tolakari = The early monsoon season
merupu = lightning
tolakari merupu = la belle Telugu
meghaih madhuram ambaram
Every time I read that haiku like composition from Geeta Govindam, I remember my childhood. Not that I had read Geeta Govindam at that time, and not that I knew what a haiku was at that time, despite smile‘s best efforts. [smail is a poet who tried to popularize mini kavita in AP] Besides, I am sure Jayadeva also did not know what a haiku was. It is my fervent imagination at work.
Unlike the rain here, which as far as I can perceive, does not know rhythm or reason, in India it comes on the appointed month. In fact, we plan our crops and festivals around it. We would have every thing ready to plant waiting for the tolakari season. Even the dry, parched earth eagerly waits for the rain.
When it comes, the tolakari pours, with thunder and lightning. The special effects are probably more impressive than the rain itself: the rainbow in the east [toorupu dikkuna varada gudEse], the overflowing canals, the myriad of frogs and toads, and the assorted life springing from the earth.
My father and other farmers of the village (Sowpadu) used to look forward to the rain. They say "A bad early crop is as good as a good late crop". They want to plant early. They start the feverish activity as soon as the rains start. The long lazy summer afternoons vanish and days become busier. Even women, after recovering from participating in marriage ceremonies and such, start going to the farms.
We kids didn’t like the rainy season that much. We couldn’t go out. We slipped and fell on the roads occasionally. We had to go to next village (pallapadu) to school, and we were never sure it was going to rain or not. Horror of horrors, we had to work in the farms occasionally. It was not all bad though: we could skip school if it rains too hard.
When I remember those times, I recollect an insignificant event. It is the sort of non-event that cannot find a place in any biography. Yet I occasionally think of it when watching the rain beat against the arid plains of Texas, or the window panes of my suburban existence. Curiously, my train of thought is fueled by a simple phrase.
Has anyone of you heard of the phrase tolakari merupu? When I was young, I spent many a lazy afternoon under the tree that functioned as the town hall. On a hot summer day, when I was getting bothered with the smoke of cheroots and yet reluctant to leave the only source of entertainment, I heard a middle-aged man recount his experiences when he went for _peLLi choopulu_.
He was a hardened and coarse man, the qualities that come with the usual struggles, just the mundane variety, not the heroic ones. He was casually describing the various alliances that he considered in those days. It was obvious that he was intent on pleasing the crowd, with the generic sharp put-downs of those unknown girls and families. Amidst all that he talked of a girl whom he liked very much said the only word he could use to describe her is tolakari merupu.
It might have been my imagination, but I thought I heard his voice soften a bit. He was no longer recounting an amusing anecdote, I felt, he was reliving a secret.
That set me on a train of thought. Isn’t true that beauty moves people even after so many years? Not only in youth, but later even in the twilight, a nostalgic moment still can move us? May be life is full of untaken roads; what might have been and what could have been only lies in the perpetual possibility. Even if that man married that girl, he might not have noticed the beauty as much as he did. It doesn’t matter what he did, but the beauty still touches him occasionally. It could have been an old movie song coming from the neighbor’s home in the moon light after a hard day’s work, it could have been that first kiss with all the confusion, anticipation, and realization, it could have been the mother’s lap, long forgotten.
Even now, when I think of tolakari merupu, I still think of that lazy afternoon. Since then I have started to look at tolakari and the rain falling on the parched earth and the hot, steamy vapors from the earth with a new respect. The dirty roads, the miles one has to walk to get to a bus, the virtual isolation from the outside are all still there. But over the years, I forgot how inconvenient it was. All that I remember is the wistful phrase tolakari merupu and that tells me that there was beauty in that thunderous rain. And, indeed, I say to myself
beauty crowds me till I die
beauty mercy have on me.