'Rained Out'

The rain was lashing out on us with a vengeance. I couldn’t look up without my eyes swimming in polluted water, and the little that I saw of the sky was a dull darkness.

Absent mindedly I commented, “You know, I don’t mind this lashing if there wasn’t any thunder tagging along with it.” My friend gave me one of her sad looks; she was too upset to have worn her new slip-ons that day. I looked down at the sorry state of her sandals; the white of it was slowly turning grey. I kept quiet. She took my silence to mean total wreck of her sandals

“Oh! I don’t care for the damn thunder if there was no rain. My sandals… they were new, why did it have to rain today?! I was good today…oh….,” She moaned and stomped her foot on the pavement. I looked at her warily- she was being petulant. Even in the pouring rain I felt our differences…. she looked for a reason, in everything that happened.

“I am sorry about your sandals, let’s just get back to the flat and we will clean it up, okay? I am sure it will look brand new. Anyway, you should know better- with the good rain comes the muck,” I said a little too irritated. The thunder wasn’t helping much-I always say it’s the heavens gloating and blowing their own trumpet. Further, I simply couldn’t see the connection between her conduct of the day to that of the lousy weather. Why she gotta look for reasons for the weather, at all?! It’s just bloody condensation, and this is after all Delhi. She simply negated the fact that heavens don’t generally shine down much on the 10 million people in Delhi during monsoon.

I was waiting for her retort. I knew I had the sarcastic look which explicitly said ‘Go ahead, dare me my narcissistic friend’- the look with the raised eyebrow which generally always drives her nuts. She told me once of my method of eyebrow raising. Supposedly I raised just one of my eyebrows and held on to it as long as I wanted.

“I know where you will wrinkle first….above the arc of your right eyebrow…you crimp it up half the time anyway.”

Her casual placement of my future wrinkles brought down the wall mirror and the three of us anxiously checked out for signs of ageing. After a while of just staring at scars, we got bored and started trying out styles of glam babe eyebrow raising techniques - that would beguile innocent men in a club- for drinks. We took the business of free drinks seriously, where each of us only had enough cash to pool together for an auto and cover entry charges - without the drinks. My glam babe ‘come hither’ eyebrows were the same old sarcastic one (according to them two), but I tried a smile. I looked like the joker from batman!

I have this thing about zoning out of extreme weather; the biting chill of Delhi and auto rides can make you force many a daydream. In the rain, I went to the one with us in the wall mirror, when I could hear Nikki shout at me

“Do you mind not standing there and help me with the food?!”
“Oh, sorry I didn’t realize…,”guiltily I grabbed the food bag.

We had earlier gone to Kamla Nagar to grab a bite, but changed our mind instead to bring the food home, so we could enjoy the meal with our lazy friend, who decided to stay back. Lucky her. The rain started to pour immediately after we stepped outside Nirula’s (the eatery). I always felt I was jinxed, and I was so bloody sure of it now. The feeling of abomination became worse when we couldn’t find an auto rickshaw to go our way, at our price. Either they charge so much more or they were just goldfishes in a bowl- memory span of 3 seconds! - they quite forgot where Outram Lines was(in North Delhi!). Finally we found one, but we ended settling to pay a much higher price than what those goldfishes demanded. The rain was coming down strong. Lesson one - it does not pay to be stubborn or haggle over prices on ego-overdrive, during monsoon. I could have kicked myself!

Soaked to the bones, the respite from the thrashing rain was short lived and came to an abrupt end.
Before I write any further, let me say something about Delhi monsoon….. it’s relentless rain for anywhere between 10 minutes to several days. Either way, the garbage strewn on the streets get carried along by the current into the drains. The drain openings block, and muck slowly churns and flood the roads. It almost seems like a huge cauldron of hot chocolate, with the exception of plastic bottles, dead rats, and cow dung. The stench doesn’t fool our olfactory nerve endings either. Mine has been in over drive since I landed in Delhi.

