The Orange Rain
Sands of time. That is how, many a great writers have described it. It is slippery. The more you try to hold on to it, the less successful you become. You can’t even perceive that the pile of sand is shrinking by the moment, like a pricked balloon, until you realise its all gone. I have never come across a more apt comparison for anything else in my twenty five odd years of existence. Its a constant source of wonder as to how it is possible for anyone to wake up every morning without drowning himself in the abyss of nostalgia.
Nostalgic. Thats the best I could describe my state, if I try to tone down my thoughts . Twilight rains have that effect on me. Perhaps even the ancient men who lived and died along the mighty rivers of Ganga also grew melancholic during the twilights. The mantras might have just been a distraction.
One usually welcomes the rain gods during the sweltering May, especially the unwashed masses of India. The rains are harbingers of a fresh start. Winters are a luxury. I have often found it strange when winter is associated with gloom. Spend the summers here in the tropics - you will know what I am talking about. I extend my coldest of welcomes.
I got out of the dusty sombre looking building after the very first day of my professional life. It was an old bank with its unique century-old history. The bank is located in Triplicane - anglicised Thiruvallikeni - The Holy Pond of Lilly. It is so old that Triplicane is mentioned in the 9th Century AD Tamil scripture Nalayira Divya Prabandham - a collection of four thousand hymns - where it is described as a dense forest with trees so tall and dense that the sun rays could not kiss the ground. Hardly a forest now, this bustling place has hosted legends such as M S Subbulakshmi, Srinivasa Ramanujam, Subramanya Bharathy, at various points of time. For someone who clings on to the past like a crab, I welcomed this bit from my colleague without trying to look overwhelmed; an attempt that I failed at.
Clouds had already gathered like the glorious notes from a royal bugle. The mild wind, the slowly darkening twilight, the chants from the temple - all worked together like some well-oiled grandfather clock. The feeble dike couldn’t withstand the rush. It started raining. Even as everyone rushed to find shelter, nonchalant, I stood there. Cliched.
It was raining that day. Profusely. The monsoon had just begun. Kerala is the first state in the mainland to receive the Idava-Paathi, as it is called here. With a surprising sync, the rains and the post-summer school re-opening date coincides almost every time; accompanied by a roaring business of all kinds of rain-repellent items. The roads were dotted with golden Kani Konna flowers which sprawled here there and everywhere. Like an artist touching up his painting, the rains made the scenery graceful. The curvy paths, moving up and down in an abstract manner, received an additional coat of contrast.
I was wearing a baby blue raincoat with large orange flowers on it. Had anyone seen from a distance, I would have resembled a hunchbacked dwarf. I walked past the huge ancient All India Radio station. Bhakti Vilas, the Dwelling of Devotion, was the official residence of the last Diwan of Travancore before Independence; the seat of power in this tiny south Indian princely state. It had the aura and dignity, which it managed to retain, but not power. The entire complex, surrounded by a huge garden with wizened trees displaying flowers of various colours, now radiated the warmth of a retired grandparent, enjoying his well-deserved retirement.
My 10 year old self halted near the bus-stop, a tiny space with corrugated aluminum roof. The eaves were dripping non-stop. Not bothering to sit on the wet seats, I stood there, enjoying the pleasant smell that accompanies rain and the rain itself.
Only one other person stood there. She must be some twenty - five years old. Though I never bothered with the number game. In my head, there are only two sets of people - kids and grown ups. In retrospect, I never set a cut - off point where one becomes the other.
“Are you waiting for the school bus?” she asked in a soft voice.
“I am a new teacher in your school. What is your name?”
I replied, looked at her and smiled. Smiling is always good; courteous. I learned it from her.
We resumed to wait, while the down-pour moderated to a gentle shower.