Girijamma woke from her nap with a sense of confusion. The room was dark, even though it was only 4.15 in the afternoon. Her sleep fuddled senses took a moment to understand the forming clouds blocking the sunlight. She dashed out of her room and made up the stairs as fast as her plump legs could carry. Out of breath, she started pulling out the clothes hung in a neat line on the clothesline. They were sun-dried & fresh, with a whiff of soap. Only when all the clothes were safely in the nook of her arm did she go back inside.
Depositing the clothes on the chair, she glanced out the window, a little worried. Her 12-year-old grandson would now be walking back from school, almost halfway home. Knowing him as she did, she was certain he would not take shelter under any protruding roof of a shop. She had once seem him and his friends from her window. Jumping in all the puddles along the way. Hair plastered to their foreheads, water dripping into their eyes, insensible to the disapproving glances of passers-by. They were splashing water, shrieking with mock indignation when a splash caught them and laughing.
She sighed. At least today he wouldn’t drench the entire way. He would be just a few roads away. As the fat drops started to splatter against her windows, she smiled. Alright. Let the boy have his fun. He was a child after all. Heaven knows, she had had her fun when she was a girl.
The wind blowing into the house made her feel cold. Not the distasteful, freezing cold of a winter midnight. But the pleasant cold of a monsoon morning which evoked desires of curling up in a soft, warm bed.
She made her way to the kitchen and started chopping onions in ringlets. She could hear delighted screams from the streets, screams which were loud enough to overpower the raucous downpour. Girijamma waited, knowing what would happen next.
Sure enough, the door burst open and her grandson came to a screeching halt in front of her –
Ajji! Ajji! Please! Make onion bhajji! Please Ajji! It’s raining!
And as he saw her already chopping onions, his face broke out in a delighted grin. He gave a happy shout and ran out to call his friends.
Yes. It was alright, this rain.
As the clock struck 6, Sunay made his way up to the terrace. It was time for his usual last smoke for the day, the last one before he left work that is. The terrace was the unofficial smoking zone, a proverbial water-cooler spot. It was a vast concrete plain, with an unobstructed view of the dreary city skyline. If one looked really hard, and only if one looked for it, a lone tree in an occasional sector could be seen.
Even as he stood, feeling the slight tinge of tobacco being absorbed into his lungs, his heart sank. The sky had darkened since his last trip up to the terrace. The wind smelled of rain, that faint prophecy of downpour which could crash all his gay spirits. He could see the next few hours unfold in front of him –
He’d leave in an hour, after what had been an irksome & tiring day. The rain, having trickled down to a drizzle, would still disrupt his vision. The first scene to greet him would be a long file of red tail lights, in a slightly neat line. To augment this sullen sight, the traffic light would turn green. A sudden blast of horns, the likes of which would reverberate in anyone’s nightmare. Then, after a few seconds, watching helplessly as the green light turned red. Being stuck in this loop for an eternity, and truly learning how long a minute can be. A commute which normally took half an hour extended into thrice that time. All the while slowly getting drenched in the steady drizzle. Smoke from hundreds of motors melding with the dampness, almost suffocating everyone on the streets. He could remember a time when the smell of rain had delighted him. But that was a long time back, before he had to crawl through the barely existing roads to reach home, wet and filthy.
Yes. The smell of rain could now make him a very unhappy man.
Madesha sat in his field, eating the staple lunch his wife had bought him dutifully. Madesha and Sujatha were a farmer couple. Right now, they were a very worried farmer couple.
Both came from families which took pride in their status as tillers of the land. Any child born had a destiny. A sole destiny. That was the way it had always worked, though now their children seemed to be less in awe of the old way. They could have browbeaten their offspring and forced him to work in the fields, as their parents had done. But to what end, they both thought. They were worse off than their fore fathers. The promise of a new era which had coloured their youthful dreams, the shiny promise of better technology and methods which were to be brought into the soil had never materialised. It was the same as it been a decade ago.
Because, you see, they needed water. And no one could bring it to them. The fields were in the hinterlands, far removed from the rivers, and were parched. The cloud and rain, portended by the weatherman last week, was yet to arrive.
So they sat in their field, freshly sown two weeks back. Each day was a waiting game, a game which they played with prayers. Two more days, and they were done. No amount of torrents then would help them.
With full stomachs and heavy minds, Madesha and Sujatha sat in silence. Looking out at a field which had once been a lush green. This was an annual ritual, this agonizing expectation & hope. And each year seemed a lot worse than the last.
Then, in front of their eyes, the sky split into two. It was as though the Gods had won a war and let loose their weapons in mirth through a wild dance. Lightening which blinded and thunder which deafened. Madesha gave a start when the first drop hit his forehead. Sujatha looked at her husband. His eyes closed, he seemed to be whispering gratuitous prayers. He looked back at her then and smiled widely. Not in happiness, but in relief.
Yes. This was their life.