Rain Dance

The following short story was my entry to the Monsoon Romance Prose Contest conducted by http://www.sulekha.com. The story now features on the Sulekha site and is awaiting moderation.

The first drops of rain that Friday morning sent people scurrying along the bustling boulevard. Office-goers darted to nearby tea stalls and department stores to keep their freshly ironed clothes from getting wet. Hawkers whizzed by each other to cover their wares with tarpaulin, their swift movements like a frenzied ballet that had been mastered over the years. Mothers held their little children tight to their sides, screaming curses at the taxis that whizzed past them, splashing puddle water on their crisp cotton sarees. Everyone was possessed with a sense of urgency to evade the cold deluge that had begun to bathe the city after weeks of stifling humidity; everyone except little Piu.

Across the street a tiny figure had emerged from under the black plastic tent that had been hurriedly set up the night before. Little Piu was all of eight years old. Her threadbare dress had a faded flower pattern that had once been a pale yellow. Her hair was matted and rough and only a shabby red ribbon kept the wisps of brown from breaking free in wild abandon. Piu stretched, rubbed her eyes and watched in surprise as the congested street transformed into a vacant avenue within minutes.

It had begun as a gentle whispering; the faint sound of drops hitting her plastic rooftop had awakened her and lured her outside. But now, the raindrops were heavier and Piu was soon drenched in the first monsoon shower. The blue sky gradually turned a dark gravel-grey. Fat raindrops danced on top of car roofs creating a mesh of wetness that filled Piu’s heart with glee. For twenty minutes, sheets of rain passed over the city, the sounds intensifying as the droplets collected on the sides of the broad street to form brown streams that seeped slowly towards the drains that ran alongside.

The little girl could not contain her excitement. She turned and twirled in delight as she tried unsuccessfully to capture the raindrops in the palms of her hands. She ran up and down the clear stretch of road with a liberty that was rare. She tried to look up at the sky but the incessant droplets forced her to keep her eyes shut. Soon her little brother and her cousin too emerged from under their plastic dwelling and the three of them danced with glee as the first monsoon rain washed over their tiny malnourished frames ; for twenty minutes their hearts were filled with mirth and the unadulterated joy of innocent childhood.

Eventually, the snaps and crackles began to weaken and the clamor of the drops soon faded into a mellow chime. The sun emerged, casting slanted beams of ochre across the rain-washed street. The glimmering puddles of water that had collected in the cracks and crevices of the tar lined roads lay still; reminding the city that the monsoons had finally arrived.

The lady under the black plastic tent began to hurriedly collect the few belongings that she had. Quickly she tied the precious plastic and aluminum paraphernalia into a bundle in an old saree. She yelled out a curt instruction in Bengali to the three children who were playing in the street outside. Soon their tiny hands were tugging expertly at the plastic strings that had held their tent together through the night. Within minutes their home and all their possessions were packed into an old jute sack. Their spot on the street looked empty and bare. It held no hint that the four of them had made it their home for one night.

The lady draped the end of her saree over her head, lifted the tiniest child onto her hip with her right hand and reached for the jute sack with the left. She began to walk as Piu and her brother followed close behind. She needed to find another place for them to sleep tonight.

As the city crept slowly back to life, Piu noticed the people cursing under their breath. Their shoes were dirty, they dusted the droplets from their big umbrellas and ranted about how the rain made everything inconvenient. They stared at their fresh clothes and scowled at the raindrops that had left dampness on them. Slowly life resumed and the day went back to normal.

As the little family of four walked on carefully maneuvering their way along the waterlogged streets of the city, nobody noticed Piu smiling to herself. While others were griping about the weather, Piu’s heart was bursting with joy. She had not had this much fun in a long time and she prayed secretly that the heavy rains would come again. Soon.


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