Monsoon!! I’ve never had to wait for it here in Bangalore the way I did in Delhi. July, August, September…and no respite from the heat. The little rain that fell did nothing to cool anything - weather or tempers. It only made it sultrier and more unbearable. Every morning I'd get up and walk straight into the balcony only to see some scattered dark clouds with no promise of rain. Boys playing football, school children dragging their bags and unwilling feet to school, joggers in various stages of dress and undress and Mathur Uncle in the flat downstairs complaining for the umpteenth time that 'Hamare Allahabad mein toh the newspaper never came so late' - and all hoping that it must rain today.
I’d sit back and remember the rains back in Bhopal, where I grew up. It used to rain and rain for days at a stretch and when it cleared, the sunlight was mild and soothing. From our home atop Shymla Hills, I could see silver streams of rainwater zigzagging down all its sides. Wild, white spider lilies bloomed everywhere and in the afternoons we went in search of mushrooms (then, toadstools now).
Fancies too would run wild. Mud castles were built beside puddles that served as moats and had cardboard drawbridges supported by pyjama drawstrings. Colorful flowers with their faces turned downward, floating on water, would be fairies swimming in pools. And thus were woven many a tale of romance and intrigue. When the daring spirits beckoned, we’d cycle through roadside puddles and splash ourselves with slush.
Then, there were the 'rainy days’. Yes, when it rained too much, (how much exactly, we could never figure out - perhaps it depended on the whim of the school authorities) it was declared a ‘rainy day holiday’. We would be waiting at our bus stop, the water running over our raincoats into our socks and shoes. When we thought we’d waited long enough, one of the us would go and call up the school and be told in a stern voice, ‘It's a rainy day holiday’. We knew from experience that almost always on such rainy days, the sky would soon clear up and it would be time for a picnic. We’d save our lunch-boxes for that.
One such morning, Vyas Uncle, waiting with us at the bus-stop exclaimed, 'It’s raining cats and dogs!’ It was a new expression for me. He went on to tell me that a slight drizzle could be expressed as, ‘raining bulls and buffaloes’. His sense of humor came to light only when I used the expression in Sister Antoinette’s English class that afternoon.
One day in Delhi, dining with my sister’s family, my brother-in-law and I were called upon to finish some pulao between us. As he unloaded a couple of spoonfuls on my plate, I covering it with my hand pleaded, ‘Bus, bus’, (that’s enough). He insisted, ‘Array abhi kahan, abhi to Dilli ki baarish ki tarahan girain hain’.