notes on the arrival of rain from the place it's born

Abstract, came after the text fell in place. It is not very necessary to have it here but some extra words seem to linger in the head and it needs some space. This is the origin of this abstract. Just like you don’t always wish for rain especially when you have to go somewhere. Writing about rain didn’t happen out of any urgency but it's something that happened. It’s much like writing about snow or the clouds, both are forms of water but not water in itself. You don’t need to write about experiencing it but you do it for doing it. There is no politics in the act other than distilling of thoughts. Rain is a transitory state when water in the clouds reaches the earth below. Events like a shower or a rainstorm you don’t think much about.

An additional snippet, this thought happens while reading a book since I liked its title and an anime I had to finish seeing. I tell it in two days and an epilogue. Both are set, in rain, but not about rain itself.

DAY 01

It is not possible to not think about rain these days. The noise of water after a while when the wind picks up drowns out everything. You cannot hear the sounds in your head but just the inundating crashing of water, leaves, and branches against the walls of an already wet house. The wetness gets annoying after a while. When you touch the walls on the inside, it is damp. Even if it is dry, it still feels like everything will get wet soon.

Rain in a city like Mumbai is different than rain in a not that big a city of Thiruvananthapuram. Mumbai is flat while in Thiruvananthapuram, I see a lot of hills rising out of the coconut trees. Clouds get more space to float around in Mumbai while, in Thiruvananthapuram, they are slapped around by the hills. The form of the rain dropping is dependent on the geography it is falling in. Here, it is mostly beating against the coconut trees while in the megapolis it is everyone from the Indo-Saracenic to the slums, to the million-dollar mansions in the sky.

The tourism department has made the monsoons look cool in their brochures. If you live here long enough, you will, too, bicker about them. It is very grey and green here instead of all the blue and green we see in print. And the internet ads. The chaps at the bureau do make the best ads. Both last year and now it has all been grey all throughout the year. I do not remember summer or winter last year. There are days when it is sunny, it is nice. But those days are few now. Grey days are the norm.

Before the 2018 floods, things were fine. The flood days were bad. Thiruvananthapuram was alright because of its hills but everywhere else in the state the loss of life and property was devastating. Even with all the incessant thunderstorms today, #keralafloods seems a distant memory. A few weeks back when the Tauktae came by floral debris buried the neighborhood. It was a scene. After that, for Yaas, it was all about the wind. It blew all over but since the damage was done, it is just the angry wind.

In the city, owing to very tall buildings and the people around, storms seem to come and go. Yes, the tracks get flooded and there is someone who occasionally falls down a manhole, but it all seems a memory forgotten, too, by the season moves on. Disasters are shelved in the dustbin of time, someone commented on Facebook the other day.

Here, there are not many tall buildings, and houses are not packed so close to each other. There are well too many trees that crash and heave around you. Bellowing of wind through the trees is not much fun at 3 in the night or morning on how you see the time. Cleaning up after a storm is also a very new idea for me. If either a branch or a tree has not fallen, then it is easy. Just the leaves, seeds, rotten fruits, those kinds of things. The neighbour’s teak trees are the most annoying. They have large leaves and huge quantities of pods that the winds dislodge.

I watch Weathering with You to catch up on a recent Twitter trend of anime details. If anime has channeled theories on architectural drawing, watching anything by Makoto Shinkai should facilitate a reconsidering of landscape representation. Only in drawing do you realize that rain, too, can have anatomy, and even at its most mundane, it is magical.

day 02

Listening to rain patterns in the last few months, the sounds heard are alternating. Yesterday it was pouring all over, and today it is bright and dry. The crashing of water is distant, though the greyness is there. Different intensities of grey and the sun, I would not want to bestow on it any out-worldly emotion other than that is annoyingly teasing an impending disaster. Japanese anime makes rain look unnecessarily surreal that the tourism advertisements are not able to rival, whatever tricks they pull.

There is a Kerala of those who live here, then a Kerala of the stories; there is a political Kerala, there is a Kerala of tourism and finally, there is a Kerala as told of by the NRI’s. The state, for all theoretical purposes, is made popular by those who have left it or those who have ancestry associated with the land. There is also the ‘100% literacy’ statistics too. Politics is all very local other than for Mr. Tharoor and now Shailaja teacher. It is exceedingly rare when someone truly local has much to say about the place other than to complain about it. Hence mandatory hypothesis is, all tall tales, stories of greatness about the state are performed at a distance.

Writing on Kerala rains is always better than writing while it is raining in Kerala, especially with the distractions of disasters that unfold as local miniatures or distant magnanimous unfolding. How the desert defines Rajasthan, the monsoon does that to Kerala. The rains in the country arrive first here, ideally in early June.

I borrow the title of this telling from Anita Nair’s compilation ‘Where the Rain is Born, Writings about Kerala.’ There are several traditions to discuss geography but looking at it through the lens of a climatic event is an intriguing position. The title “A Place Where the Rain is Born” gives it a melodramatic CoMix Wave Films production trait, because of which, the rain birthed in real life seems uninteresting.

Time and mediums have changed the perception of rain in the state and therefore, how we know the Kerala of then. While my view of rain is a point of view, Nair’s compilation collects various characters who find themselves in an imagination which is Kerala. A dated 2002ish imagination of a time before social media and the internet.

