The newspapers are reporting that the monsoon has arrived dead on time – on June 1st it arrived at Kanyakumari, or Cape Comorin – the Land’s End of India where “the three oceans meet”, according to the tourist literature. Wikipedia unkindly points out that this is inaccurate, and that Kanyakumari only actually borders the Laccadive Sea – not the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal as well. And to add insult to injury, Kanyakumari is not the most southerly point of India, merely the most southerly point of the Indian mainland. Indira Point is much further south, but since this lies at the tip of the Nicobar Islands (just across the water from Banda Aceh, where the 2004 tsunami began), and since the Nicobars are off limits to visitors due to the Stone Age tribes who still live there, Kanyakumari is the furthest south most of us are likely to get.
Anyway – the monsoon has arrived on time and is now working its way up the west coast. Alexander Frater’s book Chasing the Monsoon describes really well the joy and relief felt by Indians as the rain arrives and the atrocious heat of May is washed away.
Not in Tamil Nadu. All we get is the cloud which spills over the Western Ghats, accompanied by the odd shower, certainly not monsoonal torrents. Not many people realise this. My Delhi colleagues used to say “bet you’re glad the monsoon has arrived” and were amazed when I said “not in Chennai. We need to wait until November for our monsoon rain!”
But the rivers, lakes and tanks of Tamil Nadu will now start filling up, slowly but surely, as the water comes across the borders from Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka. This is assuming, of course, that the water is allowed to come. The Cauvery River Tribunal, for example, has been sitting for decades to try to recalculate what the shares of the river’s water should be for each State, but every time there is a drought (like early this year) the farmers try to stop the dams being opened to feed the canals leading into Tamil Nadu. Since this can include suicides – usually jumping off the dam into the water coming out of the sluices – it is a serious matter.
I hope that when I get back to our cottage in 2 weeks time the river which fills our lake will be showing a little movement. The lake is now at its lowest and the local government are busy digging out 50 years of silt – excellent for the plantations, so the local farmers are queuing up to buy as many loads as they can manage.
A photo of an empty lake is a bit boring, so here is one which I took earlier, as they say.