April 9, 2009


“Now I, Now I wish it would rain down, down on me
Yes I wish it would rain, rain down on me now
Yes I wish it would rain down, down on me
Yes I wish it would rain on me” : Phil Collins

I have always loved the rains and have never been able to quite understand why all poets and singers and normal people associate ‘Rain’ to distress and despair. For me however, it has been one thing that has made me happy. Maybe it has got a lot to do with staying in a particularly hot, humid, over-populated yet brilliantly resplendent country, that I love the rains so much. It washes down the yellow, orange and red hues of this tropical country, and mellows down the ambience to soothing shades of blue, green and purple. It washes off the dust and SPM from the air , and the accumulated filth from the city trees, making the leaves appear lush green and fresh. I am seriously of the opinion that the smell of the wet soil after a rain is one of the best fragrances in the world.

I think the first rains I remember are the Jodhpur Park rains. I was five I guess, and I can still remember that the verandah and the terrace of our flat on the eighth floor would be flooded every time it rained. I would be playing scrabble (mostly sitting beside my grandma,rather than playing) with my sister, grandma, mom and great grandmother when it would rain. Or rummy. Some other times when my mom would be away, my sister and I would erect a tent and would get my grandmom to play ‘Trekking’ with us, while it would rain outside.

The North India rains are pretty much the same wherever you go. They cool down the cities and are a welcome relief from the heated up city buildings. It, however, rains in winter in Punjab, so people there don’t like it much. It brings down the temperatures to one-digit figures. Delhi Rains from a Hauz Khas bungalow verandah are the only ones I remember of the capital.

The Bokaro Rains wash down all the coal particles from the air. The suffocating city air would freshen up and give us space to breath.. Dhanbad and Asansol rains are pretty non-descript, and hence I wouldn’t really recall them with any particular affection.

Then there are the North Bengal rains… On every visit to Darjeeling/ Gangtok/ Kurseong I have encountered this variety. It, in a way, spoils all the travel plans. Yet there is a romantic aspect about this variety of rain that makes one want to fall in love… not just with the rain, but with North Bengal, and Sikkim. A cup of hot espresso coffee, with a delicious burger at Keventer’s and the rain outside… These are some memories I’ll cherish forever.
There is a small town called Rabangla in Sikkim. The town is nothing to write home about, but the road along which one journeys, from Gangtok to Rabangla is one of the most haunting beauties of Nature I have ever seen. Add to it the rain, and the hot soup, the fear of leeches and the Army ambience of the Army Guesthouse that had been provided by Major Bakshi for our lodging made the Rabangla Rains totally unforgettable. If I ever shoot ‘Dark Truth And White Lies”, I’ll shoot the first half of it in Rabangla, for sure.

Of course no one can deny the existence of the Durga Pujo rains in Calcutta. It takes off most of the decorations from the elaborately done up pandals, and floods the city streets, making traffic conditions all-the-worse (and subsequently the Telegraph-Metro to rate the traffic conditions during pujo as 2/10 in its post pujo edition). It spoils the red sarees and the black shirts, the new cars and the crowds’ moods… Some wise people choose to stay at home and relish the Pujo over beer,vodka and shredded shuntki, or Aloo Paratha and Dahi(Punjabi Taste buds love this dish). However my darling parents have chosen to stay in Calcutta for every pujo. And not just that, we also go exhaustive-pandal hopping every Pujo… So the kadaa(wet mud) stains on my new dress and the hours spent holed up inside the car, watching it rain outside, and new lovers cozying up while walking, while listening to Anjan Dutta go “E Kolkata Sholo Amaar”… Despite these, I love the pujo rains too, and I was a tad disappointed when it didn’t rain last year during Pujo

I saw it rain from my Class 11 classroom in St James’ Calcutta. At that time I knew nobody in the school, and nobody knew me, so I would spend all of my time sleeping in class. Nobody bothered to notice, so it was fine with me. The rain outside would cheer me up however, and despite my loathing the grey sky, the grey buildings and the inability of the rain to make its way all the way to the ground, or the classroom window-sill due to the claustrophobically small distance between the school building and the surrounding buildings, I would be happy nevertheless. There was a garbage dump on the street beside the school,which would spoil the effect of the rain, but still…
I enjoyed the rain that transformed Calcutta into Venice in my 2nd week of St James’. I hated my new school so much that I was glad the rain gave me an excuse to miss school for four days.

