Perspectives from the Himalaya

Rain Stories

Clouds gather in the sky. Their shades of grey multiply, their shapes transmogrify. The wind sweeps through, a gentle messenger bringing the scent of rain. A hush fell over the land where its earth had been toiled, dislodged and resettled. The air when once, filled with dust and debris, din and drill, now swells as rain begins to form. And when the first raindrop lodges its sweet kiss upon the ground, there is a premonition of things anew. The land that stands on the precipice of respite, scars etched upon its surface, is about to be given a reprieve.

The vault above released its clench and rain poured and the land reclaimed life. The plants drank deeply from its generous offerings and thrived again. The creatures emerged from hibernation, their thirst quenched and their moods lifted. The cycle of life continues its eternal rhythm, a delicate balance we bow with reverence. And with each crystal drop that falls, the land begins to tell its stories; stories of resilience and endurance, of love and loss, of hope and rebirth.

Wildflowers puncture the harsh landscape, their titchy heads bobbing with the mighty wind. Trivial they may seem but they are stories of conquered adversity, making home no matter where. Their roots burrowed deeply into the parched ground, tap into hidden water reserves far below the surface. They adjust their growth when the weather is fitting, and form an intricate tapestry with the insects and the elements. They behold their unspoken beauty that life’s challenges need not break them but rather, shape them into something extraordinary. And so when the sun dips below the hills, the little dots of periwinkle, pink and purple stand bold and the stories of their resilience dance through the ages.

In the fresh dawn, a haunting call is heard. Echo awakes, rustling through the leaves and boughs. With powerful wings, the raven glides assuringly low to the ground and then swoops up towards its guarding post on the roof. This bird of ancient lore with piercing eyes watches, hovers and circles the land with faithfulness. It speaks in croaks and caws so low that it is a language only the ravens know. Attuned to changes in the atmosphere, Echo tells us of impending storms.

The pressure flushes in the warm afternoon and the wind brings the cumulus, billowing and swelling in the vast expense. These colossal cauliflowers hang tall threatening to unleash pent-up emotions. But alas, they spattered a little and were hurried on to some other hill. They left patterns of droplets that disappeared as quickly as they came and tiny trails of water on dusty roofs, marking constipated traits. A wailing chant broke the silent appeal. There were only the tramps of young footsteps. And in that twinge, the little one asked Mama I why the disheartened look. She turned her gaze and heard the howling of the other. It settled within, like a heavy fog, the air burdened with atoms of apathy. With a sense of ennui, he acted out his great drama of adolescence existence; his story an achingly human one, mired in quotidian details. Alienation inches in. There is an inkling of being forgotten for there is nothing here except a scattering of houses carved around the wind shadow or bathed in southern sunshine. It is just steps of the earth, a rawness of noxious weed, and a smatter of human intervention. And abandoned fields of daisies, soon dead as dodos. The kid decries the scene in lamentation. Like the unattended fields, perhaps beauty can emerge when we let things be.

In the weeks to come, clusters of dark and ominous cumulonimbus formed from the creeping heat. Zeus was flighty and storms raged. There were lashings of bolts and flashes of light, but Gaia awakened from her slumber, kept his hold and gifted symphonies of healing tones that echoed throughout the walls and the land as if the rain itself was breathing anew. Buds began to sprout. Tiny leaves unfurled. Tender shoots emerged, guided by an instinct to grow and thrive.

March arrived and the trotting of Time met with the scent of Spring. An unexpected snow shower in the Annapurna brought an unexpected appearance of Pa and Little R. Pa, on the ridge of the eighth decade of his life has his heights high to trail the peaks of Astam. And so when Pa comes to visit, life takes a hearty turn:

When Pa comes to visit, I feel like a little one again

The comfort of his presence, softens the worriment gained

He’s been my rock since an offspring, offering his hand

And even now fully fledged, his love is still as grand

We gather together, engage in heartfelt conversation

Hours slip away as we reconnect, bridging separation

His patient ears absorb the stories of our lives

Offering nuggets of insight, rubbing out strife

We hike up the winding trails, with stories from his past

Of peaks he’s climbed and paths he’s crossed, all while it last

A glimmer of mirth twinkled in his gaze, his spirit unfrayed

A man who’s had his escapades, in the beauty of nature displayed

We reach the summit with a gasp, the view beyond compare

The world spread out before us, as if it’s offered up to share

Where we stand with Pa around, to embrace fresh beginnings

We see that anything is possible, a chance for life’s rewinding

The intricate dance of life, challenges and adversities intertwine,

A tapestry woven with trials and triumphs, a design so fine.

Each obstacle, a stepping stone in the grand theatre of existence,

A testament to resilience, an opening for growth and persistence

Through the labyrinth of life, we forge our paths together anew,

Navigating uncharted territories, discovering strength we never knew.

