The rain is one of the most beautiful gifts of Nature, especially if it is unseasonal rain. A few days back we had a rather unexpected spell of rain here. I had been going around all morning that day with a gloomy face, and after the brief shower I could feel a marked improvement in my spirits. It was as if some invisible load had been lifted from my heart.
Last Wednesday the day had been cloudy right from the beginning. We did not think much of it; rain is the last thing that we expect in February. So we were really surprised to hear the roll of thunder sometime around seven in the evening. I kept thinking it was the sound of cars and furniture being moved around until I saw a flash of lightning through the window of the living room. And then came the rain. It was nothing extraordinary, just a drizzle. But for me it seemed to be a relief, from what I am not sure. Maybe I had just got fed up of the unending dryness all around me for the last few months. I was sitting there in front of the computer, drumming at the keyboard aimlessly, and then when I heard the first drops coming down, I simply ran to the balcony to feel the rain on my hands. The smell of wet mud that always drives me into fits of ecstasy was already there. Any other time of the year I would have stolen off to the terrace to get wet, but the evening was chilly, and getting wet in the rain was not a very pleasant prospect. Instead, I sat in the balcony watching the rain coming down to soothe the thirst of the dry earth, and memories of childhood flooded into my mind.
When I was a kindergartener most of my favourite games were related to splashing around in mud and water. The loner that I have always been, I preferred to go on these watery expeditions all by myself. After the rains a long stretch of puddles would be formed right in front of our house. As long as the sun was in the sky, I would sit in those puddles and make mud toys. At first my mother used to scold me for the soggy state that I got into, and the frocks I managed to spoil in the process. Later though she just resigned herself to the fact that I was not going to change my ways, and simply warned me not to stray into the road. Another game that I loved to play was jumping in the puddles and watching the ripples formed in the water. I remember once I had managed to induce a slightly older and very prim and proper friend of mine to step into the water. She had complied only after making me promise not to splash any water at her. Of course I had no intention of keeping my promise, and the moment she stooped to look closely into the puddle, I picked up a handful of the muddy water and threw it right at her face! I still laugh helplessly when I visualize the horrified expression on her face and her shrill voice screaming that I had spoiled her hair!
When we were in primary school, all of us loved to make paper boats. In fact, I used to return from school every day with at least five of those boats tucked into my bag. Whenever it rained, whether we were at home or at school, we would set afloat dozens of those boats and pretend to be dacoits and princesses on board ships going to distant lands in search of priceless treasures. We had such lovely times then, letting our imaginations run away with us. In fact, I think those were the days when my classmates’ creativity was at its peak. We made up impossible stories and lived them in our make-believe worlds, and found nothing absurd about them. Sometimes it started raining while we were playing with our boats, and then we would pretend that there was a cyclone and the ship was rocking helplessly on the sea, and all of us would pray that we may survive the night without being tossed overboard (this was during the time when the computer game called Sindbad was very popular and all of us had gathered some idea about life on sea from it. Also The Pirates of the Caribbean series had just begun, so we all loved to think of ourselves as future Jack Sparrows!).
But not all of my rainy memories are from primary school. Last year we had a long monsoon, and I spent many of those days getting drenched on the terrace or in the garden. I remember one day more clearly than others. It was a Sunday, and I had been studying all morning. So when the clouds overcast the sky and the rain came down in heavy showers, I ran down to the garden and stood barefoot in the soft grass, facing the sky and feeling the water running down my nose. I had been dancing around and enjoying myself for about five minutes when something like a little pebble fell on my foot. I looked down to see what it was, and to my delight it was a hailstone! By the time I had finished examining it, hailstones were falling in dozens. One the size of an egg fell right in front of me, and at that moment ma called me and asked me to get inside. By the time I had taken a bath and changed into fresh clothes I could hear the hailstorm raging outside. Later we heard that that evening there had been an unusual amount of hail, and some houses had broken window panes and tin roofs. My mother was certainly glad that she called me in when she did; none of us would have liked a big block of ice to fall on my head!
As is the rule of Nature, the most beautiful of her creations can sometimes become pretty troublesome, if not deadly. One day after school last year, those of us who travel by public bus found ourselves in a fix. There had been some accident, so no bus was running on the 8B route that afternoon. None of us carried a mobile, and we did not have enough money with us to book an auto, and the driver was very uncooperative and refused to lower his fare. To top all that, it had started drizzling. Anyway, I managed to call my father from a telephone booth, but he came to pick me up on the scooter, so my friends couldn’t go with me. The next day I heard from them that they had walked all the way to St. Xavier’s school in the heavy shower, getting drenched to the skin, where they had luckily been spotted by a neighbour who was in his car, and had managed to go home with him almost a hour and a half after school was over!
I have heard stories from my father about troubles caused by too much of rain. Once it had rained so much for so long in Durgapur that the river Damodar had flooded. For a day, it had become the largest river on earth, larger than even the Amazon! All the sluice gates of the Durgapur Barrage had been opened, and the area around it had become one gigantic lake, with people going around in boats! Another time he was travelling by train on a hot summer day, and standing at the door of the compartment enjoying the breeze. There was a cyclone, and the rest of the journey he continued to stand at the door freezing to the bone!
Still, I wish we had more of rain here in our place. My mother says that too much of rain makes her gloomy, and she doesn’t like dark cloudy days. But I enjoy myself very much indeed. Even when I am not getting wet, I love to hear the sound of the rain. It helps calm my mind. And in those moments I pity all my classmates who are so poor that they will never learn to savour the richness of Nature and all her different faces…