The early morning breeze touches my body and soul just the way it would have touched me almost twenty years back.I close my eyes and feel the same. The way I would have possibly felt on the terrace at my grandparent’s ancestral house back home in Rajasthan. We would sleep on the terrace every night during our annual visit to them. And every morning when I would open my eyes, it would feel divine. Just the way it is now, with the monsoon breeze in Mumbai. Mumbai, a distant land from home, where I migrated ten years ago. This fast paced city with which I still long for utmost relatability. Rains come to rescue, apart from the far away Indian Ocean. The sight of the latter is absolutely redeeming. Monsoons, every year, have given a different meaning to life . I look forward to feel them, view them in silence, as much as I can. The far and the near, everything acquires a new meaning. The distant mountains become invisible while the nearest creeper with flowers seems to be dancing in the rains. It is simple but extremely beautiful. As I dip a biscuit in my chai , I inevitably go down the memory lane. From my window, I can see our volleyball court. Our simple weekend mornings, just the longing to play a good game or some good discussions over the cutting chai. The discussions would range from exchanging inter-regional recipes with a south Indian friend , the heated debates over the political upheavals, or the challenges and joys of everyday life. It was a melting pot! Identity at workplace or home didn’t matter, so didn’t one’s gender or age.
Like kids, we would await these weekend mornings, soaking in the rains yet not failing to smash, spike or lift well. I along with a few women had begun as learners with the sport. But with the patience of the men around, we had not only started playing but had started returning back the very powerful smashes in the game. We would get completely drenched in rains and with bare feet keep on striving for a game well played. Our joys had acquired a new meaning, away from the glamour of a hyper consumerist culture of a metropolitan city like this. The longing for the every weekend morning game and company along with chai-biscuit overpowered any other satisfaction in our lives. The simplicity of this pleasure surpassed everything. Rains would heal us, while we played a good game. We were all evolving with each other, learning from each other’s experiences, whether in the sport or life. Our children would join us, at times. Vedansh would come down with a football. He would be kept engaged by an uncle or an aunt if his parents were playing, then. They would chat with him or help him learn how to kick the ball. This joy of togetherness used to be a spectacle!
Soon, he would look forward to getting soaked in rains, while he would cycle, kick a football or watch us play volleyball.And here while I was nostalgically lost, Vedansh ran and came to inform that there was water all over in the other room. As always, I had forgotten to shut the windows. Rains in Mumbai are fierce, especially when they come with the wind once the Monsoon sets in. While wiping the floor I remembered that the same beauty of the rains could have a different meaning for many others. The sound of the trains helped me recall the hardships which every day commuters would undertake because of heavy showers. They would be wet not for the joy, like us but for earning a living. As I sat down after my house work, I thought of Jyoti tai, the Maharashtrian chirpy and talkative lady . She would help me with cooking my evening meals. That day she had called me saying, “Bhabhi aaj kaam par nahi aa sakte, ghar par bahut pani bhara hai.” Oh yes, that’s what happens every year at the beginning of the monsoon, with them all staying in slums. Their utensils would float in water, their beds would become wet, in an overall space which is equivalent to one of our rooms. And yet they have to move on, just like this city. She rang the doorbell the next day. “Bhabhi, aaj vada pav banate hai, barish hai.” I kept some water to boil for making chai for the two of us. She called Vedansh for the hot vada pav. We three sat and ate in the same plate. We chatted, “ bhabhi bahut pani bhar gaya tha, puri raat jag kar nikala…………” and she went on. And I could see her talkative self was returning, with some giggles. The vada pav, the chai, the rains , the conversations and the distant and now visible mountains, from the kitchen window!That moment became sacred !! Rains are crucial for life and existence. They create ! With the rains, also comes a lesson, to embrace everyone, their pains and sorrows. A touch, a gesture, a kind word could go a long way in battling the inevitable miseries of life. I remembered what my father always used to say, “ it is just a matter of chance that you are born to me and not somewhere else.Be empathetic!” And that’s how I have seen him practising religion all these years, i.e., by being empathetic to everyone around.
Uttara Bhansali did her M.Phil in Sociology from JNU. She is presently settled in Mumbai.