I have enjoyed the rains sitting in Ballygunge Circular Road CCD with my friends (two of them mainly). I have enjoyed the rain in Park Street, from Bar-B-Q, Flury’s and KFC.

My favorite rains have been, no points for guessing, the Maithon rains.
There would be the school-time rains. It would make the school appear very much like the Hogwarts they show in movies. The lush green trees, the huge playgrounds, the dark corridors lit by light-bulbs, the rain drops coming into the classrooms through the huge windows. And there would be Parents’ Night or Sports Day practices, or Extempore or Debate practices. So I’d just skip classes at length and enjoy the storm and the wind outside. The nice thing about school and the town together was it was a huge school in
a small neighborhood, that wouldn’t even classify as a town, and hence it was very much like Hogwarts. The ChotaNagpur hillocks would give it a very Alpine/Scottish Highlands’ ambience, and the rains would make it appear like a place straight out from the fairy-tale books, a place in the surrealistic realm a la Narnia, Rhye, or Heidi’s grandpa’s cottage on the Swiss Alps..
And how can I forget the home ground rains. Every distant thunder would be a signal for us to get ready to go mango-collecting. The Kalboishakhi would get the yet-to-be-ripe green April Mangoes to fall to the ground, which we had to retrieve before the children from a nearby village had come and collected them. So the Mango-collecting(this sounds weird, I’d rather settle for ‘Aam-kurono’) sessions would occur while it would be still raining. We would make our way past the snake-holes and scorpion-dens, get down in knee-deep accumulated water, and collect the mangoes in our backyard-wood. When it would be dark(it mostly would be-kalboishakhis generally attack in the evenings, after a hot and humid day), we would even have to brave the prospect of meeting a few local ghosts and evil spirits.

Maithon rains would always mean opening of the dam flood-gates. Maithon would never be flooded, for it was hilly, but the West Bengal and Jharkhand districts surely would, when all the DVC dams let their flood gates open. While this action of DVC would invite a lot of criticism from state governments and newspapers, it would be a gala event for us, small towners. The release of the dam waters (sometimes the bridge connecting Mazumdar Niwas to the mainland would drown when the dam would be too full-much to the inconvenience of the Rao Parivar) would mean a local Niagara for us… Ooh! That would be fun! Pointing at the gushing water from the school-bus, politely asking the driver to stop the bus, and relish the view…

I have also enjoyed the Car- journey rains(the variety I would meet in some of the National highway journeys from Maithon to Calcutta or vice-versa, given that two such journeys would be made every four months). Stopping the car, and enjoying the tea/ snacks at a Roadside Dhaba would be immensely pleasurable…

I have always loved the rain for one more reason. There are beautifully picturised Bollywood rain songs… from Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Shree 420 to Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukerjee in HumTum, I have loved them all and so the Rain songs bring a smile on my face-ALWAYS!

I have always loved the rain, and will always do so…Right now, sweating profusely in this hot summer afternoon in Calcutta, I have only one prayer… “Aay Brishti Jhenpe… Dhaan Debo Mepe..”

April 7, 2009

Ek Bachpan Aisa Bhi

I am in a playground. It is huge, with very many trees. My friends are frolicking all around me. I am not at all interested in the games. Is it not ‘Hide and Seek’ they are playing? Yes, they are… I busy myself in looking up at the next building’s terrace. The building is much taller than my two-storey school building. There are some faces I love, looking down at me, waving at me. Gargi Ma’am asks “Those are your parents, aren’t they?” I nod and reply in positives, with my chest broadened and my eyes glistening with glee. I am sure not many have the privilege of attending a school right next door to their homes. “Dola Ma’am surely has none of her parents so close to her at the moment”, I note with some amount of self-satisfaction. My pained heart is soothed at the very thought of this very misfortune of the lady who had minutes ago told me off for dropping water in the classroom.

My sister and I don’t get along with the children of our colony. We think we are much too superior for their standards, which we are… We both have our perfect playground just at the back of our home, within the bungalow territories. It is our Enchanted Wood, a wood with bonmurgis, squirrels, goat kids(the occasional one that has strayed into this territory), peacocks(common in the early mornings) and foxes(once in a month?) The only things that prevent it from being our perfect Enchanted Wood is that the trees don’t go ‘Wisha Wisha’ here, neither does any of the mango, jam, jackfruit, guava, or the numerous other trees have Lands visiting its top. We don’t complain though. We are satisfied with the serenity, the tranquility of this part of our home. The only disturbance is the ‘Kaho Na Pyar Hai’ songs from the just-released superhit movie coming from the distant outhouses.

