Unseen Passage: Rain

When you grow up in a place where it rains five months a year, wise elders help you to get acquainted with the rain early. They teach you that it is ignorant to think that it is the same rain falling every day. Oh no, the rain is always doing different things at different times. There is rain that is gentle, and there is also rain that falls too hard and damages the crops. Hence, the prayers are for the sweet rain that helps the crops to grow.The monsoon in the Naga hills goes by the native name, khuthotei (which means the rice-growing season). It lasts from May to early or mid-October. The local residents firmly believe that Durga Puja in October announces the end of rain. After that, one might expect a couple of short winter showers, and the spring showers in March and April. Finally, comes the “big rain” in May; proper rainstorms accompanied by heart-stopping lightning and ear-splitting thunder. I have stood out in storms, looking at lightning arc across dark skies, a light- and-sound show that can go on for hours.

This is the season when people use the word sezuo or sizu to refer to the week-long rains, when clothes don’t dry and smell of mould, when fungus forms on the floor and when you can’t see the moon or the stars because of the rainclouds. But you learn not to complain. Rain, after all, is the farmer’s friend and brings food to the table. Rituals and festivals centre around the agricultural rhythm of life, which is the occupation of about 70 per cent of the population.

The wise learns to understand its ways. I grew up hearing my grandfather say, “It’s very windy this year. We’ll get good rain.” If the windy season was short and weak, he worried there might not be enough rain for the crops. I learned the interconnectedness of the seasons from childhood, arid marvelled at how the wind could bring rain. Another evening, many rainy seasons ago, my paternal aunt observed the new moon and worried, “Its legs are in the air, we’re in for some heavy rain.” She was right. That week, a storm cut off power lines and brought down trees and bamboos.

Eskimos boast of having a hundred of names for snow. Norwegians in the north can describe all kinds of snow by an equal amount of names: pudder, powder snow, wet snow, slaps, extra wet snow, tight snowfall, dry snow, and at least 95 more categories of snow. Likewise, in India we have names and names for rain. Some are common, some are passing into history.

The rains are also called after flowering plants and people believe that the blossoming of those plants draws out rain. Once the monsoon’s set in, field work is carried out in earnest and the work of uprooting and transplanting paddy in flooded terrace fields is done. The months of hard labour are June, July and August. In August, rain, also called phrogii, is a sign that the time for cultivation is over. If any new grain seeds are sown, they may not sprout; even if they do sprout, they are not likely to bear grain. The rain acts as a kind of farmer’s almanac.

The urban population of school-goers and office-goers naturally dislikes the monsoon and its accompanying problems of landslides, muddy streets and periodic infections. For non-farmers, the month of September can be depressing, when the rainfall is incessant and the awareness persists that the monsoons will last out till October. One needs to have the heart of a farmer to remain grateful for the watery days, and be able to observe—from what seems to the inexperienced as a continuous downpour—the many kinds of rain. Some of the commonly known rain-weeks are named after the plants that alternately bloom in August and September. The native belief is that the flowers draw out the rain.

Each rain period has a job to fulfil: October rain helps garlic bulbs to form, while kumunyo rain helps the rice bear grain. Without it, the ears of rice cannot form properly. End October is the most beautiful month in the Naga hills, as the fields turn gold and wild sunflowers bloom over the slopes, all heralding the harvest. Prayers go up for protecting the fields from storms, and the rains to retreat because the grain needs to stand in the sun and ripen. The cycle nears completion a few weeks before the harvest, and the rain does retreat so thoroughly from the reaped furrows that the earth quickly turns hard. The months of rain become a distant memory until it starts all over again.

Q. On the basis of your understanding of the above passage, complete the statements given below with the help of options that follow:

  1. The rains are called after flowering plants because
    1. heavy rains kill plants.
    2. flowers grow in the rainy season.
    3. it is believed that the plants bring the rain.
    4. flowers grow all the year round.
  2. The rain is like a calendar for farmers because
    1. it tells them when to sow and when to harvest.
    2. it tells them the birthdays of their children.
    3. each month has a time for plantation.
    4. different kinds of rain tell different things.
  3. People who live in cities don’t like rain because
    1. it brings mud and sickness with it.
    2. they are not bothered about the farmers.
    3. they don’t like the plants that grow during the rain.
    4. going shopping becomes difficult.
  4. People pray asking the rain to retreat because
    1. the fungus and mould to dry.
    2. children don’t get a chance to play.
    3. the crops need the sun and heat to ripen.
    4. they like to pray.
  5. Why do the elders want you to understand the rains in the Naga hills ?
  6. What does Durga Puja mean to the farmers of the Naga hills ?
  7. What kind of rain is called sezuo ?
  8. What is the occupation of more than half the population of the Naga hills ?
  9. How is the heart of the farmer different from that of the city person ?
  10. When does rain become a memory in the minds of the people of the Naga hills ?
  11. Find words from the passage which mean the same as the following:
    1. flowering (para 6)
    2. non-stop (para 7)

Answer

  1. it is believed that the plants bring the rain.
  2. it tells them when to sow and when to harvest.
  3. it brings mud and sickness with it.
  4. the crops need the sun and heat to ripen.
  5. The elders want us to understand the rains in the Naga hills because rain always does different things at different times. It tells us when to sow and harvest. It can be gentle or too hard leaving the crops damaged.
  6. Durga Puja means the end of the rainy season to the farmers of the Naga hills.
  7. Sezuo refers to the week-long rains, when clothes do not dry and there is a smell of mould, when fungus forms on the floor and when we cannot see the moon or the stars because of the rain clouds.
  8. The occupation of more than half the population on the Naga hills is farming.
  9. The city person dislikes the rain because of landslides, muddy streets and periodic infections. He finds incessant rain depressing. However, a farmer remains grateful for the rainy days.
  10. Rain becomes a memory in the minds of the people of the Naga hills, when the cycle comes near its completion a few weeks before the harvest.
  11. Words are:
    1. blossoming
    2. incessant

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