There is no doubt that monsoons arrive offering a lot of best things to the people which includes a view of lush greenery and fresh air. However, there are a lot of other things that are taken up by people during this time which has now been confined to just being at homes. Here is the current state of celebrating monsoons, described by people from all over the country.
Nowadays, Chirasree Chakraborty keeps an eye on the radar while sitting at home to look for a system. As soon as she observes a formation, she rushes to her terrace with her camera to capture the beauty of the monsoons, unlike before when she used to chase the clouds through the highways while tracking them on radar and clicking the stunning formations from equally stunning locations of West Bengal. Nothing can be the reason for the transformation than the Coronavirus-led pandemic, which has, with all other things, also changed the way of celebrating monsoons for people.
Ms. Chakraborty is part of Kolkata Cloud Chasers, a team of extreme weather photographers who track, chase, and document storms and clouds. During her cloud chasing days, she has visited many places in West Bengal. From Sandakphu to Henry Island and Dhotre to Tajpur, all to capture the moods of clouds. “If there are a few things mysterious in nature, clouds will have to be one of them. In a tropical and agriculture-based country like ours, who hasn’t jumped in joy seeing rain cloud after a torturous summer?” asks the 47-year-old.
Not only this, she says, monsoons are also known for their gorgeous sunset colors for which she used to visit the Ghats, such as the Mallik Ghat, the Kumortuli Ghat, etc., to catch glimpses of the brilliance of these colors. The pandemic might have stopped Ms. Chakraborty from visiting such places, but she has not given up preserving the clouds in her photographs. “I am an ardent cloud lover,” she says.
Pandemic, a wall
Another photography enthusiast, Koushik Mohanta, considers the pandemic a wall between him and his photography during celebrating monsoons. “Though I am able to click pictures, pandemic has affected many things as I have to constantly maintain the precautions. I can also not approach or play with a group of people,” Mohanta mentions, as he used to play football with the children before.
Koushik, who belongs from Maynaguri, a place in Jalpaiguri district in West Bengal, is working on a monsoon-related series for which he has to visit various places. But he says that the time is nothing like the one before due to various restrictions. He remembers how he used to visit a nearby residential area every day during monsoons. “I used to observe the farmers growing jutes and crops and how they caught fishes. It always appeared to me as a game of balance, where they used to maintain the net while standing on a boat,” he says, adding that he, too, used to ride on their boats.
Back to salining boats
On the other hand, Shay has gone back to sailing paper boats in the water that she had left long back due to living in the hustle-bustle of the cities. “Big cities make it almost impossible to go out and play in the rain, due to traffic, but now I can do all of that. Working from home has made me again put a secret message or a wish in it and sail them in small puddles.”, says the 24-year-old who used to work in Pune, but now lives in her hometown at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh.
Now that she is back home, Shay misses playing dodge ball in the rain with friends and visiting waterfalls with her family. But what she misses the most is the go-to activity of her hometown people, which is to eat roasted corn by the roads. “We used to wait every year for the roadside corn shops to open up. But the last monsoon have stolen those moments from us,” she says. Despite the cons of the pandemic-infused lockdown for her, Shay also believes that the magic of the monsoons can never be lost, as she now enjoys it sprawled on a lounge chair listening to music and indulging in a book.
Writing, studying and cooking
For a Food and Beverage Consultant, Rachit Kirteeman, monsoon means “a myriad of fresh produce and great food one can find in this country.”. But even he cannot stop mentioning the local street food, which adds to the amazement of celebrating monsoons. “The season (monsoons) used to be either travelling to Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Puri or Dhenkanal districts in Orissa. I used to drive down to one of the beaches spread across 450 km of coastline and devouring fried fish and pakodas,” says the Cuttack-based chef.
Sadly with only takeaways being allowed in Orissa, Rachit says, one cannot enjoy the emotions of eating hot samosa with chutneys during the monsoon. He now writes about places he would have gone if things were normal and have also enrolled himself in a few online courses. He spares time to cook with his family and says that the pandemic has kept him grounded in a lot of ways. What he does not forget to say is, “there is something magical about having street side food when it pours.”
Sitting with grandma to listen to stories
Like Rachit, even Samiksha Saxena, who hails from Delhi, has started relishing self-catering dishes at home. “I have started to bake hot brownies with my sister and cuddle up with hot chocolate watching our favourite movie,” the 21-year-old student says. She talks about how she used to get irritated for getting stuck in traffic and carrying umbrellas during rains and how she misses all of them now. “I always had a love-hate kind of relationship with the monsoon. But I miss enjoying a cup of tea under the umbrella with my friends, and dancing in the rain after getting half wet,” she says adding, that her coffee dates have now been converted to virtual meets.
Samiksha says that she has learned the importance of slowing down due to the pandemic. “I like sitting with my dadi, feeling the cool breeze enter her room from the balcony as she tells me stories of her life. I also sit in the kitchen to help my mom in making chai and pakoras just like any Indian family during monsoon and enjoy the family time discussing how chai-pakoras have been a constant pre to post COVID-19,” Samiksha says.
“I have always been in love with the monsoon season pre-COVID-19 and I can say I’ve found my solace in monsoons even post the pandemic,” she adds.
Pandemic, an eye opener
Saying that the pandemic has just changed the way of celebrating monsoons will be partially correct for Agney B Suresh, a freelance cinematographer, and designer from Kerala, as it has also changed his whole perspective towards his village in Kozhikode. “When I lived in my village I never fully appreciated the beauty of it. Now that I am back after living in some of the major cities, I appreciate everything a lot more,” he says.
Agney used to be the kid who loved celebrating monsoons drenching with his friends while putting the umbrella given by his mom back in his bag! “I also loved visiting beaches when it rained. The drama at the sea is entirely different when its raining. It gives you a perspective about how irrelevant we are in nature,” he adds. Agney says that he feels disappointed to see the streams polluted with trash where he used to take dips during monsoons. He, hence, is now keen on visiting the places he used to earlier. “I think, I should experience it now before it’s too late. I am not sure if anything will be the same next time I visit,” he says.
Photography from the balcony
Being an independent wildlife researcher and photographer, it was not for Tripti Shukla to stay calm during monsoons, who best used to utilize this time exploring the Western Ghats. But now, she has found her peace in making timelapse videos from home and gardening while also enjoying the rain pourings with a book, compulsorily, only those with good illustrations!
Tripti, who is currently in her hometown Rewa, Madhya Pradesh, says that celebrating monsoons for her used to be looking at them as a lot of subjects for photography before the pandemic. “I always used to look for the puddle that reflects a subject and create a good symmetry. Window seats used to be a blessing where I could be creative through the raindrops,” the 29-year-old says, remembering her ‘Yellow Umbrella series” that she had started during monsoons.
Before the pandemic, Tripti says, another ritual for her was to visit various heritage sites that were closed to nature with her friends. However, it has now been restricted to capturing sunsets. Losing her father a few months back, Tripti is not travelling like before, leaving aside the COVID-19 restrictions. But the memories of the “joyous walk” with him after the rain showers used to settle down in her area are to stay with her, forever.