in observations

A note about rain

I was not able to sleep properly a few weeks ago. It was weird. I felt sleepy, but my normal routine of keeping my eyes closed and clearing my head of all thoughts didn’t help. I began to feel restless. So I looked towards other means that could calm me and lull me into a deep peaceful sleep. The pitter-patter of raindrops is a soothing sound that always helps me. I tend to associate rain with the idea of a sleepy summer afternoon, where I tend to drowse off regardless of what I’m doing.

I turned to my phone and looked up the rain sounds apps. I have 3 such apps installed on my phone right now. My favorites – Thunderspace and rainymood are not on my phone right now. Instead of downloading them and wasting precious sleeping time, I decided to give the other ones a go. The latest one, “Raining – relax yourself“, has a few presets – Summer rain, Dripping rain, Forest rain and Rain on window. I like the sound of rain on a window but it’s not exactly my favorite. I tried all the presets but didn’t like any of them. Remind me to delete that and make some room for Thunderspace.

The next one, called Ambience, allows you to pick and choose multiple sounds to play. I could select the volume of four sounds – rain, fire, thunder and waves. I set rain to about forty percent and thunder to about sixty percent. No good. The rain sound is pretty dull, almost a forest rain. That’s boring! The app has other sounds that are available through an in-app purchase. Sounds such as coffee shop, birds, crickets etc. I don’t care for insect sounds and if I really want coffee shop sounds, I’ll just download the coffitivity app. I was no longer sure if I would get any good sleep for the night.

Finally, I tried the oldest rain sounds app I have on my phone right now. I’d tried it long ago and was unsure of it. It’s called Rain Sounds HQ, and because of that imaginative name, I really expected the developers to know what they’re doing. I fired up the first preset – Cologne Thunderstorm. Instantly, I was at ease! I love a good thunderstorm. Although the preset was exactly what I needed, I tried the other presets too – Oregon Coastal Rainforest, Rain in Washington Forest, Small River in Scotland etc. None of them matched the power of the Cologne Thunderstorm. They’re all soft sounds and lack a punch. So I switched back to Cologne Thunderstorm and turned to my side, grabbed a pillow and dozed off. The sound was not distractingly loud, but soft enough to calm my senses into a lull.

I expect rain to make its presence felt. I believe rain should have character. It needs to be strong, loud enough to grab attention and weighty enough to soak you in minutes. A windy thunderstorm without rain is irritating. However a soft, dull rain that slowly seeps into everything is way more annoying. In this regard, the rain that I’ve experienced in Seattle is rather bland. It’s soft and quiet. It has never been accompanied by thunder. It’s boring! Reminds me of the time I spent in Shillong. The light drizzles in Shillong are constant and soundless, and present for a major part of the day.

The size of the drops also matters a lot in my book. When it rains, the drops should make a splash and actually make a sound when they hit the ground beneath your feet. If the raindrops just land softly on the ground, I can’t call it good rain. Seattle and Shillong have tiny rain drops and the drops just gently come to rest on the surface. The drops also stick to the windows without a sound and that’s just faux rain to me. Rain should have strength and a life-affirming sound associated to it. Unfortunately, the rain I’ve seen of late doesn’t.

The reason I like Thunderspace so much is because it is a complete package. It controls the flash on your phone and can connect to a Belkin WeMo switch further connected to table fans to give you a more complete feeling of rain, thunder and windy weather. I suppose it should be used mostly by people to whom rain is a therapy. I enjoy the rich sound of rain that they’ve captured, with vigorous thunder and light wind to accompany it.

My other favourite, rainymood would be well-known to people who enjoy listening to rain. It’s a beautiful rain sound, with the site depicting just a plain window covered with rain drops, creating the illusion of sitting at your window, listening to the rain and thunder as they dance across the sky and the drops gently pattering on the glass nearby. I noticed today that they’ve added a new feature where you can watch YouTube videos along with the rain sounds. That’s pretty amazing! However, rainymood does have a different tone than other apps. While others seem to have a sort of optimism in the rain; a sort of crescendo if you will (especially, Thunderspace); rainymood is quite the opposite. It has a melancholy sound. I can’t explain why, but when I’m in one of my sadder moods, my browser automatically directs itself to rainymood and simply reinforces the sadness. Fortunately, it wasn’t the one I was listening to that night.

I slept well thanks to Rain Sounds and had a rather interesting dream. Perhaps I’ll write about that next, probably while listening to Coffitivity.

Author’s note – This article was edited by my long-time good friend Anurag Saxena. Apart from being a really good writer and software engineer, Anurag is also an Ingress aficionado. He blogs about his experiences in that world here.

PostScript – I have a beautiful memory of my entire family sitting in our car on the hillsides of Ooty, with rain pattering on the windows while we’re inside, enjoying home-cooked food passed out by my Mom. Enjoying the delicious taste and aroma of that food, with the wonderful sights and sounds of Ooty rain is one of the most wonderful remembrances I have of my childhood. Ah, those were the days!

Update – In a conversation with an Uber driver recently, I heard an interesting story. He was talking about a month-long trip he made to Malaysia and one of the things that surprised him there was the rain. Every day at 12:45 pm, he would see clouds rolling in, dark and full of potency. This would start the communal event of shops being shuttered and people rushing to their homes and latching everything down. Then at precisely 1:30 pm, the rain would start. It would be strong and harsh, with huge drops that could hurt a person. Of course, being from Seattle, any monsoon rain would seem harsh to the fellow. Within a forty-five minute period, the rain would stop, as if the water tanks above their heads had flushed out everything they had and it was clearly time to dissipate. He then described how the Sun would hop out almost instantly and when he ventured out next, he realized that the ground was extremely dry, as if the rain had not even touched the surface! The Earth was so parched that even the grass could not retain the water, everything would seep in. In fact, he tried to walk on the grass barefoot after one such rain and all he felt was dry leaves pricking his soles. It was a wonderful conversation about rain in Malaysia.