As monsoon rains arrive in Kerala around June, a dramatic change occurs in the environment. One day it is hot and humid, with the sun blazing down on your head. Two days later, the sun is hidden by rain-bearing clouds, the weather has become cool and it is dark all around.
Rain is pouring down from the heavens, often for hours together, sometimes accompanied by thunder and lightning.
This is the South-West monsoon, the first of the two monsoons. As the land mass in Asia heats up in the summer, the cool and heavy air over the southern oceans begins to flow in. The resulting winds, passing over the oceans, bring rain-bearing clouds to Kerala. The clouds are stopped by the mountain range in the east of Kerala, and they pour down as rain over the land.
Rains quickly begin to transform the scenery. Leaves all around are dripping wet. Rivers begin to invade the shores, and soon swell into a raging mass.
When we were young, there were no dams to store and utilize the rain waters. The rivers used to flood and climb into homesteads. We could launch small country boats from our porticos and go canoeing all over the submerged land areas, or visiting relatives.
Those days are gone now, with the waters diverted by hydro-electric and irrigation projects.
By August, the South-Western monsoon begins to withdraw. And by October, North-Eastern winds bring a second monsoon to Kerala. In between, the weather is beautiful, with flowers in full bloom and the weather mild. It is during this period that Kerala celebrates its major festival, onam, the festival of flowers.
The second monsoon is typically accompanied by heavy thunder and lightning and rains usually fall in the afternoon. In eastern parts of India, this is a time for cyclones that cause heavy damage.
Kerala is blessed in that neither of the monsoons cause that kind of destruction. However, strong winds could uproot trees and plants like the banana in the pic. The damage is confined to crop damage and sea-erosion (Kerala might disappear in a distant future if the erosion is unchecked, and go back to where it came from, the ocean bottom!) In urban areas, however, blocked drains cause flooding of roads and traffic jams.
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