I am sitting under the ‘kaamini’ tree. The dew on the grass all around me glistens under the small-town December morning sun. The garden is not very maintained really. Its quite dangerous and is infested my numerous poisonous representatives of my garden ecosystem, especially during the rains. The kaamini flowers have the notoriety of attracting the snakes with their aroma(probably the best smell in the world) and hence I can hear my mother warning me not to choose that spot for myself. I don’t pay heed. The (bungalow-type)quarter is quite far away, anyway. I know Ma can’t see me from there. I lose myself, far away from the ‘real’ world with the possible perils of reptile-fangs piercing into my skin. I am transported to the world of Georgina Kirrin. I prepare myself to meet three new kids. Julian, Dick, Anne they are… Very soon we become good friends. Not after long, I am exploring weird ship-wrecks and discovering ingots of gold in some hidden dungeons in a tiny island called Kirrin Island. I think I hear a bell. Is it Anne’s alarm clock? Couldn’t possibly be … The ‘Famous Five’ have just hit their beds after solving a mystery and earning accolades from the local police. I look up. It is the lunch bell ringing.

Sir Fernandez ,our Class Teacher,and Geography teacher is the art-director for Teacher’s Day. He is not going to come to class. Rahul Aggarwal doen't have to tell me what we are to do. We rush out of class. Our classroom is the classroom in a secluded corner of the school, just beside the bookstore. So it doesn’t really come under the surveillance of the school administration heads coming on rounds. Today it is raining hard, and the rain water has created an artificial stream that leads straight out of the school premises. We tear pages out of our Science notebooks. Fifteen or twenty sheets. Then we create paper boats. (Leeza helps me with mine). We choose the unusual colors out of Rahul’s 101 color felt pen set… We use them on our boats… the Magenta, Cyan, Holly, Plum, Straw etc color boats are divided equally between us. We set them sail on the artificial stream. My first boat sinks even before I can wish it ‘Bon Voyage’. Almost similar fates make my other boats their victim. However, I see ‘Malena’ sailing smoothly past Rahul’s boats, most of which are still floating. It wheezes past them all and soon becomes the first one to go out on the streets. I jump up in joy, and Leeza stands beside me clapping at my victory. Rahul, with a pained expression on his face, explains the circumstances under which his ‘Magellan’ slowed down at the last moment. Leeza booes him. I suddenly notice how beautiful she is..

The Chemistry class is on. Mrs. Bhattacharya is explaining to us the circumstances under which the anode sludge settles down at the anode, and the pure silver rod, acting as cathode, goes on thickening. She is a strict ,but an expert teacher. I am not paying attention though. Sneha Kedia is holding up an interesting looking box and waving it at Nancy Rakhroy. I can’t understand what could be inside the box, and why Sneha wasn’t showing it to me(with her having the habit of presenting one gift to me everyday, all ‘Best Friend’ ones). I take it from her hand, almost by force and open the lid. I find numerous colorful easily-put-onable rings inside it. I get working. I put two rings on my lower lip, three each on each ear,one each on each eyebrow, and one on my nose. To avoid attracting Mrs Bhattacharya’s attention, I hide my face behind the ICSE Chemistry Part I book, and start making weird faces at my classmates. Rohit, Kunal, Ria, Mohana and Kankana break into suppressed giggles. I try desperately to make them stop. It’s too late. My favorite teacher throws one of her favorite students out of class. I stand on the corridor. My dearest mom is teaching Biology in the next classroom.

The Economics teacher asks the other students, “Does he smile all the time?” A mousy looking classmate, whose name I don’t know, replies, “Yes sir, Always. Even when he’s being shouted at. Or being made fun of.” Some intrigued eyes turn towards me. I feel uneasy. I’m not enjoying my time in this fifth school.

It is three in the morning and I am recollecting random moments from my eighteen year old life, not necessarily the most favorite or most important. My school final exams are over and I have absolutely nothing to do. I am severely bored, and hence type down these thoughts. Who says people can’t predict the future? I can! I know what character of the PC keyboard will be used after three words? A full-stop.