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     Volume 4 Issue 7 | August 6, 2004 |

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Slice of Life

The Dance of the Rains
Richa Jha

We come to the final day of our holiday. Tomorrow, we head east to Dhaka with memories and photographs from our trip, gifts from the loved ones, gifts for friends in our acquired home, a cracked suitcase, an exhausted checklist of items we were requested to cart back from India, and some serious sleep deprivation.

Time has roller skated through these three weeks that we've stayed away from Dhaka. Having touched nearly ten destinations in the earlier two weeks, by the time we reached our parents' city a week ago, we had lost sense of time and place. Dazed, disoriented, we reached home to find the city as parched as it was at the peak of summer.

"Isn't it supposed to be raining here? Isn't it flooded in the areas lying north of this city", we asked.

"It is. Don't you hear flood-relief and rescue helicopters whirring every morning?" they said, in a matter-of-fact way.

So, what's wrong here?

No one has an answer. The days are sultry and uncomfortable. Even normal conversation is a strain.

Just a few days ago in Mumbai, we danced with our friends on the rooftop in the rain. There is something magical about the monsoons there. Make no mistake. The city swells, stinks, curdles, the garbage overflows, the slums drown, and the city throws up dark truths from every pit that has been left unattended over the past year, year after year. But it still casts a spell over me.

I feel it is the indomitable spirit of all Mumbai-ites that makes the monsoons there so evocative. The roadways may get clogged, the public transport may be stalled temporarily, the rains may be showing no signs of stopping, but a Mumbai-ite will find her way to the place of work. On time. In a pair of stilletoes, a crisp business suit, and with freshly blow-dried hair!

As a non-Mumbai-ite, my affair with the city during the rains started only recently, as late as a few years ago when we landed in the city to work. The pains of moving base notwithstanding, my first memories of Mumbai are of the furious sea crashing against the boulders on Marine Drive, and a soaked me gallivanting the streets looking for furniture and furnishings!

Even as I write this sitting at Patna, we get a frantic call from a dear friend in London.

"I've been desperately trying to get in touch with you on your Dhaka numbers. Is everything all right in Dhaka?" he sounds agitated.

"Why, whatever has happened there?", I ask back, bewildered. Having cut myself off from the outside world, the only information my senses register are the natural passing of a day into night, and night into day, and so on. When on a holiday, I take a clean break from newspapers, television and emails.

"What are you saying? Don't tell me you don't know".

"Hah, even if there is knee-deep water inside my home in Dhaka, I wouldn't know!," I jest back with the arrogance of an ignorant mind.

"Which is what has happened. The BBC has been flashing these reports all day. Turn on your TV, you'll know!"

I am both anxious at this partial news, and also eager to change the drift of this conversation that exposes me such. "So, how come you called up here?"

"I've been trying your Dhaka numbers for a while. Getting a no-reply each time, I decided the floods in Dhaka had you flitting around. So just called up your parents to enquire after you. And surprise, surprise, you picked up the phone", he said.

"Surely it can't be that bad", I protest optimistically, but my mind has already whizzed to my locked-up house in Dhaka, mentally assessing the extent of damage inside my ground floor residence.

Our parents are ecstatic, though not for want of any compassion for the flood-affected. "Great! So now you will have to stay on here longer till the situation improves there. What if the airport isn't functioning?"

We force a smile back, nodding, but heart of hearts, we know (and they know) we are desperate to get back home now. We call up a friend in Dhaka to get a first hand account of the situation. He assures us that all is not that bad. The newspapers say it may worsen in the coming few days, but the airport will be functional.

Every moment away from home now is excruciating and long. A day seems longer than the previous 20 days put together. Our anxious minds are at work just imagining the situation back home. They say it's been raining incessantly, the lakes have overflowed, the roads are submerged, the…

I look up through the windows. There leaves the first of the flood-relief helicopters to the marooned parts in North Bihar. But the Patna sky is still as blue and spotless as it was a week ago when we arrived here, or the week before that. Or the month before that.

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