Old Acquaintances

Walking along rain scattered roads usually makes me think of that odd line between happiness and sadness. For on days when the sky looks majestically grim and enchanting, things can happen. A girl walking along the side of the road, carefully making sure to press her feet down evenly, her pink Bata rubber slippers glistening in sandy water, may smile ruefully, remembering an exasperated voice explaining why slippers are impractical for monsoons. A rickshaw wala yells at her to get on the pavement, but she can’t as the gritty pitch of the road is the only thing her weak soles can hold on to. Water drips from her bangs, right into her wet-lashed eyes but she can’t push the hair away because of course, she chose today to wear full, billowing pocket less pants that threaten to slip off her waist unless she holds on. She is happy, a gentle contentment evident after a day well-spent.Frustrated at the moment maybe, but she knows once she can put her bag down, the smiles she has been keeping back the whole day will erupt like she knows the sun will erupt tomorrow, having been denied today. The city shines and shimmers in an aqueous magic of it’s own making, like it’s winking and giggling at the sudden bustle and dismay of the regular pale blue synthetic salwar kameez women who are disturbed by the sudden mood swings of the usually placid city.
Yellow lights flicker coquettishly engaged in a risky game of quick lovemaking with the electric-tinged rain that drips along their faces and lights them up in a loving purple glow; can you imagine their surprise at being the receivers of light for once? One blinks out of existence, above her head and she purses her lips at the spent guide. A baby brinjal rolls down the mountains of roughly plastic-sheeted vegetables on either side of the road, the owner grinning sheepishly from under the awning of the now very full tea shop. The young boy there, busily measures out tea in earthen pots and the rising steam is quickly chastened by the now misty ilshe guri, engulfed and snuffed out like a precocious child about to defame her family. She steps on crunchy cabbage leaves and skids a little on the road strewn with once vibrant now brown and squelchy ganda flowers and bel leaves, thrown out by the flower shops because so what if they are not humans? They are subjected to their own forms of discrimination where the ochre gets precedence over the lemon yellow and the saffron is chosen over the milky orange.
She spots a garland of both kinds swaying in the sudden buffeting winds and sniffs in a hidden laugh at the thought of a pair of eyes that wouldn’t have known the difference and probably wouldn’t have cared anyway; after all their owner doesn’t like flowers. Schoolgirls with skirts hiked up to their waist, squealing about the unfair weather pass her, packets of salty beguni in their hands and this time she really laughs, realising that they have neatly packed umbrellas sticking out of their bags, put in probably by adoring guardians who hope that THIS monsoon at least, will be by passed without 4 antibiotic bills.
But not even the scare of amoxicillin can put out the delighted sparkle in the eyes of the young girls, thin and ungainly ducklings yet, deliberately stepping in puddles, and not having to worry about whether their white shirts will leave them naked to the eyes that hunt for such pleasure on wet days.
Another rickshaw wala passes, a plastic packet on his head, shoes dangling from the handle of the contraption, he cannot risk his job, on the simple luxury of wearing chotis in the rain. The bell in his finger jingles as he jogs carefully past, avoiding potholes, that have been emptied by the huge splashes owned by car wheels as they zoom past.
She walks past the red cart that heralds doom for the itchy thirst that is an accompaniment of getting wet in the rain. Like the throat sets up a gherao, a protest march, against the unconventional drinking done by the skin, unusual and unprecedented. Images of orange juice imbibed ice coating her tongue with shivery bliss, dance in front of her water-logged eyes, but she stomps past, curling her drenched black dupatta around a raindrop studded hand. A little boy, climbing up the steps of the pool looks longingly at the whistling quality-assuring man near the cart, while his mother brandishes a tupperware box of sugared chhola towards his unwilling face.
She remembers that she has seen a man, probably dead, today on the road while the winds rush in around her, lifting her soul in her old favourite dance, her anticipation making her heart quicken and face turn up to receive whatever the sky has to offer. Worries crowded in even then, horrors of paint running on natural dye clothes, and cherished books on the perpetually water-filled Sundarbans, now threatening to acquire hidral pools of their own…
But she pushed them back, in exasperated laughter at this playful childhood friend, whom she has never been able to best, but maybe does not really want to. Her friend who covers in an all consuming love like no other, kissing her coldly, yet setting her veins on fire.
Rain, covering the gradually slumbering streets of the city, golden and grey, laughs in her ear while she is walked home, by it.
– Upasruti Biswas
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