It was 5am thereabouts. It began to drizzle as I made my way back home from the tea stall after my morning cuppa. Though I was wearing a jacket over my sweater and shirt, I was cold. A chilling gust of wind blew against me. With the upper half of my body leaned towards the rain, I pulled my jacket together and walked faster. And then I remembered.
It was raining hard early in the morning and even the inside of our home was freezing. Amma was boiling milk for my morning drink. I went and sat next to the stove.
“What is milk, ma? Where do you get it from?” I asked.
“The milkman delivers it to our home, kanna,” she said.
“Where does he get if from?”
“Oh, we get milk from the cow.”
“Through its mouth?”
“No, from its udder. Next time we see a cow, I will show you.”
I didn’t quite understand, but I left it at that.
It was pouring. But luckily, the servant had brought an umbrella. From under its safety, I could hear the rain go pitter-patter. After a while, it became hard for both us to be together and so the servant held it for me, as I walked home. By the time I reached, I was able to see my chest under my wet shirt. Our servant was in a worse shape. She was shivering and her old bones creaked. I had hated her until then, but now I felt bad. I went in and told my grandma: “You know Patti, our servant is not really a bad person.”
It was the reopening day of school and, again, it rained, just like it had on the first calendar day last year. Appa made me promise I would not ride the bicycle, but walk with it next to me if riding got too hard. My friend and I did that for a couple of blocks from home. Then, when we knew we could flout the rule safely, we began riding. Soon it became a race. We rode very fast, skidding on the wet road. Everything was a blur, but we never stopped. When we neared school, there was a large, restless crowd gathered at the gate. A bus was standing, its windshield broken. A boy had slipped from the footboard of the bus and slipped under it just as the vehicle started moving. He wasn’t crying and didn’t seem to be in pain. The bottom half of his body was crushed under the wheels. He died 20 minutes later.
It was coming down in sheets. My brother and I were cycling home after school. I was doing the pedalling and he was sitting in front of me on the bar. It was a new cycle that Appa had got for me. It was heavy work as I hardly could see five feet in front of me.
“Anna, do you smoke?” he asked me, twisting his neck and looking up at me.
It must have been a hard question for him to ask. And he rarely if ever calls me Anna.
“Yes, I do,” I said. “Thatha says it is bad for you and that you should give it up before you get addicted,” he said.
“I will try,” I promised, but I never did.
The thatched roof began leaking barely minutes after it started raining. It was Tamil class and I was in no mood to sit in. It was the second month of college. My friend and I had an unspoken arrangement. If one of us walked out, the other would accompany him. So as I left the class before the professor came in, he quickly caught up with me. I knew the library was lousy, but there was nowhere else to go. So we went there.
“You know, the princi doesn’t like us going to the girls’ quarters,” my friend said.
“Well, they have the stupid library there,” I retorted.
So we went and looked at the books. We could not touch them as they were sure to fall apart. The pages of every book was like withered autumn leaves. The next day, the third-years announced a strike. By this time, I was tired of finding out the reason why the seniors bothered. It just seemed like an excuse to bunk class. I walked out along with the entire college. I heard the princi scream my name. I whirled around and looked at him shocked, trying hard to understand. He ran up to me and slapped my face hard. I yelped in pain, but did not return to class.
Once outside, my friend told me: “You know, he must hate you going to the girls’ section.”
“Is he jealous or something,” I queried.
I had been fighting with Appa almost every day. But after that one, I walked out. The sky was overcast. But I was determined to walk to Thatha’s home, 40 km away. A kilometre or two into the walk, just as my legs were aching hard, it began to pour with a vengeance. Mother Nature seemed to be tuning into my internal fuming. After about 10 km, my legs were swollen and numb. I could hardly feel my feet. I sat down on a short wall and massaged my foot. I was determined to reach my destination. I tried to flag down passing vehicles, but none stopped to give me a lift. A few kilometres later, the rain became a storm and I was frightened by the lightning and thunder. I felt as if the skies had literally opened. For a second, I believed I was god.
The entire hostel could hear the howling wind. The climate was just right for a serial killer movie to be shot outside our doors. I pulled up the blanket till my ears and curled up with a book. Suddenly, there was a loud knock on my door. I was paralysed for a minute. Then I jumped out of bed and opened the door. She was standing there, all wet and furious. I looked out the room. There was no one. I pulled her in. For a minute, I didn’t know what to do. This was the first time she had come up to my room. Then I signalled her to sit. “You know, I think I am in love with him,” she said.
“Oh, make up your goddamn mind. Who really are you in love with? Is any of this even love?”
She put her head down and bit her lip. I could see that this was not the reaction she expected. Suddenly, she jerked out of the chair and walked away without another word. I never told her that entire year that I had a crush on her.
