Romancing the Rains

Monsoon in India can be enjoyed in many different ways
Places like Dawki in Meghalaya are perfect for a memorable monsoon break
Places like Dawki in Meghalaya are perfect for a memorable monsoon break

I always look forward to the monsoon season, which brings with it freshness, hope, respite, relief, romance and lots of positive vibes. In fact, monsoon is a season when we (I, my wife and son) love to explore different places. Monsoon tourism, as it is called. Most of our fun trips have been during the monsoons around Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala, Meghalaya, and more. Willingly getting soaked to the bones to the extent that you begin to shiver is something that can&rsquot be described in words. It is something you have to experience &ndash and should experience, at least once in a lifetime.

The combination of a roaring sea and a pouring sky can be potentially dangerous, but equally exhilarating and alluring too. That's something we have felt in Mumbai, at Ganpatipule in Ratnagiri, Palolem in Goa, Alappuzha in Kerala and in Meghalaya. And what can possibly compare with sitting in the verandah, sipping on a steaming, hot cup of chai (coming from Assam, tea is my personal favourite) with fiery hot pakoras on the side watching the misty mountains or the dark, wet sky as it drizzles slowly One of the wettest places in the world &ndash Cherrapunji or Sohra, in the abode of clouds, Meghalaya offers that experience. Or how about going on a long drive on a lonely road on a rainy day with the car windows partly open &ndash enjoying the lush countryside greenery, and the countless little waterfalls that adorn the hills like glittering ornamentations, as the little droplets fall on your face A drive along the Western Ghats &mdash from Mumbai to Pune on the expressway, for instance &ndash or the misty hills of Meghalaya, or the scenic coconut trees-filled coastal landscape of Goa and Kerala during the monsoons is sure to leave you spellbound with this feeling.

Ganapatipule, Maharashtra
One coastline that had us bewitched was Ratnagiri in Konkan, with Ganpatipule and nearby Bandarpule beaches taking our breath away. The view of the beach at Bandarpule in particular, from the nearby hilltop, was captivating. We arrived at this pristine location when the monsoon was at its full glory, lashing the villages with long sheets of rain that swayed and danced along with the wind.

It was raining non-stop for the five days when we parked ourselves at the sleepy town of Ganpatipule, which is around 320 kms from Mumbai and 25 kms from the Ratnagiri railway station on the Mumbai-Goa line. Like our many other trips, Ganapatipule too happened at the last moment. Reaching Ganapatipule was easy we took a train from Delhi to Ratnagiri station and from there rode an auto to reach the alluring coastal town of about 100 houses, meandering through the picturesque hamlets and tranquil villages of the mesmerising coastline.

Apart from the beaches, the magnificent Swayambhu or self-originated Ganpati temple located right on the beach is another key attraction (the town Ganapatipule derives its name from it). Folklore has it that the 400-year-old Ganapati idol at the temple sprung from the soil. During high tide, the water comes right up to the temple and enters the campus, which is in itself a sight to behold. We stayed at Maharashtra Tourism&rsquos resort by the beach with the room providing a perfect view of the wet beach and cloudy monsoon skies. There are a few private resorts as well as home stays for budget travellers here.

Once in Ganapatipule you have the option of driving around exploring Konkan village life and countryside and the tiny numerous coastal points along the shoreline. Other places of attraction include the village of Velneshwar, which comes alive during Mahashivaratri at the old Shiva temple, or the nearby Jaigad Fort lighthouse.

Ganapatipule is the perfect seaside destination if you want to laze around by the sea, read a book, sit beneath the swaying coconut trees, sip a drink or just sleep. My aim was also to visit the pristine Tarkali along the Malwan coast some 160 kms away, but that didn&rsquot materialise due to lack of time.

Palolem, Goa


Palolem near Canacona in south Goa, not far from the Karnataka border, could have been any of the packed beaches of the coastal state in peak season but for the monsoons. This tiny village had hardly a handful of tourists when we visited, which meant we had the entire beach for ourselves. Sitting at a shack that sheltered us from the heavy rain, sipping beer as my son watched the roaring sea, hour after hour, was an experience in itself. Walking along the waves, which had swallowed the entire beach, wasn&rsquot allowed during high tide though I managed to break the rule for a while when the lifeguards were taking a break or when the sea had receded a little.

