The southwest monsoon is commonly said to have two branches, the Arabian Sea branch and the Bay of Bengal branch. They are complementary to each other but sometimes in competition. If the Arabian Sea branch is very active in June, the monsoon may even reach north India via the Arabian Sea across Gujarat into Rajasthan towards Delhi. But normally, this does not happen. The southwesterly winds that blow across the southern peninsula make an about-turn over the Bay of Bengal and reach the northern plains as easterlies. The monsoon advances into West Bengal, then Bihar and Jharkahnd, then Uttar Pradesh and finally comes towards Delhi and Rajasthan.

Thus over the Indian peninsula, the setting in of the westerlies in the lower levels of the atmosphere signals the arrival of the monsoon. But over the plains of northern India, it is the setting in of the easterlies that heralds the coming of the monsoon. The monsoon trough of low pressure establishes itself, and there are westerlies to its south and easterlies to its north.

This change in the wind direction over north India brings an end to the scorching summer when hot winds blow in from the Rajasthan desert and temperatures soar to 45 deg C or higher. The easterlies immediately cool down the atmosphere and there is a change in the air! There is singing and dancing, swinging on the “sawan ke jhoole”. The “lal dupattas” and “bheegi chunariya”s go flying around. The rivers get full and the boats and “naiya”s set sailing. No wonder then that the wind blowing from the east or the “purvaiya” has been a favourite theme of many Hindi film songs.

In the 1994 film Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Madhuri Dixit and Salman Khan danced a 9-0 countdown to launch the magical spell of the monsoon easterlies: “Thandi thandi purvaiya mein udti hai chunariya, hey dhadke mora jiya rama, bali hai umariya, dil pe, nahin kaabu, kaisa yeh jaadu? Yeh mausam ka jaadu hai mitwa, na ab dil pe kaabu hai mitwa, naina jisme kho gaye, deewane se ho gaye, nazara woh harsu hai mitwa…” The duet was sung by Lata and S. P. Balasubrahmanyam under the music direction of Ram Laxman.

The only other song that can match the HAHK number and whose magic is still alive, is the Mukesh-Lata duet “Sawan ka mahina” from the film Milan, released 40 years ago in 1967. Here Sunil Dutt gives Nutan a lesson in meteorology as well as linguistics: “Sawan ka mahina, pawan kare shor… Arey baba shor nahin .. sor, sor…pawan kare sor, …jiyara re jhoome aise, jaise banmaa naache mor… Raama gajab dhaae, yeh purvaiyya, naiyya sambhalo kit, khoe ho khiwaiyya, Hey, purvaiya ke aage, chale naa koi zor…”. Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s music and Anand Bakshi’s lyrics had a power that equalled the strength of the easterlies.

The third “purvaiyya” song that I like is from the film Anurag released in 1972. Moushumi Chatterjee played the role of a blind girl, who longs for a companion in her dark and lonely world, someone who can hold her hand and keep her from stumbling. Finding none, she asks the “purvaiya” to be her friend in a beautiful song sung by Lata under S. D. Burman’s direction: “sun ri pawan, pawan puravaiya, main hoon akeli, alabeli tu saheli meri ban ja saathiya…koi to ho aisa poochhe baat jo, giroon to pakad lewe haath jo, hase roye sadaa mere saath jo, soye jaage, sang dinaraat jo, aise ho Milan jaise dhoop chhaiya…”.

There are other songs like “puravaiya ke jhonke aaye, chandan ban ki mahak bhi laaye, door voh nindiya rani muskaaye…” from Dulhan Wahi Jo Piya Man Bhaaye (1977), sung by Hemalata, and written and composed by Ravindra Jain. The film Do Jasoos (1975) had one more Ravindra Jain song, which was a koli geet or fishermens’ song, “Purvaiya leke chali meri naiya jane kahan re” sung by Lata with Shailendra Singh. Another 1975 film, Chupke Chupke, had a slow number, “Chupke chupke chal di purvaiya…”, sung by Lata, under S. D. Burman’s music direction and written by Anand Bakshi. The film was a Amitabh-Jaya-Dharmendra-Sharmila multi-starrer.

In the hide-and-seek song “Bada nat khat hain yeh krishna kanhaiya, kya kare yashoda maiya” from Amar Prem (1972), Sharmila Tagore sings: “Jane kahan chhup gaya nand kishor, mud gaya kaise jaise purvaiya…”. A subtle refernce to the turning of the wind!