Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rain in the City

Tonight is our last night in the city.

It rained earlier in the night, a swift thundery rain. The clouds gathered silently over us in the darkness. And then they dropped their truckload of water on us and laughed. That's what the thunder sounded like - snickery-snickety laughter in the distance.

We were glad for some rain. Even though our mother cursed and did not allow us to go out, even though we sat in the darkness and felt the seats of our shorts go wet as the water seeped in, we were glad. We looked forward to dawn, grey wetness rather than dry sourness, cool wind rather than dusty droughts. The last dawn we'll see in the city.

Our mother doesn't like rain anymore. Before we came to the city, she used to like rain. She used to let us go out and play in the rain and then she used to towel us dry when we came back. But she says the rain in the city is dirty, not like the rain in our village. I think the real reason she doesn't like the rain is that she doesn't like anything about the city.

But we like the rain even more in the city because it's the only thing that is cool and clean. Everything else is so hot and dirty. Even people become nicer when it rains. The other day a man in a car gave me a hundred rupee note because he was so happy it was raining. I gave it to our mother. She cried when she saw it, I don't know why. That night we ate a lot.

Our father is gone. We don't know where he went. He came to the city first, and then he sent us money so that we could come. When we first arrived in the city, it was nice because our father was here. Our mother used cook his food early in the morning and send him off to work. And then she would feed us and let us go out to play. But then he disappeared.

Playing isn't much fun here. Our mother told us we'll like the city because there'll be more children to play with. But we can't find anybody. There's nothing but a lot of grey buildings. Are the children hidden inside the buildings? Why don't they come out to play?

In the city there aren't even any trees to climb or fruits to eat. Everything here costs money, not like in the village. In the village we plucked fruits from the trees and ate them and nobody said anything. Here it's called stealing and people run after you with sticks and call you bad words. I've learnt a lot of bad words to show off to the others when we go back to the village, though I don't know what the words mean.

The rain has stopped. We edge forward to the door of the hut and look out at the street. After a while, our mother follows us and sits behind us, silent. Things look so different. We stare up at the sky, at the heavy clouds reflecting the city lights.

I don't know if our mother knows the way back to the village. When we were coming to the city, we had to go to the nearby town first to get on the train. Our uncle came with us to make sure we got on the right train. We sat in the train for two days becoming dirtier and dirtier, and then one day we saw our father smiling at us outside the train window and we got off.

I went to that place with the trains once, to see if I could find our father there. I climbed a fence and went in. I walked around looking till a man in black coat saw me and threw me out of the place. I didn't see our father, but I saw that there are a lot of trains there. I don't think our mother knows how many trains there are in that place. I don't think she knows which train will take us back home.

One evening two months ago, our mother got out her nicest sari from the trunk. She wore it and then she spent a lot of time in front of the mirror. When she was finished, she looked as nice as she used to back in the village. She smiled at us, but I saw tears in her eyes. I tried to wipe them away, but some of her kajal got smudged. I thought she would be angry with me because I had smudged her kajal, but she smiled and kissed my hand instead.

She told us to stay inside and be good boys. The way she said it, we didn't feel like disobeying. She came back late that night. Her sari was half off and she was crying, but she had bought things from the shop. She cooked us food and we ate. We were very hungry and we ate a lot. She watched us quietly. When we asked her why she wasn't eating, she said she wasn't hungry.

She started going out like this once a week. She always had money when she came back, I don't know where she found it. I asked her once and she said she had found a money-growing tree. We started looking forward to the days she went to the money-growing tree, because we had more to eat that night. I asked her why she couldn't go to the money-growing tree every day. I said I could go instead of her if she wanted. She said the money-growing tree is a normal tree on most days; it's a money-growing tree only once a week. But it has given us enough money now that we can go back to the village.

The rain has stopped now, but lightning still flashes in the distance. It seems to come from somewhere deep inside the cauldron of clouds. It dances for us, taunts us. It's like a predator, using itself for bait. If our mother wasn't there, we would run out and try to catch it. And then it would catch us instead.

The street is empty. Water flows down it in a stream, carrying its load of garbage. Shruti Didi will curse tomorrow because everything will be dirty and clogged up, and she'll have to spend twice as long sweeping the street. So strange it is that the rain cleans up the air and the trees, but makes the roads and the buildings so dirty. Maybe the rain doesn't like the roads and the buildings.

I like it that it rained on our last night here. It feels like the city wants to bid us goodbye. Or is it trying to make us think we can be happy even here? But I don't want to stay here. I want to go back home, back to the village. I won't miss the city. It's a bad place, even if there are men who'll give out hundred-rupee notes just because it's raining.

Our mother sits behind us with her hands on our shoulders. She is staring at the rain, deep in her thoughts, her face expressionless. I ask her what she's thinking. She starts, and looks down at me. She smiles and says, "I'm just so happy we're leaving."
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Archana K B said...

loved the descriptions. the pain and helplessness is clearly visible through the words. stumbled upon this blog through nikhil...