It’s Janmashtami and it hasn’t rained all day.
People head for the nearby municipal playground in twos and threes. Its railings are festooned with banners of the incumbent political party, as well as workers of the same who were unable to fight their way in. Inside, sweating men and women jostle with members of the local dahi-handi committee to get closer to the human pyramid that will arise.
Everyone waits for it to rain.
A crane hoists the curd-filled pot high into the rain clouds. Agile youths clamber on to slender backs to form four tiers. The fifth tier is a lone child, passed hand to shoulder from the horde below. He raises a stone to break the handi.
In a Hindi film, it will now be raining.
The pot is broken. The crowd applauds. The pyramid collapses. There is a stampede for the exit.
The rain clouds move away.
Morning saw overcast heavens, the afternoon, a drizzle. Dark clouds in a dark sky tell of the showers to come. I am resigned to the long walk home.
A motorist stops at the signal. I glance at him; he looks familiar. I walk by. The signal turns green. He turns the corner and stops again. He looks at me. I walk up to him. He says I look familiar too.
‘I’m Mahesh Kalan’.
He asks me where I’m going and offers me a lift. I accept.
A fierce wind. He wants to know what brought me there. I tell him about the play. He says he used to watch them at NCPA when he worked for Air India. I say the crowd there consists of snobs. He agrees. Lightning flashes. He speaks about his son who has studied journalism and is looking for a job in America. I tell him my father is a journalist. He says they should get in touch. I agree. There is thunder now. I ask him why he is helping someone he doesn’t know. He says human beings are the only animals that avoid each other – every other species helps its kind in adversity. Stray drops begin to fall. We slow down. We have reached. I say thank you, he says welcome. I call him Mahesh Kale and he calls me Mrudank. He drives off.
I have never met him before and I may never meet him again.
I step in and the clouds burst into rain.
It has been pouring all day. Bombay is a swimming pool filling with rainwater. The college day is spent gazing out of the window, wondering if we will get home.
College lets out late. Sheets of rain obscure the vehicles outside; a flyover fifteen feet away is almost invisible. Roads are rivers. Footpaths are submerged. We can’t see our feet. Hubcaps and children are barely visible above the torrent. Drenched passersby grin at us. An old man says this is the worst monsoon he’s witnessed. His grandchild is too busy trying to keep afloat to listen. Garbage drifts by. My friend stumbles into a ditch with the water up to her neck. The street erupts in smiles.
We splash each other by kicking out at the swirling currents. We pose for Titanic-like pictures. We watch the tides created by moving trucks.
The trains are probably late or cancelled. Our buses home have probably broken down. Even our homes may be under water.
But the rains are here.
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