Come monsoon, my mother can’t stop rewinding to her childhood spent in Thiruvilwamala in Kerala’s Thrissur district. As Hyderabad experienced the first pre-monsoon shower yesterday, I heard my mother telling Tejaswini (my daughter) how her school would reopen on the day the monsoon would set foot in Kerala.
My guess is there are few places in India more enchanting and romantic than Kerala, particularly in the month when the rain is born. The umbrellas those days, my mother was telling Teju, were made with a wooden stick in the centre, that would not open once the wood expanded after getting wet. Which meant only the huge leaves of colocasia plucked from the roadside served as cover for the head. In one hand would be the school bag, lunch box in the other, along with trying to balance the leaf, which would sway wildly in the wind.
“What fun,” exclaimed Teju.
“By the time, we would reach the school, a distance of 2 km by foot, barefoot, we would be totally wet and through the day, the uniform would get dry. Only to get wet all over again in the afternoon.” I could tell my mother’s thoughts had gone a long, long way back in time.
The Kerala monsoon is not a T-20 like three and a half hour long affair. In keeping with Kerala’s hartal culture, it is as if even God once it begins to rain, goes on a strike and refuses to turn the tap off. And it is part of everyday animated conversation about how there has been no let-up in the rains at all, much like a grandparent complaining indulgently about how naughty a grandchild is. Neither does the grandparent wants things to be any different, nor the people of Kerala. Everyone in the state loves a good monsoon.
The Keralite’s other major passion, football, is back on the ground with a splash in the rain. Particularly in Malappuram, the Mecca of football in Kerala. Since this is the off-season, when professional football players rest, seven-a-side matches are held not just to celebrate the monsoon but also to test the prowess of players to battle the opposition and the elements. It is a battle of wits, dirt and skill on a slushy field.
Passion for the game in the rain runs so high that Malappuram even has a Monsoon Football Club which organises some 50 tournaments during the month. And soccer-crazy Malayalees return to Kerala in June from the Middle East just to watch these matches.
Pretty similar is the case with the Kanga league in Mumbai, described as the `heart and soul of Mumbai cricket’. This tournament is to cricket in the monsoon what Malappuram is to soccer. And cricketers to date swear that if you want to perfect your technique, you got to test your wares on a wet wicket at the Kanga League when the Rain God is showing no mercy on the Maximum city. And budding cricketers don’t need to look far for inspiration. A certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar honed his craft here as a 12-year-old. He has since hit 99 international centuries.