Have you ever savoured anything by just sniffing it? When the first bead of rain touches the hot, dry and thirsty mud, it gives out a heavenly smell with a distinct taste. It makes me inhale it as deep as possible until it reaches my soul and then a smile stretches across my face. It reminds me of the days when rain wasn’t all about water logging, traffic jam, bad hair day, watching Netflix in absence of the TV signal, cough & cold and avoiding white clothes.
I used to rush to my window the moment the rushing sound of the raindrops would call me. And within moments we would be either jumping in the lane or rushing up to the terrace to get drenched.
“The rain waters are good for your heat rashes” Our parents would say and even join us sometime. Back home after a good bath, we would leap over the mouth-watering, hot “Pakoras” my mother would prepare without worrying about stomach infections. A cup of Tulsi kadha was enough to take away any concerns of catching a cold.
Newspapers were put to their best use in rainy season. Would you believe, we even painted and decorated our paper boats and used to have races? Thanks to the awesome drainage systems in Kolkata, it did manage to bring a smile on our faces, though our parents grumbled loud. Donning raincoats and splashing water, while going to school, I used to feel like Britons in long coats. School buses were only for the far off kids and most of us went to local schools. During days of non-stop downpours, holidays used to get declared. It was a no mobile era. hence no holiday SMS would reach our parents. Imagine, the contrasting expressions on the faces. While parents felt indignant that they had to come so far unnecessarily, we kid jumped in joy. While returning home, carrying shoes in hand and walking in slippers in knee deep water gave a new twist to our lives. The cold dirty water tickled our senses and made us giggle. But the best part was when one of our slippers would slip out and float away and we would run after them trying to get hold of it. Hilarious moments they were! Not only the slipper looser, but all others would run in the muddy pool trying to help and scamper to find the blue band of the Bata “Hawai Chappal”. And once found we would slip them back in our feet and walk with our toes curled down in an attempt not to let it wander anymore. Oh God! I so so much miss those days. The extended plastic canopies on the Rickshaws which saved our mothers from the rain, but we kid sitting on their laps had to protect ourselves from the drops of water percolating from tiny holes. on the blue plastic or from the side of the folds of the plastic. But watching the Rickshaw pullers getting all drenched themselves always made me sad.
I used to ask mom to avoid Rickshaws. as I used to feel bad being driven by the hand held ones. But my mom would explain, that avoiding them would keep them out of job and they will have to struggle for their daily needs. Most of them walked barefoot, had no cover and when silvery water drops trickled down their tanned and muscular back, they inspired hardship and courage.
But monsoons weren’t just about rains, they were also about window shaped “Fryums”, “Telebhaja”, Ginger Tea, Vividh Bharati on radio and Cassette Tape Recorders. I still miss the finger chips that adorned all my ten fingers before going inside my mouth one by one. The veranda would suddenly get crowded with dozens of wet clothes, an array of wet footwear standing upright and umbrellas trying to get dry and reusable. And the umbrellas had genders. The black ones belonged to the fathers and the printed coloured ones to our mothers. Kids didn’t have any ownership to umbrellas back then. We had to share, walking close to our parents and clinging to their clothes.
Kolkata has its own distinct flavour about everything. I don’t think football is played anywhere in the world the way it is played here. The bicolour ball would bounce off the slushy mud with eager players running around carelessly in the rain, kicking, falling, slipping, cursing and laughing passionately. A good rain and a muddy field were all the invitation young boys of Bengal would need to rush out in their half pants and jerseys. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan had their boys in every single lane. And you had to see them fight to believe the intensity. Hairs were pulled, green and maroons Jerseys of Mohun Bagan and the read and golds one of East Bengal were ripped apart, collars were held and my mom would pull me from the window as good girls shouldn’t see all that rowdiness. Half-hearted I would steal a last glance and then settle down happily with a glass of hot Complan and Enid Blyton to take me to the faraway lands, where rains added an absolutely different meaning to their existence.