There is Kerala and there is India. Rain in Kerala is different from the rain in other parts of the country. Describing rain as an event is almost describing Kerala through its narratives of a time. However, you try to bidirectionally link it, no two rainfalls are the same. Either you are experiencing it differently or you are experiencing it in a different location, even the intensity of the raindrops falling on you will vary accordingly. It is about the intensity of your concentration on the rain, they say. Anita’s collection is two generations older.

Wherever I find the mention of rain, the water that falls collects into a memory that is vastly different from the ones falling on the glass of the skylight above me. It is badly detailed, like the staircase that floods; but you see rainfall above you and not get wet. Anxiety makes us cover it sometimes.

epilogue.

Between the day before, yesterday, and today a Windows update brings a little ticker on the taskbar that shows the forecast almost live. These things are not quite accurate but personal everyday tracking your weather as a live stream wasn’t a thing anytime in the past. Even if we don’t want to think about the rain, we are forced to consider it and an app is making decisions on our cerebral and physical articulations.

We then begin to think about the weather and how should we react to it. These can lead to either writing, drawing, or talking about the weather when we get the opportunity to. Writing, unlike drawing, can be wet. We never made wet architectural drawings. There was no need to represent either emotions or the performance of buildings in rain. It was always about the shadow, sun, and light. Wet buildings never made it into any construction drawings. That, I know of.

This tiny tool for thought can probably change the way we design our buildings to get washed by nature from time to time, instead of now how in most cases just resists the water. The way we think about water as adding to the narratives we are building in our spatial culture.

#references

text edit VS04.01 dated 210809.1225 

annexure 01. weathering with you

I found it ok. Your Name was better for its storyline and put you more on the edge. The landscapes were wider there than here, understandably to capture the rain it is set in. To study drawings, ideas, and storytelling within a body of work helps in better appreciating what is seen and heard. Owing to a lack of momentary resources the log of this screengrab collection is to record a future possibility of looking into the anatomy of rain. A permanent note to get back to, the study of the form of rain and the various ways it can fall to the ground from the clouds. Like all Japanese anime, you have to play it with the subtitles on. The list of frames I have tried to collect are those which just remain as frames and there are no dialogues or characters. No one speaks or the soundtrack doesn’t throw out any subtitles to read. Hence the bland scenes are the ones collected. To gaze on the stage created is the objective here. The rain becomes a character in itself and is a parallel narrative to concentrate on with a certain hidden poetry to excavate.

annexure 02. where the rain is born

Rain is quite basic an event unless it becomes a storm. It’s a storm that stages the rain in Weathering. There is no mention of any storm in Anita’s compilation, unfortunately. An account of intense rain maybe. Stories and biographies that make up the lot are drawn from three main source types as much as I have managed to trace in, Penguin Random house book excerpts, archival texts, and Kerala tourism brochures. Ideally, I would have preferred to have found patterns in the collection to arrive at a way of looking at the book but it's all very diverse. Approximately, I located events, cultural idiosyncrasies, personas, and family tales in the note-taking exercise the ensued the reading. The lot is neither too bad nor that good. Just like the anime kinda ok. Worth reading once at least, I guess.

  • introduction — coming back to Kerala, an outsider, someone who visits a past, making of the average narrative
  • the corridor — on a corridor but there aren’t too many corridors in Kerala houses, of that I know from vernacular architecture
  • chasing the monsoon — events around announcing the arrival of the southwest monsoon while getting an ayurvedic massage and meeting Kamala Das
  • charlis and i — caste in Kerala and its changing perception with time, economics
  • marthanda varma — moving the capital from Charote to Trivandrum
  • the village before time — islands of religion and caste
  • chemmeen — fishermen’s wives, family, boats, the sea
  • grandmother’s funeral — gathering in the living room before the coffin leaves for church
  • in search of doubting Thomas — history of a saint, the future of his gospel and disciples
  • the blue light — living with a ghost in a rented house
  • fools paradise — on being a woman in Assam and but mostly Kerala
  • where everything is different — Kerala in myth and history
  • the first lessons — children on vacations
  • butter chicken in ludhiana — Kottayam via Cochin then to Kovalam beach
  • the expanse of imagination — Vaikom Muhammad Basheer’s world
  • karkitakam — certain politics around food
  • the voice — music, Yesudas, memories
  • mattancheri in manhattan — poem, girls and boys
  • the moors last sign — Jewish family matters around Cochin
  • sesame seeds, flowers, water — writing to a mother who passed away
  • the garden of the antlions — a doctor and his patients
  • footballer — life and times of a native sports star
  • on the banks of the mayyazhi — church festivals and rituals
  • the power of one — my tour of the state
  • God’s own country — summer vacation with the family
  • hangman’s journal — an oral record of a craft
  • those were the daze — last days of prince and princess
  • ancient promises — leaving the family behind and moving in with a new one after marriage
  • the thief of memories — good times in someone’s past
  • the mountain was as flat as a football field on the top — learnings from climbing a mountain
  • stalinist and indian: EMS Namboodiripad — biography of an Indian communist statesman
  • the bonsai tree — evening with the family
  • mundu, meesha, kumbha, koda: the sartorial splendor of the malayali male — portrait of a local man
  • the town they come from — falling in love, trying to run away, a narrative of courtship
  • the swamp — random notes on life, living, and in-betweenness

i think #architecture #urbanism and #curation