The winds of upheaval may howl, and storms may fiercely rage,

But within the tempest, we find the seeds of wisdom in life’s stage

So, when Pa comes to visit, we follow where he leads

For in his love for adventure, we find the strength we need

To face the vicissitudes of life, and to reach for more

With Pa always by our side, we know we can soar.

Time was unforgiving and rolled in quickly. The day arrived when it was time for Pa and Little R to leave. The sky was a clear sapphire but when goodbyes were finally said, the melancholic stratus began to blanket the Himalayan sphere. The afternoon ended with a sprinkling of showers and dampening memories. But the rain – a cry and an elixir, nourished the roots. And in the morning, the first buds of strawberries revealed themselves, full of rosy promise. Glistening with raindrops, they reflected transparent stories of love and hope sealed like a treasure trove.

Men came back with their tools and skills ready to complete the unfinished work. The percussive screeching of cut and shave, back and forth, punctuates the weeks. They slice and spin, sand and seal, wipe up the shavings and burn the chippings to cook their meals. The others fill the gaps, chisel the corners, refine the edges, tighten the joints, drill the screws, fix the fittings, and bolt the hinges. And while the men were held at work, a raucous troop of red monkeys descended upon our vegetable patch. On that rowdy afternoon, they feasted from our ready-to-harvest peas deftly cracking the pods and extracting their juicy contents while they watched the world go by. We heard not their presence until it was too late. Little A let out his mighty roar and off they scampered in their unruly manner, scattering the ground beneath them with discarded pods.

Our attempts to grow peas and beans have yielded little so far. The beanstalks of yesteryear had been searching far and high for giant adventures in the sky till they had forgotten their purpose. They sprawled in every direction with thick and knotted vines, tightly wounding everything in their paths. Their tendrils crept out from branches and reached out wantonly. They snaked around the pumpkin flowers, choked out the buckwheat shoots and deprived sunlight for the delicate greens beneath them. Eventually, their rich dung-fed growth culminated in a tight mess that none was tempted to walk through. Like the red hairy critters, they were nothing but graspers and chokers with reckless abandon.

The April sun unleashed its fiery wrath, scorching everything beneath its blazing gaze. The world seemed to be on hold until we heard the soft murmurs of the unseen forces stirring dust. Dust from the roads fluffed up, spread out and settled back on the sides. The wind grew stronger and sailed across the terraces, lifting up old leaves and seed weeds and scattering them far and wide. Then, the sky fell sullen. And there was a raw sting in the air. The wind raced faster, stirring among the rootlets of the bhete stalks but the stalks fought back whilst anchored to the earth. Weakened by the prying, they finally submitted in their maroon gloom to slanting sideways pointing towards the direction of the wind.

Stories of young death from across the seas came piercing on my screen, They were bleak words; hard and cold. Each is a heartbreaking reminder of the fragility of life and the uncertainty of our time on this earth. The weight of these stories could dampen the spirit of any other and I couldn’t help but feel the helplessness of my being. Even from the barrenness of land where there is always the promise of sweet rain, a life taken prematurely is unrequited and strikes at the very heart of our humanity. Perhaps the only gift we can give is to be present for one another. So in that tender moment, I took a deep breath and shared words of comfort from a broken heart.

The volatile wind eventually settled in the backyard and bird song brought my attention back to the world outside. A pair of admiral magpies flits and flutters, their damp wings beating in perfect unison releasing moisture from the scanty raindrops. With their long tails trailing behind like shimmering streamers, they dart and weave among the bamboo stack, seemingly carefree. There they were, a fleeting sight of pure unbridled happiness, an antidote to better days.

Another month passes by and age comes knocking on the door. Treated to a break from the interminable cycle of meal preps, Papa G cooks and the boys tidy up. Mama I retreats into her own universe with glee. When rain and mist grace the morning twilight, a drop of rain is akin to a drop of ink. From the pen of GE, I give my earliest hours. And in these magical hours, I read her entire being, leaf by leaf, book by book, submerged completely in literary dopamine. In this space, breathless I am left, bewitched by her written word.

As the months plod way, our promise to complete is near. We stand on the soft grass watching the delicate dance between clouds and earth. With our eyes closed, we breathe in the fresh scent of precipitation, feeling the cool drops brush against our skin. With each drop that falls, we see gratitude, we see awe, and we see life-giving nectar that feeds the intricate web of life. Every storm that came and went leaves behind a whispered song, a reminder of what had been and what could be. And so here we stand, treading lightly upon this earth, just watching and listening, whilst the raindrops work their magical stories.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.
I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humourless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even…

So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling…”

Island, Aldous Huxley

PS: Thank you Martin and Monika for gifting us books including this one, Island by A. Huxley