The lights in the cinema hall dimmed as the screen at the far end came to life. The moment brought an adrenalin rush of expectancy since the film “Tansen” starring Kundan Lal Saigal and Khurshid had been a favourite topic of discussion in our family since the last few days.

For my mother, the occasion was déjà vu, as she had seen the film years before independence, but for me, it would bring to life the tracks “Diya Jalao” and “Barso Re” - played and replayed by self and female sibling on our old gramophone countless times. Our love for the ‘song’ did not stem from an understanding of Raagas Deepak or Megh Malhar, but from the exciting story associated with them.

Raag Deepak was said to possess the power to light up lamps (hence its name), but in the process also consume the person rendering it. Legend said that this mortal effect could only be ‘cured’ by drenching the victim in rain and Raag Megh Malhar had the wherewithal to muster clouds and make this possible.

In the said film, “Tansen”, who is a nauratan of Moghul Emperor Jalaluddin Akbar’s court, falls for a village maiden with a golden voice. Forced to sing the Deepak at Akbar’s command, the maestro demonstrates the effects of the raag on palace lighting, but, in doing so, collapses because of ‘inner combustion’. The ‘near death’ courtier is carried to ‘Taani’ (the village maiden), who sings the Malhar, bringing down rain and curing her beloved - needless to say that the two live happily ever after. Modern science has created its own Megh Malhar in the form of silver iodide crystals, which are sprayed on clouds by specially equipped aircraft causing a reaction that brings down rain.

Speaking of rain - the monsoon this year is expected to dump 10 percent more precipitation on the subcontinent than it normally does. This weather phenomenon known in our part of the world as barsaat or Sawan Bhadon, is characterised by dark clouds that cover the sky from end to end and rain that pelts down with awesome ferocity.

Sawan Bhadon is actually a term that denotes the two monsoon months, Sawan and Bhadon. It is, perhaps, because of the scorching summer preceding these rains, that monsoon clouds evoke elation, happiness and romance in people of all ages. Songs and verses typify these feelings as did pakwans and the traditional setting up of swings.

In our family home, the advent of rain bearing clouds and the first tentative drops generated frantic activity to set up a cooking station in the covered verandah like passage linking the main house with the kitchen. While this was being done, everyone put in their bit to prepare a spicy mixture for pakoras and a sweet one for gulgulas. This done, the whole family sat down to an hour or two of unforgettable fun.

The ancient pipal tree next to the kitchen hosted the annual swing installation ceremony, which consisted of a designated youngster scrambling up the broad limbs and then securing both ends of a rope to a suitable one. A wooden seat was then fixed in the loop formed by the rope and presto we had an excellent traditional swing at our disposal.

The picnic loving Lahoris came out in droves with the first monsoon downpour. The two focal points of this activity were the verdant banks of River Ravi and the Lawrence Gardens. Families carrying cooking pots converged on these spots, while others crowded around chikkar cholay and naan vendors to avoid the hassle of lugging pots and pans.

Just the other day, I was recounting some of our monsoon activities to a group of young professional friends. The sum of their reaction was that I, my parents and grandparents must have had a lot of spare time on our hands to indulge ourselves in celebrating, what to them was an ordinary rainy season, that sometimes became a nuisance. I looked at the group in horrified wonder that soon changed to regret.

The writer belongs to a very old  and established family of the  Walled City. His forte is the  study of History.