Behind ‘When It Rains’
When it Rains (The Emma Press) – the UK translation of Waktu Hujan Turun– has just been featured as part of the 2020-21 CLPE course programme, it features on their Planning the Curriculum around a Quality Text in the Early Years course. Rassi Narika talks about her inspiration for the book and welcoming rain; a beautiful ode to rainy days. This article was written for and first appeared at CLPE’s blog.
As a kid, I was drawn to rainy days. My mom was alright with me going out for a ‘rain-shower’ – as long as I didn’t catch a cold. Jakarta, my hometown, was already a concrete jungle when I grew up there in the 90s. There wasn’t much scope for nature-related activities in the West Jakarta alley where I lived, so my ultimate outdoor excursions were rain-showers. On regular days, the alleys were quite busy with motorbikes passing. But on rainy days, the children claimed them: the alleys were ours. We would run to an empty field nearby, jumped to the puddle, and embraced the raindrops on faces. At that moment, I felt connected to the nature. My body and soul loved the experience. Being wet materialized my present, and felt like it washed away my fear and doubts.
As I grow older, it was apparent that rain-shower was not a thing for adult. People expected me to stay dry when I go to classes or meetings; and just like any other relationship in life, my relationship with rainy days became more complicated. I started to blame rain for the mess it created to the traffic, my make up, and my schedules. The magical rain became a mere weather situation. Yet, a little excitement never left. Every time rain started hitting the window, creating a serenade, there was a slight delight in the midst of my complaints.
When I started writing for children, I promised my self that what I’d like to offer is stories that allow my readers to have a different perspective in seeing things. There is always two side of a story, and seeing rain from a different angle was exactly the kind of narrative that I wanted to tell.
Creating When It Rains was to understand what embodied rain; and to do that I had to switch my viewpoint. Rather than seeing the things I can’t do when it rains, I started looking into possibilities of what can only be done or found on rainy days.
Yes, I’d lost the chance to read outside in the park, but I’d find people with their umbrellas on the street – and a street filled with umbrellas moving around can be a very interesting sight.
Yes, it could be quite a hassle to dress up when it rains. However, wearing raincoat can seem to be out of place at other times, so for once I am justified to wear it.
Yes, I shrieked when frogs jump out of nowhere during the rain. But I found out they do that because rain helps them to stay wet and hydrated for their physiological needs. It is a literal blessing for their existences. For a while, they can jump all they want without worrying about being dried out. If I were a frog – blessed with the agility to leap but had to spend most of my days in the shade or underwater just to survive – I would have sprung uncontrollably too whenever it rains.
Rain became a culprit of our misery mostly because we need something to be blamed when things get out of control. We are taught to plan our days, as means of knowing where our lives are heading, and losing control of our plans looks like a setback. Rainy days are a good reminder for me that one cannot control everything in life. Sometimes it flows without my approval to directions I do not wish to go. At times, it’s hard to accept, but just because things don’t go to my favour, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad altogether.
In the story, Kira’s acceptance to rainy days extended to accepting flaws in lives and loving what we have – rather than continuously envying what we don’t have. Her willingness to go out for a rain adventure was about resilience to keep on going, exploring the possibilities, and being open to chances even when situations were undesirable. You never know, with some adjustment, there are doors that could only be open when rain falls.
In the course of my life, I’ve learnt how shifting angles allows me to encounter the missed details in chaos, accept things that I cannot change, and find beauty in imperfection. It helped me to be more content and hopeful with life, even when things get out of hand.
So despite of the grey sky, I learnt to see the dancing umbrellas. Despite of the chaotic traffic, I found time to listen to the sound of the city. Despite of the jumping frogs, I learnt to see their celebration of life.
Occasionally, rain still bothers me, especially when I forgot to bring my umbrella and didn’t calculate my travel time to a meeting. But I’m learning to adjust my view and find a way to embrace it.
For me, rainy days are a fact as much as they are magical. When the sky gets dramatic and I’m stuck at home because it’s too much hassle to go out, I allow myself to just watch the rain flows and blurs the window. Often it’ll lead to new ideas. The last time I got stuck in the rain, I ended up completing writing and illustrating my second book: When It Rains.