The sky-high mercury levels did nothing to appease my senses as I stood there, surrounded by my luggage, waiting for the train to take me to the place where the word ‘monsoon’ was not just one that was tucked neatly away within the pages of a dictionary. When the train finally sauntered into the station, dissipating raw heat, the feeling was that of intense pleasure. This was the vehicle that was to escort me miles away from the heat of the desert-like Delhi.
Summers are an excruciatingly painful affair in the Capital. And to be away to a place where summers were extremely pleasant, was nothing short of sheer ecstasy!
A rush of nostalgia overcame me as I boarded the train. I was travelling on that route after a gap of one and a half years. And to be back on that same train was a feeling beyond articulation. The yellowish brutal landscape of Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh made way for the greenish-brown fields of Bihar, and then the train meandered into West Bengal. I woke up to rain-spattered window panes and the pitter-patter of the downpour that made way into my ears after battling the incessant hum of the train.
Overnight, the scene outside had been transformed magically. From the rustic pale roughness of the terrain of the rain-starved parts of the country, I was now gifted with a treat for my eyes. The idyll blast of green outside swung between the light green fields and the dark green tea gardens.
The abundance of rain infused new life into the landscape, and nurtured by the care of the benevolent bosoms of the numerous rivers and rivulets that dotted the northern part of Bengal, the plants resembled those in Eden. Wistful, nostalgic feelings are a prerogative of people who have grown up in that part of the country.
Despite bearing the burden of brutal neglect for eons, the northern part of West Bengal has never felt the wrath of the Gods of Drought (if there exist any!). The place has been ravaged by numerous floods, massive and life-taking at times, but has hardly been in the throes of a full-fledged drought the kinds that cut across the other parts of the country.
It wouldn’t have been too much of the surreal had I spotted some of the sylvan nymphs of the Romantic poets dancing to the mellifluous tunes of the flowing rivers there. When a place as beautiful as the one that I am talking about is in question, magic realism is just another facet of the truth. Here, all seasons are neatly compartmentalised into their respective quotas and nobody is in a crazy hurry to spill over into the other’s realm. Summer, Monsoon, Winter and Spring all present themselves to the denizens of the place in equal proportions, and inhabit the region in peaceful coexistence.
The beauty of the districts of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri that I crossed on my way, and Cooch Behar to where I was headed is otherworldly. The greenery is intoxicating, and the heavy rush that comes with the feeling of getting drenched in the rain is orgasmic. The lightning tore the skies and the thunder roared its existence. The miles of tea gardens that flanked the rail tracks offered a paradisiacal sight to the onlookers.
They say you get to realise the actual importance of something only when you don’t have it. For a person like me who has been away to the arid Delhi for the last five years, rain is an extravagant and exotic phenomenon. Rains in Delhi are few and far between. And juxtaposed was this land, my birthplace, where ‘monsoons’ never meant anything other than incessant rains, lush green fields, new leaves on every tree, the fragrance of wet earth, setting paper boats afloat on the temporary rivers on the roads.
Monsoons weren’t just remembrances of a long lost past. Monsoons weren’t just about dry words and insipid discussions. Monsoons here are real, living and breathing phenomena. Monsoons here are a part of our existence!