Chennai remained wet for many days; low pressure lay like a monster for days near the coast of Bay of Bengal. There were torrential downpours; grey water blankets fell all through the nights until the pores of the earth could take no further. The rainwater spread like rippled carpets all across the city, forming rainbows patterns on spilt oil, opaque grey smudges over gargoyles of sewage. Gentle waves lapped as vehicles drove cautiously through the sheets of water and cut through slabs of slush.
Once the rains had spent itself of its fierceness, the low pressure brooded sullenly pouring bucketfuls at the most unsolicited moments –when someone was a few yards from his office, or when a person was waiting for the traffic lights to change, or when women swathed in yards of silk were leaving to attend a marriage (remember, it is the Thamizh month of Karthigai – the month auspicious for weddings, upanayanams, engagements).
Now we have had seven perfectly dry days. The trees are all awash green, a freshness permeates the air; polished and waxy leaves reflect the brightness of an unclouded sky. Dragonflies swarm the air, droning through the lazy afternoons. Heat hangs heavy around the dappled shadows cast by large trees. Multi hued butterflies descend on flowers and spill pollen. Isals cloud the twilight sky and come indoors in search of lights. They lose their fragile lacy wings as they bump on tube lights and filament lamps. Bereft of wings they crawl on walls and floors only to be devoured by house lizards that retreat languidly behind large photographs after their feast.
The morning air is crisp, ropes of heavy chillness press down the skin of morning walkers. Mamis have turned meteorologists – they observe the nippiness in the air, point to the dew on the leaves and wetness on the grass and announce that it is pani. Pani, they say, is a death knell for monsoon. So according to them we are through with rains for the year, at least the type that comes with low pressure and cyclones. It will rain during Karthigai deepam, which is just a week away. It will turn windy; the gusts will frustratingly put out the lamps that are kept out to decorate homes in the evenings.
The Sunday Express newspaper had a section on Margazhi ( the Thamizh month that extends between 15th December and 15th January ), which is a good two weeks away. Margazhi is undoubtedly a beautiful month, but let us celebrate the month of Karthigai first.
There is the right amount of dampness and a comforting heat that is conducive for the procreation of various organisms. My terrace garden of hundred pots is teeming with life; it is a planet of existence. There are worms, insects, dragonflies, and butterflies, gluttonous and bulbous caterpillars that will sleep like Rip Van Winkle and tear out as butterflies, flowers, pollen dust and seeds that spill on the red tiled floor. Pigeons and crows visit every morning to peck at the rice ball that my cook leaves on an earthen plate. There are a variety of flowers – sunset yellow, washed out pink and bright red roses, ruby red jathi malli, clusters of violet coloured morning glory, white, pink and red hibiscus, milk white and cream textured nandia vattai, pink and white oleanders, maroon, pink, orange and sandal coloured ixoras and red and violet December flowers.
Quite like the earth and atmosphere that exhibit a tumultuous throbbing of life and celebration, the spirits of the people are astir after a satisfying monsoon. This is the season for marriages. Sastrigals tear across the city on motorbikes with their wet hair let loose to dry, to make in time for marriages. Garland makers deliver special custom made garlands of roses and lilies dripping with water and dew, these garlands woven expertly carry a fancy price. Women dressed in pattu pudavai and men in jarigai veshti make the most of this season, for Karthigai is the month for matters all temporal.