Unparalleled yearning, for the sight of the rain-sodden rutilance of DU’s red bricks, evokes ‘hiraeth’: a homesickness for a home that never was”
Our surreal journey through the turbulent months of 2020 was swept away, akin to footsteps in the sand, leaving little more than a lasting disbelief as the tangible proof of their existence, when the first of the rains besotted the city in mid-July. The monsoons brought with them a bittersweet fiesta of emotions shaded in wistful longing: We could no longer witness the North-Campus in all its glory, as it withstood the onslaught of nature, only to become more ravishingly withdrawn and vibrant with each downpour.
The monsoons at DU also mark the pre-election season, and the whole ambience, of the brouhaha of unions crashing against the walls of a beguilingly calm campus, poses as a welcome jubilation to the newly minted freshers. What 2020 stole from us was that brief feeling of a home away from home set against the backdrop of a campus stalled on a thin-line between the whispering rains and the rising crescendo of political voices.
It would not be an over-exaggeration, then, to reflect upon the monsoons at DU as a homecoming for those derided of their hometowns as they set out in search of themselves. The monsoons at DU overfill their hearts as they traverse this new world of hesitant freedom and perhaps also serve as an extension of their erratic emotional states. The monsoons at DU are a homecoming even to those who have already made out the sight of their respective hostels through the thicket of water for the second or maybe the third year of this journey called graduation.
Relief is what pours down from the heavens each July, when scores of youngsters get off taxis, luggage in hand, and release a sharp breath that they never even knew they were holding, at the sight of the campus beckoning them to a year of living, stumbling, and getting up entirely on their own terms. What we have lost then is a feeling that no elegies and lamentations could ever suffice for: the outpouring nature of the first home that cradles our fears and tears when we venture out alone into the world.
The melancholy of beholding the rains through the bars of my window, even as overwhelming nostalgia of my first monsoon spent at the campus threatened to knock me down, was almost an impossible burden to bear. There is an inexplicable sweetness to the sight of rain on the red bricks, as it fades out old posters off the compound walls and enhances the redrebellion of the election season. It a feeling of homecoming that any North-campus student would revelin: The summer is done and dusted, and a heavy downpour welcomes you home to a new semester of brand-new possibilities and certainties, seemingly starting the year anew mid-way.
What we lost was an opportunity to turn over a fresh leaf in an emotionally agonizing year like 2020. We can lament the absence of the sights, the sounds and the hearty taste of a very DU monsoon. But we cannot say how it would have actually unfolded, and can barely even begin to imagine the experiences it would have brought our way. In this the monsoons of July 2020 became a ‘hiraeth’ of sorts: a home that never actually existed, but still evoked our finer human sensibilities of nostalgia.
Our biggest loss in 2020 was this lack of a renewal to the year, this lack of an escape, from the scorching heat of its endless tragedies, in the form of a monsoon spent lounging in the VC Lawns or having Chai at Sudama’s. Maybe we were all longing for the home that the rainsodden roads of Delhi University would’ve been in such a lonely tragedy as 2020. But that was never to be: in 2020 there is no home, just the memory of a home that could’ve been. The temptingly bright days outside our windows and the dark clouds pouring out their wrath by evenings, all mock us and the cosmic insignificance of our loss of DU for the year.
A typical DU monsoon is what memorable stories are wrought in: overcast skies peeping in through the windows, as you half-listen to the ongoing lecture and half-daydream of your next bowl of Maggi at Tom Uncle’s, or the various society auditions stalled mid-way as it begins to pour and everyone rushes to shield themselves in empty rooms. The sight of the rain, mostly, and the campus half-veiled in it’s midst, as you peek out through an autorickshaw hurrying down to the Vishwavidyalaya metro station, is beyond any expression. It is something that you have to experience for yourself.
Being from Hindu, I miss how the month of July would bring with it the steady uproar of Ibtida, crashing against the blocks of Sanganeria Block, before the noise swelled like a rain cloud and broke into a downpour, stranding us inside the building. The hullabaloo of the entire college clamouring at the registration desks of various societies, right in front of the lush Ibtida lawns, all comes back in gushing, sentimental waves to me. All the friends found and lost in that crowd and the ensuing chaos of the first year, now appear to be just hazy figures I beheld through the rain.
It was beyond beautiful the way our tree-bedecked premises would sway with the rains or how the sports complex almost seemed to change it’s colours under the sheen of a light shower. Occasionally, the rain would find me trapped inside with the smells and whispers of the college canteen, before a friend would call, begging for my umbrella, and I’d begin the tough ‘trek’ backwards through a flooded canteen road, my shoes and my heart both full to the brim at the thought of how blessed I was to be there in that moment. And upon finding each other, we’d wade the waters together to find a ride to the metro, singing half-remembered songs of ‘Shri 420’ just for the cheese of the moment! I laugh heartily at the memories, but then I grow sad, too.
These carefree moments remain suspended in time, bringing light to our growingly dark days, full of disastrous news. Perhaps we’ll survive the whole of this year on the flickering light of these memories alone. As July has faded away like a spiritless wake for our hopes of a much longed for return to the campus, and August has barely lasted us the blink of an eye, let us cherish the memories of a very DU monsoon and hope for a peaceful end to September as well.
Feature Image Credits: Getty Stock Pictures