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Just a random rambling on rain

I had started writing this post right in the middle of a miserable Mumbai monsoon morning, with a silent prayer on my lips for a ray of sunlight. And, as if in answer to my prayer, the sky looked less gray and more blue with moody white clouds floating carelessly in from the horizon in no rush to rain and I promptly abandoned the post. But, as it is with the misleading Mumbai monsoon, by evening the sky was back to being completely gray and clouds pregnant with their carriage waited patiently for a cue to begin their downpour.

After my camera had captured this view outside my window,  I thought I should pen this late monsoon post; about the torrid love-hate relationship between the rain and me. Three monsoons ago, an early monsoon day in Maximum City saw us alight from a flight that had flown us in from an arid, desert city. My Facebook status for the occasion had read, “Finally in the city that is rainy and green”. Why did I go so ‘over the top’ with my Facebook update? Well, read on…

My earliest impressions of the monsoon date back to the city of Job Charnock, where rubber boats are often deployed to rescue people stranded on rooftops in the lower lying parts of the city; and where I spent many a rainy afternoon setting sail paper boats in the alley outside our house that remained perpetually water-logged during the monsoons. I remember in carefree days there was no greater joy than dancing in the first monsoon showers or wading through the abundant rivulets and streams to and from my way to school – which returned to being roads only after the monsoons were over. Being such a creature of habit, I had accepted rain as an integral part of life, that there would be the occasional thunder-showers that would clean up the grime and the dust and set the earth aglow; that a random maze of pot-holes would soon dot the face of the streets soon after the showers came leading to incessant traffic jams; that houses and walls would soon take on a fresh greenish hue with the onset of the rains; and that our clothes and books would start to smell musty; and that children would snivel, sneeze and complain and yet not give up the slightest chance of playing or getting wet in the rain.

I had spent the decade prior to this in a somewhat rainless exile between the arid city at the foothills of the Aravalli and a desert city in the outer fringes of the Rub al Khali ( The Empty Quarter ). In the Rajdhani, at the foothills of the Aravalli, the monsoon or the Varsha rhitu is not a prominent season on the seasonal calendar and a whimsical rain fall soon gives way to autumn. The desert city, where we nested for the later half of the decade, has only one prominent season on the calendar, Al Sa’if (summer).

In my exile in the Rajdhani, I suddenly found that a lot of the known and the ordinary had gone missing from my life, rain being one of them. Like all fellow creatures of habit, the loss became a misery over time. Thus in rememberance of the rain that had left my life, I fondly named my daughter Rimjhim, the music of the rains, while I waited for the scorching Dilli summer months to peter into rain. In the desert city, things were extreme, it barely rained a few days in the year. Thus any form of rain was celebrated by going ‘Wadi bashing’ – driving through rivulets that trickled along dry river beds. I secretly wished for some divine intervention to lift this ban from my life and return me to some place where it rained.

So it was natural that when I did arrive at Maximum city, the craving for rain had been at an extreme. That year’s monsoon went unnoticed as I had other inconsequential things like finding a house, getting school admission for the 8-going-on-9, settling in etc. to keep me distracted. I did admire the gray Arabian Sea and the stormy sky gushing and pouring in a gusto from the Worli Seaface house that we spent that monsoon in. And the following year, in spite of the meteorological department going berserk and issuing warning after warning of a repeat of a deluge similar to 2006, rain played truant.  Soon I had joined the rest in tweeting about the missing Mumbai monsoon.

Which brings me to the year that is. And that is where lies the misery of a different kind. For the rain-starved me the decade long rationing of rain had brought in a craving for the rain, true, but it had altered something in me as well. I had, somewhere down the line, grown less benevolent and the romantic was hard hit by reality. This year’s monsoon has been surplus. The rains have filled up the lakes, the incessant streams have eroded the hills, the drumming droplets have eaten into the asphalt and have left behind, to quote a friend, ‘moon-craters’ on the Mumbai streets, the damp air has left a trail of musty smell in clothes and an abundant growth of fungus on all things cane, wood, fabric, and paper.The joy ride into town or anywhere else within or without the city boundaries reminds one of the joys of riding the metaphorical ‘bail gaadi‘.

Does that mean that I don’t love the rains any more? Of course, I do. From my perch, my lofty window on the 32nd floor, or through the high glass windows of the cafe down the road with a book in hand sipping a cup of espresso, or even from the car window as it whooshes through puddles while dodging ‘moon-craters’ of all shapes and sizes – nestled in dry comfort.

Read it on my TOI blog : Freeze Frame

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Posted by on September 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Strange love : Still on the August trail

Holy matrimony seemed to have settled down with me and put to rest my search for August, or so I thought.  No, no, I was perfectly, happily married to the Bee.  Even the friends of the Bee swore in his presence that he had taken to Bengali like a Bong to fish, that he was actually speaking whole sentences in Bengali. Phew! I thought.  But who would have known then that life away from my Madna would get more complex. And little did I know that the affection for an abstract noun named ‘perfection’ would be the albatross round my neck and in trying to escape my Madna I was merely stepping into another Madna, only larger.

