My stay in Agartala this time has been hot and humid. Though I spent my childhood here I can’t bear the humidity any more. The uncomfortable heat made worse by pressure of deadlines to be met. With COVID induced WFH we don’t really get a break anymore.
Coming home also brings along social responsibilities and commitments. Visiting relatives or friends almost every evening, taking my Mom or nephew out for shopping. I had packed some nice outfits and saris for the trip, unfortunately most haven’t been worn as I couldn’t bear to dress up in this muggy weather.
Sitting in humid Agartala I watched the videos of rain deluged Delhi airport. Generally it is the other way round. But this time the rain Gods were not so generous on Agartala. Though there were occasional rains, it didn’t help with the humidity.
Finally the skies opened today afternoon, just the morning before I was supposed to leave. Heavy downpour accompanied by wind and then steady drizzle.
I was working on a presentation, I tried to focus for while. Finally, I shut down the laptop and came to the terrace, sitting under the tin shed on the swing enjoying the pitter patar rain. Rainy afternoons that were a big part of me growing up has become a rarity now. So, I decided to steal it and soak every moment in!
Remember the nursery rhyme: Rain, rain, go away/ Come again another day/ Little Johnny wants to play – that is never me. I always love rain, almost unconditionally. I want it to rain, drizzle, pour, no matter what. Rain never comes in the way of my plans; it adds to it.
Maybe because I hail from a place where it rains a lot. My hometown Agartala is blessed with rain. We have a bountiful monsoon there and often generous non-seasonal rains. As a little girl, I remember waking up to rainy mornings and eagerly getting ready for school. On those mornings, even if mom would be reluctant to send me off, I would rush to the bus stand in my raincoat, insisting that there was an important class that I couldn’t skip. The joy of walking in the rain, the errant drops kissing my forehead, sometimes in ankle-deep water, was something I wouldn’t miss. Attendance was thin on such days; teachers would go easy on the poor rain-soaked kids. We were allowed to take off our wet shoes and socks and let them dry under the fan. Those rainy days, more fun & play and less studies, are probably my fondest memories of school.
There were days when rain would catch us by surprise. Our school, Holy Cross, was surrounded by huge playgrounds and trees. There were times when we would be playing under a tree far away from the school building and it would suddenly start pouring. We would come back to the class happily drenched to be sent off to the common room to dry ourselves.
On those rainy Agartala days, I felt like a peacock dancing in the rain. I had no other care in the world except soaking in the happy drizzle. Sometimes it would rain so much that the streets would be flooded, and we would be stuck at home. I would sit by the window for hours staring dreamily at the clouded sky, drizzling or pouring rain or the deluged courtyard. Thunder, a flash of lightning or storm that often came along with rain added to the allure of those wet days.
As I grew up and moved to drier climes, rain became rarer and eagerly awaited. While studying in Hyderabad, I would wait for the rain to pour on our rocky campus and wash away the heat. Memories of running back from the class to the hostel in the rain or walking lazily with a boy who wouldn’t leave my side all drenched. The thrill of walking up to a man waiting for me outside a coffee shop in the happy winter drizzle. I often felt like a Jasmine tree washed in the rain, flowers shivering and quivering, waiting to bloom again.
Living in NCR now, the wait for rain is sometimes unending, the long scorching summers and the sparse monsoons. The dry heat sears the dreamy Jasmine, the plant is parched waiting for it to rain. The peacock refuses to dance and the sweet boy has receded to some far-flung corner. On such harsh summer days, I wish it would pour, the streets would flood and the rivers swell, washing away all the dry dead twigs and the broken dreams. Maybe once the despair is swept away the flowers will bloom; I will dream new dreams and dance like a peacock again on the rain rinsed greens.
Jhiri was reclining on the bed, face down, her cheek rested on a pillow and a book lay open next to her. She was staring out of the window watching the light drizzle, rain drops falling on the green leaves, water droplets like pearls falling from the leaves on the green grass, rain drenched trees that looked so green and beautiful. It was one of those days in Agartala when heavy rain brought life to a standstill. It rained heavily the night before. As the roaring thunder woke her up, she could see flashes of lightening before her mother rushed into the room and shut the window. She was awake for a while listening to thunder clapping, wind lashing, sound of heavy rain falling on the tin roof.
When Jhiri woke up in the morning it was still raining, their courtyard and the road along the house was waterlogged, at least knee-deep water. “Your school bus won’t come today, so just stay at home and finish your projects,” said her mother. Jhiri would have loved to venture out, wade in the water, get drenched in the rain, but the stern expression on her mother’s face made her go back to her room. She sat on her study table, opened a book and stared out of the window. Jhiri loved rains, she loved that it rained so often in Agartala. On usual rainy days, even in ankle deep water, she would head to the bus stop in her raincoat with her schoolmates who lived in the vicinity. She liked to feel the wet breeze with drops of rain on her face. She liked to splash in the rain water, soaking her Bata ballerina school shoes & socks, sometimes even her uniform. On such rainy days, after reaching school she and friends would remove their shoes & socks and leave them to dry under the fan.
Last night’s rain was however too heavy that left the city inundated. It was still raining, Jhiri could hear the steady pitter patter on the tin roof, breeze would sometimes carry droplets of rain through the open window. She moved her books away from the window and put her face on the window frame so that she could see, hear and feel rain. “It’s going to be a while before the rain stops and the water recedes,” she thought. Jhiri thoroughly enjoyed these rainy days, being marooned at home and losing herself in the lyrical beauty of the rains. Sometimes she would make paper boats and watch them glide away in the water.
Jhiri relished everything about rainy days, including kichudi & daler bora (khichdi & dal pakora) usually served for lunch. She could make out from the smell coming out of the kitchen that mom was making delicious kichudi. After lunch the whole family would sit together in the living room and play Ludo, Chinese checker or Carrom. She would sometimes play chor police or kata kuti (noughts & croses) with her sisters.
For Jhiri, however, favourite part of the rainy afternoons was when she would slip into her room, listen to the pitter patter rain, gaze at dreamy cloudy sky and the rain-washed trees in the garden. There was something mesmerizing about these rainy afternoons, and she knew she would miss them one day!