Monsoon is not another word for rain.
As its original Arabic name mausam indicates, it is actually a season.
There's a summer monsoon as well as a winter monsoon. But it is only the southwest
winds of summer make a mausam. - the season of rains. As for the
winter monsoon it's simply rain in winter. It's like a quick shower on a cold
and frosty morning. It leaves you chilled and shivering. Yes, it's good for
the crops, but people pray for it to end. Luckily, it does not last very long.
A few years ago, I was asked to make a program by the BBC about the Monsoon. At the time, Alexander Frater's "Chasing the Monsoon" was everybody's idea of how to translate the experience into media. It's a justly popular book, but I've never really warmed to it. I doesn't work for me for three reasons: first, because is very different in North from South India; in character and culture - in Kerala there's a whole culture of oil baths, in the north, Krishna imagery is basic to any experience of the monsoon; second, every year's monsoon follows different rhythms (one year it may fail, another come early, often and hard and then peter out after only a month; third, every person experiences his or her own monsoon differently.
I decided therefore to live the 1996 monsoon in Kanpur and the surrounding countryside. Kanpur is in central northern India, on the banks of the Ganges in the heart of Krishna culture. Other people, in different places in India, or even in the same place, would experience the mausam in totally different ways. Even the rain could feel different. What is certain is that the foods, rituals and folklore associated with the Monsoon would be different. So I made a conscious decision not to chase the monsoon, but try and establish a sense of place and people, to give my monsoon roots and context in time and place.
This is my diary of that monsoon.