The nearby Agonda beach with its white sand is another favourite with tourists. Riding along the snaky village roads on scooties wearing plastic poncho-type raincoats that partially shielded our bodies from the constant drizzle but not our faces &ndash&nbspthe drive to Agonda was quite intoxicating.

Once there, we threw away the covers and let the rain embrace us &ndash dancing along the shore and digging our feet in the sand as locals and onlookers gazed at us, amazed. But we shed all inhibitions and enjoyed the moments to the hilt, sipping on steaming cups of coffee to warm us up so that we could soak ourselves again.

I wanted to stay put at Canacona but at my wife&rsquos insistence, we visited the old town, the churches and temples for the customary photo sessions and the popular beaches of north Goa, lest we missed out on something. We had plans to visit the roaring Dudhsagar Falls near the Karnataka border, which come alive in the rains, but that visit couldn&rsquot happen because of monsoon-related restrictions.

Sohra, Umiam and Dawki, Meghalaya
How can I not mention the magical, rainy drive from my birthplace Shillong through the cloud and mist enveloping the hills of Meghalaya to Sohra, better known as Cherrapunji to the rest of the world Or boating through the countless waterfalls along the swollen Umngot River in Dawki, bordering Bangladesh, as it poured cats and dogs from above This is the same Umngot River where the still, emerald green water in winters draws tourists from all over the world. Or absorbing the silence emanating from the calm waters of the sprawling man-made Umiam Lake, known as Barapani, for a mystical experience Have you ever listened to the sound of rain falling on the roof The heavier the rain, the louder the sound. And this is one sound that is always pleasing to the ears, just like that of the roaring waves or a gigantic waterfall. Back in the Northeast, the old-style Assam-type houses as they are called have sliding tin roofs, which would amplify the sound of the rain. And when it rains, we would cuddle up on the couch with chai and pakoras and listen to the sound of rain with rapt attention, or chat away, as our voices drown in the pleasant din.

We relived this childhood experience in Meghalaya, where many resorts are housed in old, heritage structures with wide verandahs, where you can sit and relish the view and relax with the sound of rain.

Alappuzha, Kerala


The backwaters of Kerala have always attracted adventure lovers and travellers. But have you ever dared to take a shikara or houseboat tour of the Alappuzha backwaters in the middle of a raging monsoon Or savoured appam and prawn masala in the typical Kerala style, sitting inside a hut on a small island somewhere in the backwaters on a wet day Give it a try and believe me, you will be raring to do it again and again.

When I told my colleagues that I would be visiting Kerala during my son&rsquos summer holidays, they were aghast. My Mallu friends told up upright that Kerala monsoons were not my cup of tea. I told them that I came from Assam, was born in Shillong, and had lived in Mumbai during the 2005 mega deluge. I went ahead with my journey, which turned out to be a memorable one.

We stayed at a resort on the beach rather than a houseboat because we didn&rsquot want to miss out on our customary early morning and evening walks along the shore, feeling the wet sand, munching on the many crispy seafood snacks on offer.

Kerala helped us discover a completely different non-veg palate, quite different from the North Indian Mughlai-based delicacies we were accustomed to &ndash and we took to the Malabar biryani, Alappuzha and Kozhikode-style prawn and fish and chicken preparations with fresh appam. And the monsoon was the icing on the cake &ndash or rather the special raita that makes biryanis more special.

The shikara ride along the backwaters led us to newer horizons but at the same time made us feel so much at home &ndash as if we were back in Assam &ndash because of the similarities in the topography (the paddy fields, the coconut trees and the rain). The sea was the only differentiator. I ended the journey with a Kerala massage, which rejuvenated me &ndash and left with a promise to return again.

The author in an Independent Journalist and Content Creator based in Delhi.

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