A monsoon story

One of those books one should keep close to the heart is 'Songlines' by Bruce Chatwin. It contains a full story on his trip to Australia to discover all about the ancient songlines the Aboriginal people cherish in their lands. It also contains some of the travel notes and thoughts he gathered during that trip. One of those short notes is about the Monsoon. 

In ancient India, the monsoon made travelling impossible. Because the Buddha didn’t want his followers to risk their lives in flooding rivers, he gave them a ‘rain break’, which is called the Vassa. In those days the homeless pilgrims had to settle in the hills and in huts of branches and clay. It’s on those places that the great Buddhist monasteries were founded.
— Bruce Chatwin, note in Songlines (Ooievaar pocket edition)


Today at the BioFach in Cochin India, another story about the importance of the monsoon came up. Our friend Kiran Bhaskaran, educator and assistant project manager at ICCOA India reflected on an episode in the time Vasco Da Gama arrived in Kerala in search of trade opportunities (or should I say things to take from India). Da Gama packed some pepper and even whole pepper plant roots. His idea was to start plantations of this golden spice in Portugal. When the Zamorin king in Calicut was asked if it was wise to let the Portuguese sail back with pepper, the king is said to have answered: 'He can take the pepper, but he cannot take the monsoon'. 

The plants and trees we get the spices from need this Indian tropical climate, and most certainly the monsoon coming on land in may-june each year in Kerala.