The night is warm. Warm and old. I walk out to my second-floor balcony that stands overlooking the dark back alleys of our apartment complex. There is a tiny hint of a breeze, just a teaser, warm and silent like the night itself.
I peer down. The alley is littered with junks of all kinds — garbage thrown carelessly around; old cars waiting out the rest of their now useless lives; gangs of stray dogs lying in wait for some unannounced moment heralded by an unseen omen.
The wind picks up. The upper branches of a far off tree wave in a gentle welcome. Small eddies whirl bits of paper in a tizzy. The dogs pause and crane their necks unanimously, their ears suddenly upturned, aware of sounds unheard to the human ear. The sky rumbles overhead — a deep, brooding sound. I look up to see
I look up to see cottons of grey gathering, weaving a blanket that shall shut out the morning sun. From deep within its pleats, a flash comes, closely followed by an even ominous thunder. The dogs scatter away, moaning their dissatisfaction.
I take their cue and return inside to the refuge of my bed. It is still perfectly made, for I haven’t slept a wink. I can’t. My insomnia is as adamant as a fourteen-year-old. I lay in my bed with tired eyes staring at the ceiling where an old fan is belching out weary, creaky circles. Dizziness envelops me as I hope that the elusive sleep shall come.
It is two in the next afternoon when I finally open my eyes. My body aches in areas I never knew existed. Groggily I walk to the washroom. The splash of cold water jolts me into consciousness. This new pain is good. On the way back, I grab an apple from the fridge and pick the almost empty carton of juice lying on the dining table. Armed with my breakfast/lunch I dare the sunlight of the other balcony that leads off my bedroom. This time, I stand overlooking the main road that retreats into our apartment complex.
The roads hum with their usual busy fervour, the black tar a sad reminder of their eternal forlornness. The motor cars keep whizzing by, running away from and towards each other in a ceaseless struggle for positional superiority. I gaze blankly around, not really looking. And even as the monotonous monochrome of everyday routine ventures to tighten its grip, the clouds burst open and the heavens come pouring down.
At first, the rain is shy, unsure in an unfamiliar surrounding. Small groups of droplets huddle together, forming little pools of simmering silver. Within minutes, though, the water grows confident. Its territory growing at an exponential rate, the rain falls with a renewed vigour, as though fueled by vengeance. It runs over the roof-tops, slithers through narrow allies, twisting, turning, churning, forever growing and finally merging onto open spaces. The water is soon everywhere. The drains swell, elated at joining their celestial brethren: slithering slivers of grey uncoil themselves into the messy mass of brown; the forlorn black of the roads now resting in their watery grave.
The rain is now falling in silky sheets. Occasionally, a bout of gusty wind spurs it on and the rain responds enthusiastically. For a few seconds every now and then, the rain thrashes and beats down upon the citizens as though warning them against the blunder of taking her for granted.
On the road below, cars and bikes roll, their tyres splattering the innocent people on the sidewalk with an unwelcome shower. The angry shouts of the victims are lost in the din of the downpour. A band of young, zealous boys run from street to street, their half-naked bodies bathing in the glory of an impartial God. And while these young kids assiduously continue their quest to conquer the world, a couple of girls stand huddled together under the insignificant sanctuary of a small tree; their dresses clinging uncomfortably to their bodies, nature threatening to dismiss their modesty.
The buildings have their own stories to tell. Modern gargoyles of symmetric, round plastic belch out overwhelming amounts of water from the terraces, creating a splatter of waterfalls all over the facades of the concrete mansions — white battle scars. In the balconies, women are busy trying to protect washed clothes from getting wet again. But the rain is ruthless. It attacks viciously, plundering the women of their day’s labour.
An electric transformer sparks nearby and the electricity deserts us for good. With the noise of continuously whirring fans and air-conditioners now gone, I can hear the nature more clearly. Bereft of their eternal companionship of television sets, people start coming out of their homes, adding to, and taking in, the spectacle outside.
Rain is always a welcome sight. The first rain even more spectacularly so. And for one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world, it is a distinct pleasure. Delhi, where everything happens in excess, rain is no exception. While the mellow citizens of my colony stood leaning over their parapet walls, elsewhere in the city buses and cars swam to their destinations. And while some – like the young kids below – danced with glee, some cursed the disruption of their daily routine.
But the rain did not care. It continued to fall, bringing bleak uniformity to the distinctly divided City. It fell over high-rises and huts, over sprawling lawns and slums alike; over government mansions and private palaces, over monuments new and old; washing over history and politics, legend and lore; dousing the old capital in one wave of heavenly unanimity. And with the falling
And with the falling rain, the disparities fell too. And I watched, silent and joyous, the stale apple sitting mutely in my hand, as Delhi got drenched, merging into one great congress of a singular humanity.