We were sitting on the staircase leading to the terrace. There were about four or five girls, who had occupied the upper flight, and a couple of guys including me sitting closer to the bottom. It had just stopped raining and the steps were still wet. We were eating the rubbish canteen food. Suddenly the girls began giggling. I turned around and looked at them.
“You know, you are cute,” a girl told me.
She had never spoken to me before. I turned a bit red. I didn’t understand, not fully. But the back of my mind told me I was caught. It had been a professional job.
“Did you know who you were chatting with last night on the internet room?” the girl asked.
I positively blushed. “Well, at least, it is safe sex,” I said in defence.
I was making some calls from the landline of my office when she walked up to me. She had been drinking in the conference room with her friends. “I want to go home,” she whined. One of my eyebrows went up at that. “Be a gentleman and get me an auto,” she said. We both walked out into the rain. Her entire top got drenched and I could see her cleavage and much beyond that. She didn’t seem to care. After about 10 minutes, an auto-wallah took pity on us and stopped. I told the driver where to go and she got in. As he started, she beckoned me closer. When I leaned in, she kissed me. It was a big, open-mouthed, floppy kiss. I recoiled with shock and pulled out. The auto drove away.
My cousin and I were driving. It was way past midnight. We both had had a couple of beers. I think he may have had more than a few. We were driving around the city taking gulps out of the bottle. For some reason, he was trying his best not to use the wipers of the car. But soon, the rain forced his hand. We were going very fast, when we saw a dog in the headlights. Almost involuntarily, my cousin swerved hard and drove over the median, crashing into a car coming from the opposite side. After the initial shock, I tried to open the door. It seemed jammed, but opened after a hard push. I stepped outside, when the pain ripped through my body. I screamed and began crying helplessly. Within minutes, a crowd had gathered. Soon, an ambulance arrived and took me to the nearest hospital. I had to go through a surgery to rectify my broken right pelvic bone. It was three days later that I learned that a girl in the other car had crashed into the windshield and died. Strangely, I couldn’t care less. In all these years, I have never spared a thought for her. That is, until now.
It was in the middle of the night in the winter. The cold drops of rain hit my face painfully, making me wince. I slowed down the bike. Water was flowing freely across the road. I stopped at a tea shop and ordered a cup of milk. “Look at the baby drinking milk,” a curly haired guy mocked. He hardly seemed the kind of guy who would understand that imbibing caffeine at that hour would deprive me of my precious sleep. Besides he was smashed. I clenched my teeth, fighting the anger arising inside me. Out of the blue, the loud sound of a police siren pierced the air. The curly haired guy looked at me in panic. The vehicle stopped and two cops stepped out. They began questioning the curly haired guy. I stepped in between. “He is with me,” I said firmly, showing my press ID card to them. The cops backed away and soon left. Without looking at the guy, I kickstarted my bike and drove away.
It was my first long distance bike trip. My friend, an excellent rider with a bullet, and I rode away from the city to a fort that predated the British era. We were sitting next to a stream drinking cranberry-flavoured Bacardi Breezers, when it began drizzling. We continued sipping, opening up another two bottles. We stayed back till the stream began rising. Realising it was late, we resumed our ride. It was quite late when we reached the fort, which turned out to be shut. We checked into the local hotel, which really was not a part of the plan. The next morning, my friend woke me up early to catch the sunrise. We went down to the beach, where a crowd had gathered.
A small girl, dressed in a red frock, was frolicking in the water with mirth. I was watching her. My friend was looking at the sun. Soon, she gathered courage and went in deeper. Without any warning, a huge wave pulled her in. I was shocked. The girl’s father ran into the waters. I nudged my friend. By the time, the crowd pulled the girl out, she was unconscious. They all tried their best to revive her, but failed. Soon, a man, who had the air of someone who knew what he was doing, pushed the crowd aside and gave the girl mouth-to-mouth. It was the first time I had seen somebody do that. Without warning, the girl coughed violently and woke up. Her father hugged her close to his chest sobbing in relief.
My wife and I were returning from the mall when the skies opened. Not wanting to pay a fortune for parking, I had stopped our car a couple of streets away. By the time we reached it, both of us were drenched. As we began our customary long drive in the night, my wife told me that she was hungry. We stopped at a roadside shop, which seemed to be the only one open at that hour. She ordered two half boiled eggs, and wolfed them down. This happened about two years after our marriage, and during all this time my wife always had her eggs scrambled. So, I was watching with interest. During the drive that lasted for a good couple of hours, I began talking. I don’t think I ever spoke to my wife so much ever.
As I entered my house today, my jacket wet from the rain, I remembered all of this. I changed and began typing. That was the last I remember of the rains.