Romancing the rains

Romancing the rains

Produced by Anthony Denselow with Emma Wallace, Mohit Bakaya and Dave Perry . BBC Radio 3 . Aired on June 23, 2002 . Between 18:30 and 22:00

I am not going to actually review this programme, since I featured in it. Featured in it as an extra "features" in a movie: Sir Mark Tully interviewed me for a short segment on the pollution in the Yamuna. Why does a British radio programme on the Indian monsoon mention Yamuna pollution? While being interviewed I asked the producer how long the total programme was. "Three and a half hours" he said. My next obvious query was, "Do British listeners really have such long attention spans?"

The skilful way this programme was put together - incorporating music, intellectual discussion, news, poetry, prose readings, interviews and personal reminisces - ensures that these three and a half hours would not be a chore; not a strain on anyone's attention span, but sheer pleasure. The variety of subjects included under the title of 'Monsoon Evening' is also an indication of how pervading the monsoons are, how central to life in India.

These rains are important to us yet how quickly we are willing to defile that life-giving element. How crucial these monsoon waters are to agriculture and commerce and yet how little we conserve this water. In three and a half hours a fabric is woven. A fabric which immediately transforms itself into an umbrella. An umbrella, which as anyone who has ever used one on a windy monsoon day knows, doesn't protect from the rain but serves to construct a little personal vantage point from which to experience the weather. Writer Meera Syal, better known as a comedian in the UK, holds it all together as a presenter.

If there is any criticism to be made of the programme, it would have to be that it's a bit too "northern", with a bit of obvious Bengali intellectualism thrown in. As far as I am concerned, the real monsoons belong to those who live along the west coast and the western ghats. This is obvious when one sees how easily those in charge cancelled the monsoons this year in Delhi.

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