Uses of Rain
“With rain there can be no famine, with a husband no poverty.”
For the health and prosperity of every country rain and sunshine are equally necessary. No place in the world is so miserably situated as to be deprived of sunshine all the year-round. The only country which flourishes without any rain in Egypt. But even that strange land, although it is rarely visited with a shower, nevertheless depends on rain for its prosperity. Its peculiarity is that, instead of being watered by its own showers, it derives fertility from the heavy rains falling in Central Africa, which roll down to Egypt in the broad stream of the Nile.
In those lands in which rain predominates, the value of sunshine is more gratefully recognised owing to its rarity. Thus is England a favourite agricultural proverb that says that “a speck of dust in March is worth a king’s ransom”. On the contrary, in climes of almost continual sunshine immense value is attached to rain. Once upon a time a Persian king, having built a beautiful palace, asked a dervish to guess what it had cost. The holy man replied that its cost must have been a day’s rain, this being in his eyes the most natural way to express immense value.
In India, the showers of the whole year are concentrated into a few short months, and for the greater part of the year, the unclouded sun shines on the land from morning till evening. After eight months of almost unbroken sunshine, it is no wonder that the weary people long for the blessed rain to come and revivify the parched earth. If the burst of the monsoon is delayed long after the usual date, all nature, animate and inanimate, droops and pines. The heat becomes so intense that man and beast have little energy for any kind of work. Owing to the heat and the want of sufficient water, fever and cholera become more frequent. The best wells fail, and no water flows in the beds of the rivers, cattle and sheep begin to die of thirst, all agricultural work is suspended, the price of grain rises rapidly, and everyone begins to discuss the melancholy prospect of famine.
What a change comes over the jubilant face of nature when at last the long looked for rain begins to fall! Immediately the whole country is washed clean of all the accumulated filth in which the germs of cholera and other diseases had been developing. The cooler breezes bring back hope and health and new energy of mind and body, not only to man but also to the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Hill and dale are covered with a mantle of green grass inexpressibly delightful to eyes long wearied with the sight of the sunshine blazing on the brown withered grass. The happy peasantry is now able to resume the labours that the delay of the rain had interrupted, and the fears of famine that had been haunting them are dissipated by the copious showers.
Nor are the benefits of the rain limited to the few months of the monsoon. The abundant water pouring down from the sky on the earth is not all allowed to flow down the swollen rivers into the barren sea. Much of it is stored up by man or nature to supply the earth with moisture during the coming dry season. Great tanks are ready to receive the rain as it falls, so that it may be used to irrigate the fields and supply drinking water for man and beast long after the monsoon is over. The rain that sinks into the earth has not finished its work when it has supplied nourishment to the seeds of grain and the roots of shrubs and trees. It sinks into the earth only to rise again in the springs of rivers and streams, some of which are perennial and will flow, though with gradually decreasing volume, until the next monsoon. From such bounteous streams as these, water is diverted all through the year to irrigate the neighbouring fields and prevent the vegetation from being destroyed by the force of the sun. Thus the blessings of an abundant rainfall are not confined to its immediate effect but extend through the whole course of the year.