Photograph by Naomi Shah
I noticed the sky becoming overcast, grey clouds throwing shadows on my restive mind — and then, it didn’t rain. The cloudburst that would clear the air with the new smell of earth didn’t arrive. I remained hanging in suspense about what the future would bring. If only I could hear the pitter-patter on my parched terrace, I would know where to begin. The dull, lingering humidity cast a pall on my brain, and began to weigh on me like a nameless, yet ominous, premonition.
I didn’t think a delayed monsoon would leave me so desperate, with such unfound or unknown expectations of a life that I wasn’t able to meet or find.
When it finally rained, I saw the wet palms outside my window and they reminded me of a previous life, where predictions came true. But now, the meagre downpour, that left a mere murmur, promised nothing I could count on, so who cared about planning ahead. The planet is already doomed, I figured. This time, June brought naught but delayed and unmet dreams. The turning point, when the searing heat is doused by showers, and umbrellas take wings like the ideas you have been baking, has sadly been claimed by climate change.
Now, tomorrow, with its implied water cuts and dashed agendas, is a day that I would want to postpone. The not-so-bewildered weatherman had religiously announced each week that the rains would descend the following week, and so our calendars hung in suspense. Like a man or woman, or anybody who hasn’t been taken, and is simply waiting for that right partner to show up, outside their door.
When nature abandons us or becomes unfriendly, no amount of meticulous planning can assuage the sense of sheer terror of being left alone to cope with man’s self-created predicaments. Forecasts and crystal balls can be delegated to the rubbish heap, but we need to nourish our human souls that crave the familiar sounds of returning birds and sprays of punctual rain on our windowpanes. Like the sunrise and sunset that we are so used to witnessing — even though night and day might have blurred into one another with the infliction of screens that don’t sleep. The earth’s diurnal rhythm keeps me grounded even though I know my own body clock has gone to hell.
Then on a Sunday, when I was languishing in my aimless nothingness, as if the sheer waiting itself would precipitate a thunderous downpour, I received a call from a close friend to join her over a cuppa while watching the rain! Was she delusional, I thought to myself. Are we to make do with “chai and chatter” over Zoom now? To truly indulge in such a pastime, you have to make time stand still. And here I was waiting for the monsoon to arrive, while hearing the clock ticking away to the day when the lakes would run dry.
Still, something inside me made me grab my trusted umbrella, neatly folded in its blue nylon case, and join her at a little cafe on a street lined with shops and boutiques, with awnings that look like mini shelters. Sanctuaries from the imminent rain, of course. As the hot tea arrived in glasses, Irani-style, and we debated about accompanying it with toast, butter and jam, there was a thunderous cloudburst! And suddenly, just like that, I felt purged of all that had been pent up inside me.
Tea had never tasted better, because even though I had been stalling life with my own scepticism, I eventually kept a promise that I had made to my long-time friend who is never dry of hope. “See, I told you,” she said gently, sipping her tea. “Some things change, and some remain the same, but life goes on.” I then realised how much I had grown in the limbo of my yearning.
The rain outside slid down from the slanting awnings and continued falling…and falling…and falling.