A car got stuck in front of us, right in the middle of the road, and we watched chocolate brown water flow in from all sides into the car. Our fervent wish for a better fate for our auto was totally useless and as dreaded, it died as well. The older auto rickshaws, back then, didn't have a button starter and instead had this handle on the side of the driver’s seat to get the thing started. But, no number of painful yanks drew it back to life- our exaltations at every sputter the wretched thing made eventually dwindled and died away.

While the driver was building his left biceps, Nikki had her feet high up on the rod that separated the driver from the passengers.
I had my hands high up with the food bag. Water was pouring in from one side and flowing out from the other into an open drainage, which meant it was flowing right back in, just with more ‘wealth’.

It was late, and we quite forgot where we were at. I looked out to see glaring lights all around us and had trouble locating our spot. I could see the ominous gate of Khalsa College and ahead the curb that led to the Mall road. We got excited (halfway home!)- we began begging the driver to push the auto from the outside. He finally relented, after promises of more cash. But as luck would have it, he lost his slipper while wading through water. And he decided to look for it. Apparently he forgot about us.

No sighs of frustration and blatant outrage could do anything about the whole fiasco we have got into. We really didn’t know how we were going to get out of there without wading through piss water (trust me, at the rate men in Delhi piss on walls, tree trunks and once, a dog!).

“Can you imagine how dirty this water is? Imagine the piss of every uncouth man, shit of every child (there was one small slum opposite Khalsa College) and the spit of every pan eating man plus the garbage…..that’s how dirty this water is. Yuck!” Nikki’s assessment of the degree of impurity only made us harder to entertain what we really should do next.

I looked at her, feeling a little too tired, ready to throw something sarcastic at her when I found she was amused. Nikki looked as if to kiss her ass with her head between her legs, her focus no longer on her new sandals- looking at me. I probably looked ridiculous to her with my hands raised in mid air, ‘safeguarding’ our food; considering it was our gluttonous minds that got us in this mess. We very nearly looked like the monkeys(minus one- lazy monkey see no flood).

We both began to feel endearment within the situation and before long, our chuckles slowly turned to full blown laughter. However, we had to stop laughing as abruptly. The driver looked a little too fatigued and was frowning at us. No luck with the slipper, we gathered.  Lesson two - slipper-less man is an angry man. He wanted us out.

Our moods changed drastically, it went from outrage to reluctant acceptance. We had to accept that we needed to get ourselves in the water. I took the plunge. By then I had no energy left to convince this guy of anything else. He had bigger worries, plus a slipper.

Well, the plunge can only be imagined to that of a parallel aquatic universe run by germs and we were the aliens. I cannot really explain the feeling – just because it’s not a nice feeling - period. If it gives some idea of how it really was- the memory still makes my skin itch.

Somehow we managed to reach the curb and thereon, the road rose. No flood, no engine failures and cleaner air. Yes! The driver had followed us for the money, though. Nikki decided that she felt sorry for him and paid the full amount to compensate. She felt responsible for the rain.

We walked the rest of the way. The bubbles of laughter hadn’t left us when we reached home. We clambered into the flat and went through the whole ordeal - narrating the incident, still in our stinky state, to our very own Miss Gracy, the first name in couch potato.

Nikki and I couldn’t wait for each other to finish shower first, so we both decided to jump in together. It was bliss watching the water trail down the drainage, changing from dark brown to clear. Cleaning us. And finally, leaving in its wake refreshed souls and hungry mouths. Lesson three- In extreme circumstances, girls take showers together (men, don’t go there!).


  1. i don't know what's worse delhi chocolate milk or an angry, slipperless, rickshaw driver who managed to still ask for money after the event he put you two through...

  2. gosh bought back memories from my college days too in Delhi, girl u need to sleep to rest mai.

  3. OMG! You called me a couch potato!!!! I am so not one, but I remember those days and "thanks" Karma for the lovely memories :)



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