Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rainy Day

When I woke up at six this morning, it was almost dark as night outside although the sun was up and running long ago. It had rained last evening, and evidently more was in the offing. I quickly got ready for office (finishing my breakfast with leftover khichudi from last night) but before I could set out, the rain started. And did it rain! It was still raining cats and dogs one hour after it started, and it was accompanied by a mild storm and loud claps of thunder. As I waited for the downpour to cease a little, I remembered the rainy days of my childhood.

The house in Hooghly where I spent my early childhood was a big old house with a large central courtyard and open verandahs on all sides. When it rained, all these verandahs were washed with rain and it was very dangerous to travel from one room to another. However, since our house was quite high, and there was a pond next to it, there was never any water logging. For me, the rainy days meant staying in one of the rooms as much as possible. My mother and grandmother had to go to the kitchen through the wet verandahs, of course, but that was least of my concerns. So I don’t have any special rainy memories of this period.

A rainy day in my maternal grandparents’ house in Salt Lake was a different matter altogether. Here when it rained hard and long enough, the roads would have knee deep water and there would be a few inches of water in the driveway as well. I made paper boats and floated them out in the driveway. So whenever it rained, I prayed for lots of it, so that it would be worthwhile.

But the first time I saw really bad water logging was in Allahabad. After the first summer there, one night it rained hard, and in the morning there was knee deep water in our garden. There were frogs jumping around the house. The park across the road had transformed into a pond. Obviously this meant no school for me. This was of course an extreme case. On other days when it rained not-so-hard, I would pray for the maximum rain to occur in the one hour prior to the start of school, so that a holiday would be declared. This happened at least once a year. Actually the declaration of holiday depended on the number of students already in the school: if majority had already reached, there was no point in giving the day off. On the other hand if only a few had come then they would be sent back home. I never saw two consecutive holidays because of rain; it was just not allowed to happen. So even if it rained harder on the second day than the first day, the school would remain open. Sometimes it would rain hard after school started and the school grounds would be flooded. As children we were fascinated by the huge earthworms that came out of the ground and we crowded around the puddles formed to get a better view. Once during such an engrossing observation session another boy pushed me into a puddle and I had to walk around with one side of my body wet and covered in mud for the rest of the day.

Once it rained during the day and many localities were flooded. While returning we had to pass through a place where there was waist deep water (waist deep for an adult; for us it would have reached above the waist). Our tempo stopped in that water and refused to start again. The driver had to get down and push it out. It was my father’s weekly off that day. He had to go and “rescue” my sister before her school became inaccessible by car.

I have owned several raincoats throughout my childhood. They were all mackintosh style one-piece plastic raincoats with matching caps. I particularly remember a plain sky blue one and another pink one with white flowers all over it. After I passed class X, I started going to school on my bicycle. My parents bought me a lovely dark blue two piece raincoat for wearing while cycling in the rain. It had a jacket and a pair of trousers. It gave complete protection from the rain (though it’s a different matter altogether that the amount I perspired while inside it made me just as wet). I took it to school with me on Teachers’ Day, and left my bag unattended in the class for a few minutes. Someone simply vanished with it and I never saw that raincoat again. I was so mortified by this loss that I turned down repeated offers for its replacement from my parents. For the rest of my school life I cycled in the rain while holding an umbrella in my hand. This was difficult, and my legs got drenched thoroughly, but I had made up my mind not to buy another raincoat.

Rainy days in college were boring, for now we did not have to wait for the authorities to declare it a rainy day. If nobody turned up, it would be a holiday. Also, waterlogged Salt Lake lanes are much less enjoyable once you grow past the paper boat floating age. But I remember the first day in college. It was raining like anything when we came out in the evening, and when other guys were thinking what to do, I just hitched a ride in the car that had come to take the girls to their hostel as I stayed near to their hostel. This caused a lot of commotion among the hostel dwellers, who did not know me yet. Another memorable day was in my final year, when I had to go to Sealdah on a rainy day for some urgent work. That day there was so much rain that a bus got submerged on the road in Ultadanga and the passengers had to be rescued. I was lucky though, my bus traveled only through waist deep water and I had to walk only through knee deep water. That day I saw Kolkata at her worst.

