The rains are here

It rained yesterday, rained buckets and buckets, reminding us that the monsoons are nearly upon us here in Chennai.

I spent most of the rain indoors, during both the precipitate beginning, almost without prologue, and the unhurried end, late at night. In the middle, I had to go for a drive through the rain-soaked streets, through the city and through the rain.

I always enjoy the rain. Everyone welcomes it; no one has any rancor towards it, not even the motorcyclists caught in the gale sheltering huddled in petrol bunks and under flyovers. On the shell of my car the raindrops dissolve into white noise, which is strangely soothing and peaceful. Umbrellas are of little use in the downpour, and the roads fill up with puddles and potholes.

A slice of life in the city during the rain. Driving past the Theosophical society, we saw a pair of young lovers (who else could they be?) who had parked a motorcycle near the footpath and were hugging each other oblivious of the wetness, the young man with a rakish little beard, the woman in a hijab – all the more surprising – her face lit up in a smile. They were laughing the careless laughter of the youth in love, snatching a moment of privacy behind the curtain of the rain.

Farther down, a group of young boys – three, perhaps four, none older than fifteen. Happy, delirious, rain-drenched. They were stepping through the puddles, jumping in the pools, their raucous laughter completely and hopelessly drowned out by the downpour. One of them had his shirt off, dancing with unaffected joy, swinging his arms and legs with graceful effortlessness silhouetted by street-lamps, no doubt in celebration of something more momentous than the weather.

Returning, a group of four – two men, two women – their body language indicating, perhaps, two stranger couples – sharing an umbrella as they dashed towards a bus stand.

A car, the driver obviously in a hurry to reach somewhere, but nonetheless driving in fits and starts, slowing down for each pedestrian he passed by, and speeding up immediately after, seeking perhaps to avoid drenching them with puddle-water.

Flower-sellers valiantly stowing away their goods, working rapidly under polythene sheets. They never work alone, some shops manned by no one, others manned by three or four, almost always women, one holding up the plastic sheet, another packing up, unlikely, even in that proximity, that they can make themselves heard.

We spare a thought for the destitute, the pavement dwellers and the beggars, but they too have their well-wishers, their good samaritans, and everyone eventually finds a shelter.

There is an urgency in everyone, but this is a different urgency, this urgency of the Sunday evening thunderstorm, so different from the hurry of the weekday where everyone rushes but with the faint knowledge that it is all a sham; but this is real; there are houses to go to, merchandise to protect, the storm will pass in a few hours but now we have only a few minutes to find dryness somewhere.

And what, too, is more delectable than the dryness in the thunderstorm? watching the rain flood a little balcony, on the trees beyond, following so shortly after the full moon, from the dimly lit interior of a warm unmoist house?

When the rains begin, they bring out the best in this city of ours.

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