As the title suggests, this is a story about waiting for the monsoon to break. It’s an archetypal Indian theme, immortalized in books and films, and used as a powerful metaphor in literature and art. The twist in this instance is that the metaphor of the monsoon is used to unravel the theme of communal harmony.
The village of Anandpur is home to people of different communities. In the face of less and less rain each season, they decide to dig a lake to store water. Then they decide to name the lake. Since it’s beside a Ram temple, why not Ram lake, some of the villagers think. This triggers a huge debate among the followers of different faiths, which then escalates into a very tense situation.
It won’t give anything away to say that yes, it rains, eventually, and the coming of the rain is tied in with the cooling of the conflagration. More moot is what are some of the issues that come up in the course of this debate. And, for readers like me, what do the villagers of Anandpur name the lake?
The illustrator establishes the monsoon setting by giving the pictures a slightly smudged look which, for the most part, works. There is a certain moodiness and emotion to the pictures that is appealing. The author makes no bones about the fact that this is a ‘teaching’ story. It appears to be a translation, going by the title page which says ‘translated by Saawani Raje’, but it doesn’t say from which language. Perhaps Marathi? Or Hindi?
Not that that matters because the text, though wordy and often sitting awkwardly on top of the illustrations, carries the reader along, and makes you wonder what will come next. It’s matter-of-fact and focused on what the author is trying to say; she doesn’t waste time trying to prettify the telling. That’s actually the strength of this story: it’s not pretentious, it is what it is, a story plotted around the theme of communal harmony; a surefire hit in multicultural India.
There are no ambiguities here, nor mixed signals. There are plenty of characters, but they’re stereotypical, subservient to the appeal the author’s making to the reader to believe in an ideal world, in god, and miracles. All this would be perfectly possible for children (and most adults) to do, unless they’re different. In a sense, therefore, this is a book aimed at the ‘same’ not ‘different’. The honesty is refreshing and reason enough to pick up the book. Is it inspiring? That’s another matter.
By Sandhya Rao
The Rain by Swati Raje
Illustrations by Chandramohan Kulkarni
Published by Jyotsna Prakashan and Bhaashaa Foundation