There are some people waiting with me for the rain to stop. I don’t know them, they must be new applicants. The summer break is going on. There’s still a month before college reopens and I’ve come to collect some certificates.
We are standing in the library corridor, us and the college dogs, and the rain is beating hard in the open area in the front. A girl is trying to deal with her umbrella which is totally deformed and inverted by the wind. I’m just glad that I chose the pencil skirt over the flowy stuff I’m usually so fond of. I’m reading something by Kazuo Ishiguro. I am two pages into it. The lawns and the trees in the front are just hints of green and brown, faintly visible, through the thick, translucent sheath of the shower. I cannot even see the water where it hits the ground; a mad spray rises from it.
The spray is reaching me, despite my back clinging to the bricked wall of the corridor. Fine drops of water wet my legs. I shut the book. The rain is like a lion’s roar now. The sky is sealed with dense grey clouds. It doesn’t look like the rain is going to stop anytime soon. I don’t have an umbrella and I have the certificates in my handbag, for their protection.
Another dog joins us. It shakes the water off itself. I take a step away from it. Now, the raindrops visibly clobber the puddles. Without wasting a second, I turn right, and move out of the main building.
I am holding my bag close to me, my head bending over it. My back is already wet. I descend the stairs in front of Rud South. The water is running down the stairs too, moving in thick, clear streams. It flows with a certain might, forcing me to fix my feet strong to the ground each time I take a step. It reminds me of the time I’d gone to Rishikesh with my family.
We had a cottage on the outskirts of Rishikesh and the Ganges used to flow sparkling clear behind it. We could bathe in the section of the river close to the cottage because of the series of rocks to the left, which curtailed the flow of the river. But the water pressure in the part beyond it was dangerously high.
One morning, my father took me by the hand and we began walking to the water beyond. I was a tall girl of ten and my neck remained comfortably above the water. My father was to my left. Suddenly his grip on my hand grew strong. The next instant, my feet were off the river base. He turned and stood against the flow of the river, facing me, his arms circling me protectively. The river had completely swept me off my feet. I held onto him, laughing nervously, my lower body flying. He smiled. “Relax. You won’t go anywhere,” he said.
This was not strange coming from a man who would tell his children about his adventures in the Yamuna, back in the days when the Yamuna in Delhi used to be clean. “Close your eyes and feel the water,” he said. I shut my eyes. The water was so strong against my body that it could have taken me anywhere it wanted. I tried to fix my feet back but it was funny how they would just not listen to me. I could feel the warmth of the early morning sun on my face and hear the gushing water trying its strength on me. Somewhere, somebody rang a temple bell. Its ring echoing reached my ears while I hung like a cloth clipped to a clothesline suspended in a storm.
I’m drenched but I’ve been able to save the handbag. I splash past the people hiding in the photocopy shop. I enter my car, into the melody of raga Desh. The music reaches a crescendo as I drive out of the parking lot and look back. The college building is bright against the morose sky. The ancient trees are dancing to the music in my car. Another year with you, I say in my head, and then we part ways in search of new loves.
© Rasagya Kabra, June 26, 2011