Rain means different things at different times. At times welcome, at time destructive, at times a pleasure and a nuisance at others. Monsoons this year in West Bengal seem to have continued into august, september and now October. Inquire why and more often than not, the answer will be: Ma durga's* agomon(arrival) this year, is on a boat. This means rains. And how. In fact, it has been raining incessantly since yesterday and continues even as I write. Large parts of Calcutta is waterlogged.
* The goddess durga's festival is in a few days time. This 9 day pageant (with fantastic lighting, exotic pandals and enormous crowds thronging to see them) is the chief festival of the bengalis.
Most of us are stuck indoors, an unofficial rainy day, making the most of it, ringing up relatives and friends to gleefully discuss how much of which road is under water. Its lapping at our door step; the pond has over flown onto the road etc.
Mama(ma's older brother) is the first to ring up and gives a gleeful account of the state of waterlogging, which roads to avoid etc, all from the safe confines of his first floor apartment.
Next rings Dinesh, our driver. Waist-deep water. Ashbo? (shall I come).
2 of my friends were to drop in this afternoon. The first cant risk it the pond have overflown onto the road. The second stays far away and can't obviously make it.
- 'Ok, We'll eat up all the kebab R was going to grill this afternoon'.
- 'Kebabs? Isn't there a metro station close to your place? I shall give it a try!'
A rainy day automatically means 'Khichudi' for most Bengalis: Khichdi accompanied by a host of fries (fish fry, fried brinjal, vegetables fritters).
So we have a very cozy, happy-family cooking session - Ma, R and me. Baba will chip in with his critical comments during lunch (my parents have been married for 36 years and yet during each lunch, without fail, baba will have some direction or the other to give about the cooking).
I am lucky enough to savour it all. No plodding through ankle/knee/waist deep water running errands or rushing to work. I look out of the window, the palm tree now grown to a giant size, its frond nodding just under our 5th floor window. Calcutta looks so fresh, nice and washed and I can see the Hooghly Bridge and its cables clearly, the dome of the Victoria Memorial, the lightening exaggerated by our windows of frosted glass.
Normally the tap-tap of raindrops on shutters, against panes, the rushing sound of the palm fronds, lulls me to sleep when an ominous plop wakes me up. Our roof is leaking at places where there is a ceiling fan or a light fixture.
I look up and see the yellow pail hung from a 'S' from the ceiling next to the ceiling fan. This simple but effective idea which collects all the water and prevents a short circuit is a brainwave of my engineer dad who is happiest tinkering around the apartment and I suspect when things break down, as they frequently do, so that he can fix them.
But it keeps me wide wide awake for fear of the pail getting to heavy and flying off the 'S' and crashing into the rotating blades and onto our heads (the bed is just underneath).