Ode to rain god
Through the small opening of the thatched, mud hut the elderly peasant gazed upon the wheat fields at a distance- meadows ablaze in fiery gold, the ground cracked and lifeless, craving for water. The unbearable heat generated a commotion in the hot, humid air, blurring the greying man's vision of the far away fields. Crows hovered over the pasture, their haunting cacophonous cry breaking the dead silence of the day. The clouds hung heavy and grim, for days, showing no signs of a downpour. The scorching boishakh had passed, and so did jaishtha. And as it seemed, nature remained faithful to her cruel self. The parched lands longed for a cool wave of freshness. But rain, it seemed, was locked within the canopy of grey clouds.
Devout and religious, he performs the ablution. Pouring water from the tarnished brass pot, the only remains of his glorious past, the farmer wets his hands and face; waters the nostrils and washes the feet. Repeating each act thrice to attain ritual purity. Standing firm on his two feet, he declares the shahada, and raises the right index declaring his witness to the unity of Allah and the prophecy of the messenger. Facing west he raises two hands, and uttering the takbir isolates himself from the realms of materialistic life to engage in a communiqué with the Lord, a one on one, a humble supplication for rain.
Like the old peasant, I often look beyond the tinted glass window. The city skyline offers a charm less display of concrete tops. Bonsai buildings budding in every accommodating space, making way for a six-storey slum! My childhood memory of hearing rain drop on our tin shed seems like a distant past, yet the recollection kept in meticulous detail, and unfailing freshness.
Sometimes I stand in my balcony as it rains; smoking sticks of cheap Pallmall that I have started to like only recently. The southern wind hits my den with a fierce intensity, bringing along with it a gust of the pouring rain. And I feel cleansed. My innumerable acts of sinful defiance seek redemption. With every piercing droplet of water on my skin, I feel my prayers answered. And as the shower intensifies, my sorrows wash away, my pain assuage.
In the outback, rain cleanses the earth. The first splash of water brings out the latent heat and along with it, the smell of rain. As the vegetation renew their vitality with newfound enthusiasm, freshly sown seeds swell and sprout. A boy in checkerboard lungi takes his herd of water buffalos to the banks of the nearby river. As the hydrophilic bovines cherish the down pour out in the open, the boy just past his adolescence takes refuge under the green canopy making garlands for the village belle. And hums a tune picked up from the ferryman.
Rain also reminds me of solitude, and of love found and lost. The symphony of the rain has now transformed into a muffled sound, audible and harmonious only to solitary souls who care to listen. To the clouds I ask to convey my message of love. And they travel to distant lands, across oceans and seas. Whether she ever listens I never know for the clouds return grimmer, and sad. But I remain, hopelessly optimistic and in anticipation for glad tidings of love lost and regained.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed