For the record, the Sawan is considered as the fifth month of the traditional Vikrama (Hindu) calendar which coincides with July and part of August in Gregorian Calendar, and in India this is the time of the rainy season with the maximum precipitation. Somehow like many others, I have often been fascinated with the rains with a child like enthusism that bring a sort of unusual happiness and satisfaction to me. Perhaps one reason for this could be that this is the time when after scorching heat spell of almost two consecutive months every year, the atmosphere is relatively cool with a lot of greenery everywhere.
This morning when I got up, the thought came instantly that it has been raining cats and dogs since the last night. During the night, I had got up 2-3 times and found it was raining that continued through the morning. Usually the first thing I do in the morning, is to go on a walk for about 3 to 4 Km daily but quite obviously it was not possible when the rain Gods are too generous and this generosity is non-stop. Way back I used to take the morning walk for 5-6 Km but with advancing age now I have settled for the lesser distance. Then I remembered that Saturday despite being weekend holiday, I can’t sit back at home because I had some important business to perform for the sake of family. So I kept on praying that the rains must stop at least for a few hours so that I can go out to finish my urgent work.
But then there was no let up but my chauffer turned up at the scheduled time. Partly due to the duty call and partly because of the punctuality and sincerity of my man, I mustered the courage of going out despite non-stop heavy showers. Driving through the Delhi traffic is such a drag but if you are sitting comfortably on the back with someone else at the driving seat, it could be such a pleasure particularly when the day is so pleasant while it is raining everywhere. I was amused to note that despite heavy rains, it was business as usual at the bank, in the market, famous eatery in my vicinity and on the roads, or so to say everywhere.
Needless to mention that despite carrying an umbrella, during my outing I ventured several times under the rain without it deliberately to get wet by raindrops and indeed enjoyed it. In Delhi, my experience during the last couple of years has been that it will have intermittent rains with relatively lesser precipitation and it is seldom that it will rain continuously for the day or night-long. I was quite jovial and in high spirits after long while coming back taking a long detour on broad and shining Delhi roads, and was wondering if it was due to my successful outing or the exposure of rains in a child like fashion. And then the realization came impromptu that actually a chain of thoughts and nostalgia have swept over me in the pleasant season.
I remembered the month of July has been very significant throughout in my life with several important dates and events coincided with the month. I have experienced some of the best moments as also some saddest events during this month at various stages. No other month of the year has ever dominated as much in life as July did. I remember in early days, our schools used to open in the beginning of July after a long vacation through summer months of May and June. Exposure with new class and friends as also sometime with new school and teachers was indeed quite a thrilling and exciting experience particularly for pupils like me who were reasonably doing well with their studies and other extra-curricular activities in schools. This trend continued through the college and university as well during our days. Now of course the time and pattern has changed and most of the schools and colleges do not follow this routine; instead they start academic session in the month of April itself or any other time with minimum summer vacation.
My affectionate mother herself was July born. Being myself Sawan born, in childhood I used to look for every opportunity to play with the raindrops, floating paperboats in the accumulated water & streams and excuses to get wet under falling rain whenever possible while the mother would be weary and constantly admonish me to stay away lest I may fall sick. Of course, she is no more and the later developments in life gradually lessened my passion too.
One distinct occasion when I deliberately walked under heavy showers from a nearby market to my house in Delhi was in early July in the year 1997. I was completely soaked with water dripping from my body and clothes back home and yet I was too happy in body and soul. Only a few days back I had returned back from an official tour abroad as leader of the Indian side of the delegation and was completely satisfied with the outcome and consequent protocol signed, in which as the man heading Indian side I had made a significant contribution. I remembered how difficult was to persuade and prevail upon the other side (who were insisting for their version) with the language and other constraints to agree with the draft we had prepared which we believed was true version of what was actually discussed and agreed during the week long meetings.
Some near and dear ones who have been very close to my heart and whom I really love are also incidentally July born; that include my younger sister and and a friend. For the person who is otherwise careless about auspicious dates and not so passionate about remembering own birthday, has to take extra care to memorize and greet or celebrate their birthday. Even on the material front too, I have been getting pay increment and dearness increases etc too in the month of July every year. Apart from these and other momentous occasions, July also brings some of the most nostalgic moments and memories including the occasion that brought the saddest news of loss in my life. Of course, there is no point in inflicting readers with the sad event(s) and, in any case, over the years now I try to take joy and sorrow with equal ease.
Back at home, I recalled the early morning thought of the phrase coming to my mind i.e. ‘raining cats and dogs’ and I suddenly became curious to find out its origin because it’s obvious that with rains the cats and dogs don’t actually fall though occasionally some small fishes and frogs have been reported to fall from the sky with rains and that occurrence can be reasonably explained too.
So there are theories and hunches but most are far from the reasonable belief or credence. Mythology provides one possible origin for the phrase. Odin, the god of storms was supposed to have dogs and wolves as attendants and many sailors had a belief that they are associated with the wind. Then mythological stories also have witches riding on brooms occasionally assuming the form of cats and riding the wind. Possibly, this could have led to the genesis of the common phrase at some stage whereby in 'raining cats and dogs' the storm with wind may refer to dogs and heavy rain to cats.
Reportedly the first recorded use of 'raining cats and dogs' appears in the collection of poems Olor Iscanus by Henry Vaughan, a British Poet, in 1651. He referred to a roof that was secured against 'dogs and cats rained in shower'.
Another perhaps more likely origin relates to eighteenth century England, where possibly stormy rains occasionally carried dead bodies of animals and other debris in the streets. Obviously, animals didn’t fall from the sky but ugly visuals of dead cats and dogs floating around during the stormy rains possibly led to the coining of this phrase. Jonathan Swift is stated to have already narrated a similar incident in his satirical poem 'City Shower', first published in the 1710 collection of the Tatler magazine but sufficient proof do not exit to relate this phrase to him.
Then again in 1738, Jonathan Swift published his 'Complete Collection of Genteel and Ingenious Conversation,' a satire on living and conversations of the elite classes. Reportedly one of his characters in one of the conversations fears that it may 'rain cats and dogs'. It is, however, not certain if he actually coined this phrase or his writing led to some people popularly coining this phrase.
Another possible origin of “cats and dogs” could be from the Greek word cata doxa, which literally means “contrary to experience or belief.” Etymologists may keep on debating over various possible origins and explanations but all of them are with probable if and buts. However, it is obvious that the phrase 'raining cats and dogs' doesn't carry its literal meaning and implicit meaning is 'It's raining heavily'.