For last week or so, my home town Pune is getting hammered by sharp spells of rain towards evening, just like it happens all over Southeast Asia. The weather remains hot and humid throughout day and towards late afternoon or early evening, a huge black mass of clouds suddenly makes an entry from nowhere on the horizon. Within next few minutes, it becomes dark and raindrops come down pulverizing everything.
We call these sharp rain spells coming at the fag end of the Monsoon season, as ‘September Rains.’ Traditional Hindu calender has always linked seasons with the constellations, correctly or incorrectly and this rain fall is usually linked with the constellation ‘Corvus,’ which is called as “Hasta” in India. The Corvus rain by tradition is known to fall and make an impact on earth, similar to an elephant’s step. When this rain starts, world around you goes standstill, everyone scrambling for shelter. You would not hear even a bird chirping with only sound coming from the rain’s massive footfall.
Yet, this rain always reminds me that the Monsoon season, with its wet days, which bring in certain gloom in the minds of everyone, is soon going to be over and within a fortnight or slightly longer, one of the best season from the year, is to begin. The days of hot and horrid weather of the subcontinent would soon be replaced with more pleasant and balmy days of autumn with afternoons still warm but nights clear and cool.
The first festival that comes, is known in India as “Vijayadashami,” which means 10th day of the first fortnight of the month, with any endeavour taken up on this day, would always bring in success. However, what I always look forward to, is not this festival but the full Moon night that follows. This is a special night with the Moon at its brightest. Traditionally, people get together in the open, where they can enjoy the fabulous moonlight shining brightly without burning you. It is a great fun to spend time with friends or family, chatting and enjoying some spicy snacks like Bombay Mixture and drink sweetened hot milk.Lord Krishna’s name is also connected with this outdoors gathering on Autumn full moon day known in India as “Sharad Poornima.”
During my youth, I would spend early hours of this night with friends usually on a moon lit terrace , lying down on carpets and chatting. Later, the friends got scattered, and I started spending the nights with family and relatives, still maintaining the essential joys. We would chat, read stories written by us, the ones with singing talent, would sing, but everyone would present something to the group, with the result that it would be great fun.
Unfortunately, with India’s crowded cities today, even this simple joy is becoming hard to get. With the bright city lights, one would need to search for the moon, leave aside enjoying the moonlight. Even if someone has a terrace, it is no longer a pleasure to sit down in the polluted urban atmosphere with high vehicular noise and discordant din.
Sometime back, while I was staying in Singapore, I found out that the Chinese too celebrate this mid autumn full moon night. They hang highly decorated lanterns with candles everywhere, just as we Indians do it slightly later, in the Deepavali festival, which is a festival of lights. Perhaps weather in China may be bit colder then to move out in the night. It is just amazing to see the similarities between Chinese and Indian traditions and customs.
I feel sometimes sad, that we can not enjoy now even the simple joys of yesteryear. No five star air conditioned comfort can match the scintillating effect of the moonlight. But that is the price we pay for progress!
(First published in Akshardhool on 14 September 2013)