather out of the blue. A gentle breeze stirred the brilliantly coloured cloth of the pandal under which he sat.We all sat still, crosslegged on dhurries placed on the grass of the lovely Mughal garden, mesmerised as he began to weave the tapestry of his song. As he sang, the skies became grey and tiny drops of rain began to fall. He continued undisturbed, gathering pace . Soon the cloth of the pandal lost its moorings to the bamboo poles and flew wildly about in the strong winds that spun about. The rain came thundering down. Nobody moved for cover. Bhimsen sang undisturbed. It was as if the heavens had taken inspiration from his wonderful voice and played a jugalbandhi with the sound of the wind in the tall walnut trees and the drum of the rain drenching the earth.
It was a hair raising experience . Nature and art had come together in front of our grateful eyes.We were all aware of something transcendental in that moment.
The onset of the rains has always been greeted with joy by earth and animals and humans. It stuns the awful dry heat into a bearable temper. It brings the vision of a full harvest to the farmer everywhere and the joy of greenery to a brown land.
Not so in the last two years though. Some days I lift up mine eyes with something approaching dread when the rivers are already in spate and the land satiated. Every evening the news brings more stories of floods and damage to crops, loss of life and pictures of vast areas under water. Then I cannot hear Megh Malhar. A tiny ditty runs over and over in my head like a broken record..Rain rain go away, Come again another day.
Yet we don't have enough water, at least not in the right places. An article by Sonu Jain in The Indian Express today gave a clear picture of those parts of India which have an excess of rainfall right now and those which are still deficient. Policies till now have been inadequate in addressing the needs of farmers across the country. Irrigation methods are wasteful and make too much use of ground water without clear means of replenishment. Obviously something has to change. Capturing rainwater in environmentally friendly ways is part of the answer. The government struggles to set up various authorities and bodies to cope with the problem while coming up with feasible ideas for the future...quickly.
Central Maharashtra has had too much rain. Now we hope for a continuation which is closer to the norm in September and October.
This decides the future of the jowar crop which is sown in October as a rabi crop in western India. By November the planting is generally over. With a growing period of approximately 100-110 days, in January, around Republic Day , we can expect one of the delights of the mild winter we have here...hurda.That is the local name for young green jowar kernels.
Cut from the plant and roasted over a coal fire it is sheer succulent sweetness . If removed from the cob I often make a delicate flavoured snack very simply. Saute some ginger garlic paste in a teaspoon of butter or ghee, add the hurda and a pinch of salt. Mix well and cook for a minute or two. Eat immediately.
My mouth is watering as I think of the good things to come.