It is said in the 1960’s Asmara went through a bit of what you call a rain dearth. Asmara and its environs were hit by a severe drought. No rain. All wells dry, land burning, animals crying, plants very sad, and sun laughing in the sky.
Imagine that the land has been dry, dusty and barren for almost nine months and then all of a sudden it is the month of June. As the Tigrigna expression has it, dogs and days come running without being called. June comes, and the rains cannot be far behind, can they?
Well, not exactly!
Why? The answer always is: it will rain. But when? The Good Lord knows when. Okay we will wait.
One week into the month of June, still no rain. Tell me, why is it not raining now?
Again the answer is: patience. Can’t you see it is getting abnormally hot?
Two weeks into the month of June. Not a drop of rain. Look, buddy, something is up. Don’t you think so?
Now comes the real answer, N’Mahlel! Let’s pray and ask God for forgiveness.
Remember the Lord in times of hardship, says the Good Book. Well said! In one of the Asmara quarters the people slaughtered an ox and prayed loud and clear, like in the days of Elijah. The rains did come, all right. But it rained just enough to clean the stain left by the blood of the ox on the ground.
A lot of Eritreans associate rain with the community’s religious performance for that year. If the floodgates of heaven are closed, it is because of our sins. Let us love one another and do good work.
“Why is it then raining cats and dogs in other countries?” enquires a rather curious child.
“Because,” would come the answer, “the Lord punishes those whom he loves.”
“I wish he hated us from time to time,” rumbles the child.
“My dear Kebron, would you please go out and tell mamma what the weather looks like today? Asks a lonely mother contemplating whether she should go visit her friend half way across the city.
“There are some clouds in the sky,” says the child.
Yes sometimes the sky is overcast, but no rain. One country used to shoot dry ice into the clouds with the help of missiles. It would have looked a bit like blasphemy if they tried it here.
All of a sudden, the sky is brownish blue. The wind rises from its secret retreat and starts to howl. The clouds take their seats. Animals perk up their ears and beasts of burden snort and plough the ground with their hooves. Birds take their peaches on treetops. The cows are coming home. Ladies and gentlemen, it is the Summer Rains!
Hallelujah! It is raining. The sound of the frog is heard in our land. Croak, croak……
And everybody feels like singing in the rain.
I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain, ‘what a wonderful feeling, I’m happy again,’ once sang a certain film producer by the name Arthur Freed. It is good to sing in the rain because you are happy it came at last. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said poetically, “How beautiful is the rain! After the dust and heat, in the broad and fiery street, in the narrow lane, how beautiful is the rain! How it clatters along the roofs, like the tramp of hoofs! How it gushes and struggles out from the throat of the overflowing spout…..”
But sometimes the sun comes out in the middle of the rain. The hyena has given birth to puppies, we say. The devil is beating his wife, say Europeans. May the puppies die before they grow to be adults and start eating the cattle, say Eritreans wishing for the rain to continue. The Devil has just done the right thing, say the sun-worshiping Europeans, wishing for the sun to continue.
Blessed are those who don’t have to deal with brides getting married during the months of July and August.
One bride’s vision of this perfect, sunny reception didn’t work out like she hoped. The unwanted happened; as she watched from the backseat window of the car it rained cats and dogs.
“What did I ever do wrong God!” she mumbled to herself.
The bride groom was obviously not going to say anything and risk the wrath of a bridezilla.
The rain continues into the night. It is what they call Tsada Mai, (rain that wouldn’t stop). But, of course, it had to finally stop and disappear along with the sun. People have now mixed feelings. They don’t feel like singing in the rain anymore.
“Now, where is father? He is supposed to be home at 7 pm. What could have happened to him? Thunder storms could not be ruled out. Did he get struck by lightning?” asks a worried daughter
To make things worse, there is power failure.
“Go and buy a candle,” instructs the mother.
It is pitch dark outside. The shopkeeper is doing brisk business in wax candles. He knew the lights would go off anytime and had made wise preparations against those bleak nights.
What is there to be done at 8 o’clock in the evening in a dimly lit room and the supper is running late being prepared and everyone is feeling gloomy because father has not come home yet.
Big brother suggests the family play Chinese shadows by twisting and turning their fingers in front of the half-gone candle. Weird shadows would be cast on the wall.
“You want a dog; here is a dog, woof woof…..”
The small kids giggle and utter a sigh of surprise. Big sister broods. The rain continues into the night and makes some people very melancholic.
“Tell us a story……,”suggests little brother.
“Once there was a hyena…”
“Please stop it,” shouts the big sister. She is worried about her father.
Thunder and lightning! A figure appears in black mantle and stands at the door. Rumble, rumble, crack.
That’s it. The Prince of Darkness has come to reclaim our souls.
Crack. A flood of light sweeps across the sky, a thunderbolt! The long shadow of the night visitor falls on the wall accompanied by a gust of wind. It extinguishes the flickering candle.
Mother utters the words: in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Ghost.
“Who is that?” Right then, the power comes back on.
“Who else, it is me, Daddy!”