Why? Just read on.

Like the gasping, choking fish out of water, we,  the ‘freshly out of Charnock’s Kolkata’ in the Rajdhani,  found our first home at the heartland of Bengalis in Chittaranjan Park, in  South Delhi.The sleepy street with a long patch of grass separating the two neat rows of houses, the hint of Bangaliana in the terracotta name plates, the tastefully done up windows with chiks complete with a ceramic wind chime swinging in the gentle summer breeze, careless evenings spent on the wide terrace of our barsati and its row of potted foliage and the rusting desert cooler by the long french window – and like all newly-weds I thought the dream would never end. Because just like you, even I had thought that thenceforth it would be happily ever after in Lutyen’s, being far away from my Madna.

Thus, for a while I merrily found solace here, among the Bangali Mashimas, paanch phoron, bori, Ilish maachh, Durga  Pujo, Poila Baishakh, baro mase tero parbon and most things Bangali. And yet, somewhere deep down I pined for the language I had inherited. Something seemed amiss. And I kept putting it off,  distracted myself with  long summer afternoons,  the rattling, rusting desert cooler, andhis, pots of spider ferns and foxtails, holi and other  such idiosyncrasies typical only to Delhi.

It finally dawned upon me when my friendly neighbourhood Mesomoshai called me and informed me, “Are beta, ami to sedin sirf mazak korchilam“.  My Bangali chromosome was in for a rude shock. In the name of speaking Bangla, in the heartland of Lutyen’s Bong ghetto, they churned out a punch of Bengali peppered with  a liberal dose of Hindi .

That day I realized that however much I loved the nuances of a nuanced speaker of the English tongue, my Bong crux  cringed in seeing the thousand deaths my mother tongue died every minute. I winced in pain when the  Mashimas, Meshomashais, Boudis, Dadas as much as at the machhwalla, bajarwalla blurted out  with poker faces “Amar  naam Ghosh hochche“; “deyale chipkali dekhe bhoi pawar ki holo“; “Beta, eta tomar uncle hocchche“; “aajker Ilishta khub taza hochche“.

I even seriously considered opening a “ Eso Bangla shikhi” class, of course, pro bono with some snacks thrown in. So there I was again, reliving Madna among the displaced tribesmen from my tribe who were  perfect in their Bengali customs and rituals and utterly confused about their troubled tongue. I mean not too many Bengalis are known for their finesse in the national language.  But the way they had  acquired the ‘third’ language and made it a part of their daily existence  was a far cry from what my mother tongue was supposed to be.

In the middle of all this my tormented inner being  continued to forge ahead with its own faulty logic of  perfection.

One of those evenings I saw Agastya, standing by the flower shop at the corner of the Second Market.  Yes, he had stepped out of the alleys of my mind and  was watching me from the shadows, watching me betraying myself. He  seemed to question me, my sanity and what happened to my pursuit of ‘perfection’ and my pursuit of him. And I questioned myself, was it that I was in  pursuit of August or I was  still pursuing the old suspect Perfection?

Soon it was time  to move on,  but not too far , just a step away from the Bengali galli to the vast “good” gaon of Haryana.

The big guns had already set up the much promised land for the upwardly mobile corporates, for whom gentry, an X sized apartment decorated with Y brand of furniture, the newly launched Z car, Diwali gifts, weekend potluck, teen patti and some other inanities were but essential. I succumbed to the daily soaps that telecast the “pleier”  of  owning stuff, showing off faux couture with elan,  hosting cougar parties.Yes, I tuned in for a while, just to sit and listen. I was, perhaps, trying to tone down the compulsive perfectionist in me. Agastya decided to leave me alone with my trials and errors at fitting in.

Must I confess that I soon gave up on the “pleier” of watching the daily soaps and returned to “wrong pronunciations”, “grammatical errors” “they call this talking in Bengali”? The ennui gave way to an understanding that my perfectionism would flog me forever unless I learn to rein it and channelize it into, yes, you are right, planning an escape out of  this “still rustic at heart, still smelling of wet earth” Madna. Agastya still lay low, lost in the maze of my mind. I let him stay there. By now I had learned to live with him and was used to him appearing out of the blue as a premonition, perhaps.

Eventually, with the first escape hatch opening up, I was on a flight out of Madna, or so I thought, flying westward.  In four hours I had landed in Sindbad’s “land of black gold”.  As I headed out of the air-conditioned comfort of  ‘al mataar al masqat al dauliya‘  I thought I caught a glimpse of Agastya sporting a smirk, waiting by the automated glass doors which parted to usher me into the country with a gust of hot and dusty desert wind.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2010 in Delhi, Uncategorized

 

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