Dance of the Rains
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
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.
it supposed to be raining here? Isn't it flooded in the
areas lying north of this city", we asked.
is. Don't you hear flood-relief and rescue helicopters whirring
every morning?" they said, in a matter-of-fact way.
what's wrong here?
has an answer. The days are sultry and uncomfortable. Even
normal conversation is a strain.
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.
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
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!
as I write this sitting at Patna, we get a frantic call
from a dear friend in London.
been desperately trying to get in touch with you on your
Dhaka numbers. Is everything all right in Dhaka?" he
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.
are you saying? Don't tell me you don't know".
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.
is what has happened. The BBC has been flashing these reports
all day. Turn on your TV, you'll know!"
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?"
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",
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
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?"
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.
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…
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.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004