Desi Contemporary Happy

It started easily. Like water draining through the holes of a giant overfilled colander, sprinkling from the heavens gradually gaining weight as they descend to meet the ground. The first drops left behind small dark spots on the arid soil, expeditiously picking up pace and colouring the ground dark. The sky grew dark, and mist seemingly rose as the last of the wavering dragonflies skid by. Deluge zoomed towards the ground; their fall disrupted by the vast understorey upon which they dispersed forming gentle thudding sounds gradually blending together into a familiar melody. Outside the goats bleated loud in fear, hoping someone would save them, lead then towards somewhere warm and dry.

I never minded the rain. Never minded the way it would invade my personal space and spray me when I leaned against the slowly rusting window grill, decorating my skin in a million drops sometimes glistening in the sun.

It was like the earth's way of cleansing itself of bad things, like my math homework which lay open, pleasantly welcoming the drops like it's fated lover. I watch 

the black ink seeps through the page purple-ing at the edges as it spreads across in abstract patterns.

I hear grandad rushed across the yard with a wet bundle in his arms, his lungi soaked through and sticking to his scrawny legs and feet disappearing into the coffee-coloured pools developing below. As he comes inside the wet bundle jumps to the tiled floor wiggling, scurrying off towards the wood stove, in attempt to warm up leaving a glazed trail behind. The loitering small group now hastily gathered around the toddy shop, their cacophony intensifying and mixing with the surrounding rain to nothing. I wondered if grandad would go too, and perhaps on his way back, when the rain had calmed, if he’d bring back some of that slight effervescent milky liquid to share amongst us, without granny knowing of course.

The down pour fell heavier, and I pressed my face even further up against the grill, not caring if my face gets wet or if it leaves dentures on my skin or if the rust crumbles off on to me, sticking to my damp clothes. I just wanted to be out there, my white petticoat soaking through and sticking to my body as I danced around in the muddy puddles. 

I almost missed the prolonged groan as the battered old KSRTC pulled up to the bus stop. I could hear the faint ding of the bell and the sharp slam of the rickety door and soon enough the lengthy groan came back to life as it pulled itself forward playing peek-a-boo with the trees, appearing in momentary bursts beige. The older school children clanked off the bus, plodding home huddled close under large black umbrellas which did nothing to prevent getting wet. And yet they walked through the slush, their tan uniforms stained brown, and shoes filled to the brim by the time they got home.

I watched as my aunt carefully sidestepped the edge of the road, saree hitched up high to avoid the mini stream which ran parallel to it. I watched as the black umbrella appeared closer and much clearer as she inched closer.

I ran towards the side porch to greet her with a well-known excitement filling my belly, but my cousin had already beat me to it. Running past, he sticks his tongue out and flashes me his pearly whites as he carries the warm newspaper bundle towards the kitchen. By the time I get there its contents were spread across the table. The fragrant aroma of fried pathiri filled the room, my nose as I began to salivate. I quickly reach out, in hopes to grab one of these yellow delicacies for myself but is halted as granny speaks up. “Wait for the tea,” and multiple groans erupt around the kitchen.

We sat down at the kitchen table, me and all my cousins. Five pairs of eyes, eagerly watching the golden discs, watching as the steam floats up creating patterns against the dark room. there are no lights on in the house, especially when it rains. I like it this way. I like the way you can’t really see each other’s faces, yet you can clearly feel the excitement in their eyes as they wait. I suppose the ants could feel the same too because soon enough there was a long trail of little black dots marching towards the pathiris. My cousin and I lean against the table. Ignoring the sticky table sheet and focusing on the task at hand. He reaches into a cup of water and slowly dribbles it around the newspaper creating a border. And we sit and watch as the poor ants struggle trying to find an entrance through the gates of heaven. Is it cruel? Maybe, but how I see it is that there is no compromise when it comes to my food.

