GO Books: Chasing The Monsoon
India’s monsoon expected to hit landfall in the southern state of Kerala on June 1
When I was first planning to travel to India, back in 2005, I watched a lot of documentaries. My favourite was called Chasing India’s Monsoon (based on a book called Chasing The Monsoon), and my favourite scene showed award-winning British travel journalist / narrator Alexander Frater sitting in a cafe on the coast of Kerala, near Trivandrum, with a bunch of locals waiting for the annual monsoon to make landfall. As they were embroiled in a heated discussion about when the monsoon would arrive, it started raining outside — but only Frater noticed.
Every year in May, monsoon watching in India begins in earnest. June 1 is the “ideal” date that the monsoon is expected to hit the coast of Kerala, in south India. If you search for “India monsoon 2012” you will find lots of blogs, articles and predictions about the monsoon — and this year, the experts are saying it will be a normal monsoon season. Sharell Cook from About.com India Travel says the best place to greet the monsoon’s arrival is Kanyakumari, the southern tip of India in Tamil Nadu (where three oceans meet). She also explains the weather phenomenon and suggests five of the best places to enjoy the monsoon in India. The Wall Street Journal’s India Real TIme site hosts a charming Photo Essay: The Wait for India’s Monsoon.
The owner of Mumbai Magic tours, Deepa Krishnan, commented on my Facebook page today, “I was in Kerala yesterday, Mariellen, and it rained in the dawn hours. I woke up at 6 am, and sat on the patio listening to a pair of red-vented bulbuls…and felt the miraculous gentle drops of the first rains… just a precursor to the monsoons.”
Monsoon seems to be a magical time in India, when the cooling rains bring delight and fecundity to the land. It is celebrated throughout Indian culture — and in films like the exuberant Monsoon Wedding, one of my all-time favourite movies. It’s directed by Mira Nair and with fabulous music by my friend Mychael Danna (trailer below).
Monsoon Wedding trailer
Chasing The Monsoon
Watching the documentary Chasing India’s Monsoon was what really got me intrigued about India’s monsoon. I found the documentary riveting, and I was captivated by Frater’s casual, yet sensitive and insightful style. I tracked down and ordered the book he wrote, Chasing The Monsoon — the book that inspired the BBC to make the documentary.
Chasing The Monsoon follows Frater’s real life story as the son and grandson of two weather watchers, and how he made the pilgrimage to the wettest place on earth, Cherrapunji in northeast India, on behalf of his grandfather who always wanted to go there, but never did. It is both a deeply personal quest story (Frater is recovering from a potentially fatal illness) and also a cultural travelogue that follows the monsoon as it sweeps across the subcontinent.
My GO Books rating is 5 / 5: I would definitely put it in my backpack.
Author and book details
Amazon author bio: “Alexander Frater has contributed to various U.K. publications and, as chief travel correspondent of the Observer, he won an unprecedented number of British Press Travel Awards as well as a Travelex Travel Writer’s Award. Two of his books, Beyond the Blue Horizon and Chasing the Monsoon, have been made into major BBC television films.”
Chasing The Monsoon published in 2005 (Picador).
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