Karnataka’s Rain Man Prasad – counting drops of water

Rainfall is a boon to any agrarian household. They wait for it and often count on it. Even as they count on it, they don’t count the falling drops. But there is one man who does, in the Sullia Taluk of Dakshina Kannada District and he has been doing so since 1975. Harsha Raj Gatty visited this Rain Man as he is fondly called and filed this story.

Its 8 am. In a house in the sleepy village of Balila of Sullia Taluk which is approximately 80 kilometers away from Mangaluru, a 59-year old man carefully checks the rain-water accumulated in a glass-beaker that stands securely over an approximately three-foot tall pedestal.

The man, P G S N Prasad, then walks towards his house which is less than 10 meters away and ritualistically enters his findings in a dairy. "It’s a very simple task of less than 5 minutes, anyone can do it. The cylindrical container already has measurements imprinted on it. We just have to take note of the water level in it and make a note in the dairy. One does not need too much scientific or mathematical knowledge. It’s a simple data entry," says Prasad, who completed his studies till 2nd PUC in the science stream and then took up family responsibilities.

For Prasad and his family, measuring rain comes quite naturally ever since it was first recorded by his father, PS Govindaiah (101) during the mid 1940s. "My father had a habit of writing a dairy about the house budget and so on. But on top of each page he always entered his general observation on rain and thunder storms. I somehow got hooked onto this practice. Further, the daily weather announcement by All India Radio (AIR) always made me wonder how they forecast rain and then I decided to create my own rain gauge," Prasad says.

Since then, the agriculturist’s family of three generations spanning over seven decades has continued the family legacy. Since 1976, barring a brief break of six months, Prasad claims he and his family has been maintaining the dairy for a straight 41 years. In the rarest case, if Prasad happens to be away from home, either his 56-year old wife Malini or one of his two sons Vineeth (30) or Vijeth (20) ensures that the rain measurement is recorded for the day.

Once recorded, the rain measurements are carefully keyed-in to a Whatsapp group of 'Areca-nut growers’ that has close to over 200 recipients, mostly farmers anticipating the rainfall measurements. "For agrarians, especially those cultivating sensitive crops like areca nut, rainfall measurement becomes quite a handy data. They can use these inputs to plan the amount of fertilizers, seed dispersal, cultivation pattern and even water conservation," he says.

He does not take the entire credit for the fruitful yield. Prasad candidly admits that there are other factors such as soil quality and atmospheric moisture which play a significant role with regard to the quality of crop.

Recollecting his first venture of creating a rain-gauge in 1975 (at the age of 18), Prasad says that the whole year he spent on trying and testing several methods, containers, measuring unit to ascertain rainfall. "I was not successful that year; it was mostly trial and error. Although, simultaneously I continued to write my rainfall observations in the dairy like my father did," he says. The breakthrough came only in 1976, when Prasad obtained a cylindrical beaker from a laboratory supply store in Mangaluru and eventually found some consistency in his findings.

In 1982, after the first beaker developed a crack, Prasad replaced it with another container which remains in the house till date. Besides books, stationeries and the beaker, totally amounting to Rs. 1000, Prasad admits that this by far is one of the simplest and cheapest hobbies anyone can pursue.

According to the dairy entry - 1999 saw the monsoon making earliest appearance (May 20, 1999) that measured 63mm, while in 1983 monsoon not only arrived late (June 16, 1983) but measured 26mm.

By his own accounts, Prasad states that there has been drastic change in the weather pattern and noticeable reduction of rain since 1976. "I am actually under the process of bifurcating the data for 25 years that would give us comparative figures between 1976 to 2000 and 2001 to 2025. “As it is, it can be noted that the uniform distribution of rain no longer exists. Pollution, rise in vehicle and industry pollutants, global warming is causing irreparable damages to the rain behavior and it can significantly affect the crops,” he says.

Inspired by Prasad, several others in the nearby village at Guttigar and Bellare have setup similar rain gauge device at their homes and they frequently update the data in the 'WhatsApp' group. "Two other farmers, Unnikrishna from Guttigar and Kesava Bhat from Bellare are probably among few people who have been consistent in accumulating the rainfall data. Many individuals and even institutes have earlier expressed interest in carrying out similar exercise, but later they quit," he adds implying that for people it is a hobby or personal interest rather than profession.

At present, Prasad plans to consolidate his findings of 41 years, to a computer assisted data and formulate a monsoon weather model that would be used to ascertain the fluctuation of monsoon in the region. However, he adds that a single measuring unit in one part of the region is of no use and he suggests that ideally every household must have a customized rain gauge for proper assessment of rainfall in the region.

"For instance, the measurement that I take can be useful to understand the rain pattern at Balila village but not for Sullia or Dakshina Kannada (DK). The rainfall pattern greatly differs even at a distance of 3.5 kilometers. For instance, recently when it rained – the rainfall in Balila measured 46mm, whereas at nearby area of Kollamogaru it measured 106mm and at Katta – another village it measured 48mm. So instead of one rain gauge centre, if there is measurement for every 3.5 kilometer then it would be possible to estimate rainfall in the region," Prasad says.


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