Chat Juhi Sinha, editor of “When Peacocks Dance”, says that her anthology has attempted to capture the romance in the rains
“When Peacocks Dance: Writings on the Monsoon” (Penguin Books), edited by Juhi Sinha, is an anthology that includes all the flavours of the season, as the editor points out. Excerpts from works of Khushwant Singh and Rabindranath Tagore, and translations from Indian languages including Sanskrit take the reader through various moods of the monsoon.
The collection is divided into sections named South, West, North and East, since, “the book needed to be representative,” says Juhi, known for her film on Bismillah Khan as well as book on the late shehnai maestro, besides her children’s books. The monsoon, she notes, is “one of the most significant events of the calendar. Governments fall because of it,” and is a major annual phenomenon that affects the entire country, so it was “important that no region should feel left out.”
Even though it is difficult to see the romance in the monsoon as one wades through water from an overflowing drain or stuck in a mammoth traffic jam, these are after all, she feels, “modern-day maladies connected with the handling of the rain.” The monsoon, she maintains, is a season of romance. Music forms such as Kajri, great literature such as Kalidasa’s “Meghadootam” and recipes for fragrant rainy season foods remind us of monsoons. It is a season that sets the agricultural calendar, and therefore the periods of hope, leisure and merrymaking.
The romance of the monsoon is something we need to hold on to, she emphasises, although “increasingly the pace of life and the stresses of life try to overpower it.” She still has a lot of material that she hopes will go into a revised edition in the future. For example, the legends of Krishna’s birth and he lifting the Goverdhan hill cannot be separated from the monsoon. “These are all things, I think, that need to go into it.” She had even decided on some film songs by poets such as Sahir Ludhianvi and Gulzar, but finally these were not included. Perhaps this was best, she reasons, since the influence of films is everywhere.“Our kids would need to know more about ‘Meghadootam’ than about film songs,” she says, adding that perhaps in the next edition she will be able to include musical legends such as Tansen, who sang Malhar raga to make it rain. One good thing about this collection is that it offers the opportunity to be picked up and read “randomly”, points out Juhi. “You don’t have to read it at a stretch, to find out who killed whom,” she says with a smile.