Rainy days are most enjoyable when we are staying in our house in Hooghly. There is a pond right next to our garden, and when the water level increases during the monsoon, frogs and crabs (and sometimes snakes) come into our garden. Frogs can jump, so they often come into the house, but they have to be chased out again since we don’t eat frogs. The crabs in the garden serve a better purpose as they can be caught and cooked. If the rain stops for some time in the evening, one of us would go out and buy “telaybhaja” (vegetables dipped in batter and deep fried) and eat them with “muri” (puffed rice) and hot tea. And we would have a nice "adda" (chit-chat) session with the background music of frog croaks and cricket chirps from the garden. On opening a window and switching off the lights, we could see fireflies flying around the garden (I sometimes caught one, but always released it later). The whole atmosphere is indescribably enjoyable. In our house, lunch on a rainy day always means “khichudi” (rice and pulses cooked together) and some fried stuff to go with it.

Now I have a job. No more luxury of a “Rainy Day” holiday (even if we get one due to excessive rain, we’ll have to make up for it during a weekend). Those carefree times will never come back, so the only way to relive those rainy days of yore is by reminiscing about them. That’s what I was doing through this post.


  1. Oh, so you were saving up this post for a rainy day? :)

  2. @shreemoyee: No! Believe me, this is one of my very few posts that were spontaneously conceived and written down quickly. I never thought of this topic before the rain this morning.

  3. very nice. made me miss home even more - which i was doing anyway :)

  4. :-) I am gonna take one rainy holiday (planned sick leave) ;-)

    Those raincoats, big shoes, paperboats...koi kagaj kee kashti woh barish ka paani.

  5. Hummm.....raincoatss...even i had a pink raincoat....and ten a yellow one....i remember having spare kaju peices in the pocket of the pink raincoat in which i used to look like a doll as i walked up till the school gate where my driver would pick me up and take me home in the car...and i looked enviously at the other children getting wettt and laughing and playng in the muddy puddles..hehee!!!Thanks for reminding me of the lovely memories!!...

    And..i have seen ur hoggly house in ur photos...and felt the ancient kolkata coming alive....i cud relate!!!

    Lovely postt!!keep it upp!

  6. Hey Sugata,

    The monsoons just started here as well, and I tell you, there is something majestic about the rains in Mumbai - outside of course for the screeching halt all aspects of life comes to.

    You've got great writing skills and an enjoyable blog. I just wanted to drop a line to say so, and also to tell you that we could use such people to help us spread the word about burrp! Kolkata. We need all the help we can get to seed the community there. Have a look and feel free to get in touch with me directly


  7. Hi,

    After going to Kol, you have complete forgotten man. No mails, not pictures and blogging is far to less. Seems you are to busy there.

    How is life there?


  8. cool
    enjoy the rains!!
    here to itz drizzling since last few days... n m lukin 4wrd 2 a gr8 weekend ;)

  9. Thank you for the pictures. I have not seen them yet, I am not able to see them from office.

    I will go to cafe and check them out.


  10. i ws almost writtin abt the same thing !! so searchin a picture of monsoon hit kolkata .. in d process came across ur blog .. and ummaaa i jst love the dark mornings when there is cloud cover overhead ..and no sun and lil wet n cold weather .. meks me feels like .. " aaro ektuk suye jayii " ... lol nice blog !!

  11. @ricecar: Thank you!

    @abhijit: I hope I can take one too!

    @monami: Thanks for sharing your memories.

    @deap ubhi: Yes I know, the Monsoons in Mumbai are pretty heavy.

    @aurindam: Enjoyable? South India is already flooded I believe...

    @ken: I hope you got the photos. Sorry for losing touch... I have been really busy here in Kolkata.

    @ganpati sarkar: Thanks! Chailei to ar aro ektu showa jayna.