Granny soon brings out small glass cups filled with steaming hot liquid swirling around like pools of molten amber. It was always black tea when it rained cats and dogs. We each grab a pathiri and a cup of black tea careful not to burn our hands and disappear into the house. I take a well waited bit of the golden goodness, and smile as I let the tender juiciness glide down my throat. The subtle hints of cumin creating a minty after taste in my mouth. That moment didn’t last long though.

It wasn’t long before my cousin returned with a pad of lined paper and a smile displaying white almost as white as the paper, crumbs and oil smudged around his mouth.  Pushing a stool closer to mine he clambers on and began ripping out pages and pages of his math notebook, forgetting about how he'd need it for his homework later. We sit sipping in delicious black tea and scarfed down the remaining pathiri before origami-ying ourselves a mini navy and proceeded to cautiously tiptoe our way to the front door. Reaching tall to pry it open praying no one would hear the unforgiving squeal of the rusting hinge. But thankfully the rain was too loud, and we were too smart to get caught. 

We slowly walked towards the yard careful not to slip on the moss-covered cement steps finding ourselves a nice stream of copper liquid created by the sloping land beneath. Placing the paper boats at the top, we raced each other and running downhill giggling as the rain turned our clothes translucent and our hair stringy. 

We raced boats until they were soggy and sodden and had turned to white pulp, now sploshing down the uneven landscape.

Suddenly we hear a sharp cry and suddenly we are running through the rubber tree forest now flooded with the same copper liquid, steering clear of the exposed well which had now over flowed. The sound of the rain ricocheting off the lush canopies and foliage all around us. It brought about this cathartic sense of peace in me, it was simply thrilling. When we arrived, we were met with the joyful splashes of teenage youth at its finest. “Watch out!” one of the boys yelled before he cannonballed into the murky river below. The surroundings erupting with laughter. The boys waded through the river with small hand made fishing nets, swishing through the water trying to catch the shoals of fish swimming to the surface. Upon noticing us they handed us some of the fish they’d caught, mentioning how it would taste great burnt. I wished we could stay longer but the rain just kept getting heavier and the sky grew darker and soon our absence would be noticed. Standing up we carefully trudged up towards the house avoiding the exposed and overflowing well thinking of excuses to tell if caught. Granny was stood by the door, face blasé and silently took the fish we’d held out with the best innocent smiles we could muster, before directing her wayward spirits towards the shower, and then followed by bed.

The next day I awoke to see the remnants of the beloved first fall of monsoon. What the sky had kissed and left behind for us to gather. The wood stove was still warm from last night’s cashew roasting. The burnt sweet smell still clinging to the walls and clothes left to dry nearby. The cat curled up underneath, relishing in the last of its warmth. A yawn escapes my lips as I trudge towards the yard.

Patterning the rust-coloured soil was the remains of our endeavours from last night.  Our boats had fully disintegrated the white sludge now only another reason for granny’s wrath. water puddled red in places where clay concentration was higher than the others, creating natural water bowls for grandad’s chickens.

Grandad was up early, building small mounds with the pliable earth prepped to accommodate the stubby tapioca sticks. There were sack loads of roots and stems ready to be planted and I prided myself in being able to identify the taro roots and elephant yams which I had helped to gather before the rains had hit. Our neighbour’s paddy fields had now been bordered on all sides with soil, to catch and retain the next rains to fall and a tractor moved at a snail’s pace, churning the soil for the next harvest.

The usual half eight KSRTC groaned to a halt by the toddy shop, which had emptied out its morning breakfast rush allowing a subtle hint of masala fried fish to linger in the air. I caught my aunt before she clambered onto the shaky metal box, a full day of teaching and pointless yelling ahead of her. The rain had diminished, and the sun was out, its rays filtering through the lush green around me speckling the ground like how an ill sighted person would see lights in the distance. The atmosphere was chilled, a refreshing new-found burst before the wave of noon humidity strikes.

I heard granny call us in for breakfast, this time which I gladly accepted and ran off in hopes to find a glass of steaming hot sulaimani waiting on the table.

September 19, 2021 21:57

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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