I had come to the hills-Kumarhatti to be precise- to beat the heat of the plains. However, I was dismayed by the unexpected, unending dry spell. The morning walk was a stifling routine, sans pleasure; dust powdering the face and hair with the passing of every vehicle. Fortunately, last week of June proved blissful and heavenly for us and the withering vegetation on mountain slopes and sun scorched earth. For two successive days the rain gods showered their benedictions profusely. It drizzled, it rained and it poured. It was a much needed respite for wilting plants, shrubs and trees; yellow lifeless grass and parched soil. The spell of rain kindled life into tiny blades of grass which turned green overnight as if by a conjuring trick. The majestic pine trees regained their glory with pine needles exhibiting well rounded confidence. The hopes and prayers of hill people fructified and they got back their cheer and charm. Their hand pumps resumed pumping water and womenfolk were saved the back breaking chore of bringing water from distances. The dried up natural springs, water channels and rivulets sprang to life and beckoned the passers by, “Oh! Splash our water on your hot bodies and cool yourself inside out.”
The magic wrought by nature has to be seen to be believed. The refreshing walk after the rains threw a veritable visual feast of green shoots of plants and foliage which appeared suddenly and winked naughtily at us as if saying, “Aren’t you convinced now that this is Dev Bhoomi where gods and goddesses reside amongst simple, pious and uncorrupted people”. The lines written on the backs of their vehicles like jai Santoshi Ma, Bhawani Ma, Gango Ma, jai Shiv Bhole Nath and scores of others amply prove their unshakeable faith. The bounty of timely rains further strengthens theirs deeply religious beliefs. They express their gratitude through special prayers and midnight bhajan congregations. Many houses are afloat with tiny temple like structures on their roofs with red or yellow flags fluttering overhead.
After this, much sought after downpour, the tenements of locals looked washed and bright. The mood all around was upbeat and nothing could upstage the healthy, soothing and tickling cool of the weather, which was going to herald rejuvenation of man and nature in equal measure.
While lounging on the sofa and looking through the window, I could sense the hill slopes fully animated after quenching their thirst and having a tête-à-tête with the rain drops falling musically on the earth. While eavesdropping I could make out what the rain drops were murmuring to the slopes, “Don’t you worry, we would always be there for you to redress your grievances.”
Rains are the lifeline of agriculturists in hills. Over the next few days I saw neatly prepared small beds on the slopes being planted with rows and rows of tomato and bell pepper (Shimla Mirch) saplings and also seeds being sown for maize and other crops.
Since July the rainy season is in full swing. The rhythmic fall of raindrops lulls me into a wonderful feeling of inactivity filled with sweet day dreaming off and on. The sight of milky white sheets of clouds over the clear blue sky, after the rain stops and when sun tries to peek through the drifting clouds showcases a visual canvas of nature’s deft strokes. This game of ‘Hide and Seek’ between the sun and clouds is played many a time during the day. In the backdrop of approaching dusk the shapely tops of pines; swinging from side to side in the breeze gives the illusion of befriending the skies. The charisma of such wonders of nature instills hope in the human heart and leads one out of the furrows of day- to- day existence.
In hills rains have a distinct personality. Normally they come and go at their own sweet will. No warning is proclaimed in the form of rumbling and gurgling of thunder and flashes of white light of lightning. Even in the course of a single day the number of visitations of this beautiful entity can be counted. They arrive like a guest who is always welcome and is extended another invite before he departs. Unlike in plains it rains here in straight lines as if it passes through a mammoth sieve up above. Also it produces a soft and friendly musical beat minus slants and sweeps.
Thanks to the elixir of abundant rainfall, different varieties of flowers, bordering the flats have started blooming unannounced in a kaleidoscope of rioting colours in our complex. The journey from bud to blossom was sudden and short like a young girl’s developing curves and bright skin tone quite abruptly on attaining puberty.
Now and then, within minutes the whole area gets engulfed in mist, rising from the flanks of the mountains and visibility is considerably reduced. And at other times the outside is clouded with haze selectively and only parts of the scene are discernible. And then in no time mist is blown away showing everything so clearly once again. And one exclaims, “What a sight!! Is it Alice’s Wonderland? ” “How could Ruskin Bond not get inspired by such picture perfect natural settings for penning his inimitable short stories?”
In the midst of such splendour and indescribable beauty my head bows in gratitude for the munificence which nature bestows on us and my mind echoes John Keats’ line, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.”