- Dhakuria Lake/ Rabindra Sarobar
Run. Run when it gets cloudy. Run like you’re running for your life to reach there on a rainy afternoon, to watch the daylight diffuse into nothingness while the birds take shelter in that small desolate lake island. Watch how the rain dances on the water, how curtain after curtain after curtain of raindrops transform the lake into a wanton amphitheatre of unbound joy.
Take your umbrella with you. You’ll find out that umbrellas were invented to be playfully upturned by daring gusts of the monsoon winds.
This is where the rain goddess was meant to be; this place and the Amazon.
- That Smell
This is as unscientific as can be. Unscientific but true. When the first droplets of rain touch the parched roads of a summer scorched Kolkata, you get that smell. It’s the smell of dust, water, mud and memories. You breathe in till your lungs are full. But your appetite for that smell seems insatiable. Everytime.
- Activities Around You
The scampering of the fruit vendor quickly covering his fare with that tattered tarpaulin sheet. That schoolboy trying to run outside the shadow of the umbrella that his mother holds over his head. Kakima (aunt) next door running with heavy steps up the flight of stairs to pick the clothes off the clothing line before they are wet. The drenched cat, with its wet fur spiked at weird angles, resigned to his fate, looking dispassionately at the world around with half closed eyes.
If you have not played football during the rains, barefoot in the mud, you’ve never played football. During the rains, the greatest game in the world is no more about winning or losing. No more about scoring goals. It is only about freedom. Freedom from everything that is daily and mundane. This is when you engage in those sliding tackles and you successfully skid a meter more than what you otherwise.
- The Scoldings
Once you’re back home completely drenched, after the grueling bout of football, or after the tuitions, probably after college, or even from office, tiptoeing your way to the bathroom, you’re invariably caught by your mom/ dad. You get the customary scolding for getting late and for not carrying the umbrella after they have told you a million times. Only that you notice that the scolding is mellow, by far, almost to the point of indulgence. The rains- you realize.
Not Khichri. Khichuri. Unlike the fare generally served across the northern parts of our country, the Bengali Khichuri is an affair that induces saliva load of gastronomic lust. The heady concoction of Sona Moog Dal and Gobindobhog rice and spices served with dollops of ghee and accompanied by crunchy begunbhaja/ beguni (fried brinjal), aloo bhaja and papad, fits into a rainy day lunch like the missing piece of jigsaw. When the cooker/ handi cover lets out some steam, and the fragrance floats in the coldish humid air, you feel like you can wait there like a dinosaur fossil for a million years to taste that steaming Khichuri for once.
- Moori Telebhaja (Puffed Rice and Fries)
The evening snack. Light on the tummy after the heavy lunch. The hot fries and the crunchy moori are best served with scary stories of unrequited spirits and ghost infested trees, of old Kolkata haunting and new.
- Park Street
Many a lord of the British Raj took shelter in Park Street. For eternity. It is like Park street has been a rain shelter and a pit stop since the beginning of time. Every time you’d walk down the fabled pavements and it’d start raining, you’d inevitably end up running for cover inside the Olypub. Or Mags. Or Someplace Else. Or is it Trinca’s that you’d choose? They are the most beautiful rain shelters that can be. Choose the one you like, get in, grab a chair and experience how the season of rains in Kolkata can be enjoyed best.
- Princep Ghat
Wait for a while near the monument named after James Princep. Wait and let it start raining. And witness how the landscape- the icecreamwallah, the college kids, that old man, the horizon above the river, the wide lawn and the somber trees- everything turns into one large canvas of a Von Guerard painting.
10. Ilish Maachh (Hilsa)
Let’s be honest. You do get Ilish maachh the year round these days. But you know deep inside your heart that those can never taste anywhere close to the ones available during the rainy season. So on a rainy morning you’d probably accompany your father/ mother to the local bazaar and witness how he/ she bargains over the exorbitantly high rates of Ilish. The fish seller of course has to accept defeat. Fast forward to lunch time: You are elbow deep into your plate savouring Ilisher Tel (Oil of Hilsa), Ilisher Deem (Hilsa eggs), Ilisher jhaal (the fiery-mustardy-mouth-wateringly-awesome gravy).
So while there’s still time (the rains are there till at least late August), pack your bags, book your tickets and just be there. Kolkata’s waiting!