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Summer Rain on Someone's Parade - Contrasting Metaphors

Popularity 1Viewed 1000 times 2015-12-25 07:55 |Personal category:Quote Me|System category:Life| summer, rain, parade, contrasting, metaphors

The Earth is parched and scorched in the merciless sun. The sky has been cloudless or sometimes an odd, isolated cloud floats in the vast blue ocean that is the sky. It is a bit of divine teasing. Heat and dust is everywhere around. Not enough water to drink, bathe, cook, wash clothes and clean. People are looking dirty, raggedy and 'hot under the collar', which literally develops a dark, almost black ring of smear from a mixture of sweat and dirt in the air within a few hours of taking a shower and putting on fresh new clothes. This dark band shows up in high contrast and homemakers pay particular attention to it by handwashing it.

Children, who are kept within concrete, heat radiating walls of houses with fans or air-conditioners running for their own comfort, feel imprisoned. They still want to get out and play in the dusty small 'parks' with little shade or among the literally bubbling and boiling tar bubbles in the bitumen on the streets. People try and duck under the shade of whatever they can find. One can only imagine the resilience and forbearance of those living in the streets or under bridges or in places without water, fans or air conditioning.

Women have it better with their own sarees or long traditional scarves used to provide personal shade. Some cheeky roadside Romeos have been known to beg for 'shade' from those they want to flirt with. Men have it tougher having let of the tradtional head gear or turbans of yore. They suffer mightily under ties and  western style suits that are truly ill-suited to the Indian climate.

The plants and trees all around seem to be on the edge of drying up into a crisp. The green of their leaves has become darker and is coated with a layer of brown dust. Birds seems to strangely brave the heat and still go around hunting for scraps that even the keenest of human eyes cannot spot. They seem to find the smallest puddle or spill of water anywhere even in the mighty metropolis or the remotest village. Sometimes, the deceptive resilience of the birds is shown to be false as some birds do literally drop dead from the heat, dehydration and exhaustion while flying.

All over the vast land, the bright, relentless sun bakes the earth and it seems that soon everyone and everything under it will be cooked and dead. In recent history, in India, as the saying goes - only mad dogs and Englishmen will venture out in the sun during the Indian summer. Historically, when India did not have the big, metropolises with tens of millions in each, it was still easier to escape the heat under the shade of trees, under thatched roofs of huts of mud-buildings. Good fresh, usable water was still available to stave off death due to dehydration.

Whether it was ancient India or modern India, the Indian summer is a renowned one, all over the world. Most people that I met overseas, when it got hot by their standards in their summer, would often ask me with a smile -
"Is it hot enough for you?" or "You must be enjoying this right? Must get much hotter back in India!"

Of course, I would have to remind them that it is not completely true of ALL of India and that there are places in India where it gets to minus -30 degrees in winter or colder than in many parts of their country.

But you get the picture, from the villages to the cities to the forests and deserts of India, there is usually a length of time when it has been hot and dry. You can see and feel the 'thirst' for water in everyone and everything around on the ground. Nature makes one wait... and wait. There is nowadays a great anticipation in the news, the meteorological department forecasts and satellite pictures and commentary, all trying to predict when "The Great Indian Monsoon" will arrive. Often the pre-monsoon clouds will arrive first with nothing to show on the ground. It is like the gods are still teasing the creatures on earth.

Traditionally, it has always been the grown ups who start to talk, moan and complain and build up the mood for the monsoon. The kids are caught up in their world of play and fun. Everything seems to be at breaking point when suddenly, as the children play in the street, in the dust, huge, warm drops of water plop down on the dust. These drops are different from the ones that follow in the steady rain. It would seem that a couple of them are enough to wash your face with. Large, warm, soothing drops that feel a bit like human touch. Some will sizzle on the hot roads or roof tops, giving off steam these days. One can hear the hissing sound as if the earth is trying to suck up every rain drop noisily. The wind cooled down by the rain will only arrive a little later. There is first the sparse but definite spattering of heavy drops that create dark spots in the mud and dribble down faces. They carry some of the dust in the air and are a bit dirty drops.

The whole earth underneath seems to rise to meet the drops of precious, life-giving ambrosia - to get it just that little bit sooner. Children often strip off their dirty tops, jump up and down squealing in delight. All faces turn towards the sky to catch some rain drops in the face. People wearing glasses are at a disadvantage. They need to take them off and will experience a blurred vision of a bit of heaven. Within minutes a scent arises from even the dirtiest and dustiest patch of ground that is considered one of nature's finest. The smell of earth getting wet after a long spell of dryness and heat. Even the old and infirm in many parts of India come out to catch the rain on themselves. It is an indescribable experience, however I will give it a go.

There is something in it for everyone. The shouts of sheer delight, the jumping for joy, often groups of children and even adults will break into a song and dance. When the first thunder and lightning approach, the more timid and easily scared, especially little children, are shocked. Some will run screaming to their parents or guardians. Then the real downpour comes, the water drops get a bit cooler and smaller. They drench the people and clean out the air above. The cheeky roadside Romeos will get to see women whose light clothes have been thoroughly soaked and rendered semi-transparent.

The tiniest creature seems to respond to this dose of moisture and mood. No one can tell where the high flying birds seem to have disappeared to, or from where the billions upon billions of insects of a hundred species appear instantly and magically - the most annoying ones always in the majority, with the mosquitoes leading the way. Nevertheless, the earth gets another years lease of life in India. It has to be renewed yearly and nature mostly honours her contract. If it were not so, there would never be a land such as India.

People welcome the dark, low, nimbus and low cumulus clouds approaching from the south. They are often compared or described as the dark tresses of an eagerly awaited lover that provides such cool comfort and is welcomed with wild celebrations. Much has been written, composed, sung and glorified about the dark clouds, the rain, the refreshing coolness as the life-giving beauties they really are.

Now perhaps one will understand why we have metaphors in Indian literature and culture so much in contrast to the metaphors for the same human feelings in the colder Western countries.

Saying that "You have a sunny smile or disposition" sounds incongruent to most in the Indian experience - if one experienced the scorching, blistering sun in India (or even in Australia). India has songs describing someone we love very much as "You are like the dark cloud, you are the deep shade".  Contrast this with the Western idea of a 'shady' character.

Poetic Indian expressions such as "Your looks are cool and soothing", which if literally translated would have the opposite of the intended effect on the listener. "Raining on someone's parade" literally translated would be welcome in large parts of India.

We all want and cherish what have less of!

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report Dr.Bill.Shen 2015-12-25 16:12
a very delightful read. very philosophical and metaphorical. we must respect the difference of different people. some of that stark differences are the very creation of mother nature.
Reply Report KIyer 2015-12-25 16:15
Dr.Bill.Shen: a very delightful read. very philosophical and metaphorical. we must respect the difference of different people. some of that stark differences are th ...
Thank you for your comments, Bill! Glad you enjoyed reading it.

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