The downpour is something that we all look forward to in Dubai. Like a blessing given unto parched souls. There is a mysterious bond I have always shared with the rains. It not only means lots of tea, books, poetry and sizzling fritters, but also pouring out of untold, trapped tales from within, as a few drops carelessly caress my being! I relish every drop of it more than the free flowing and pure gold that the city is known for. The myth that I am confronted with, each time I go to India is, “We hear that gold is strewn all over the roads?”
My son was born in March. Three months before the monsoons hit north India. I should say he arrived well in time, as by the time the rains came he could hear the sound of the rain slashing through the Delhi dust. But all he got that year was a shield of swaddling clothes and sheets to protect him from a damp lurker. He gurgled at the droplets falling from above though he was indifferent to sky and ceiling. With the exception of the regulated interactions with water, in the bathtub, or the water that leaked out of him, we had conditioned him to a life of dryness. Little did we know that this conditioning was like a precursor to a life that lay ahead?
And then one day a raindrop fell on his baby head. He knit his scanty eyebrows and put a question to the sky. He didn’t know it was the sky, of course, but the query had been made. The answer arrived promptly: Another fat drop. The first had been on his forehead. The second one was on his left cheek — a plump drop on a plump cheek. It had annoyed him, this invasion of his privacy by a cheeky drop of water. I watched this dialogue of two non-verbal beings — the infant and the raindrop. Soon it was June. The monsoon had arrived.
All other seasons affect the skin. Only the rain commands the attention of the eyes and ears. I would take him out to the balcony and he loved the shower of water falling from someplace mysterious. I was in a hurry to acquaint him with the language of the rains!
Splash in a pool
We soon landed in Dubai, one scorching day, in June. Here we were bereft of the rains. The little one was two years old now and we were living in a city where it was a treat for this water baby to splash in a pool as I taught him to create rain, as he blabbered-“Ain, ain ...”. I tried teaching him that drops of water falling on us is called rain. I sang songs to him that spoke of raindrops and used onomatopoeia to ensure that he remembered the songs. The croaking of frogs-yes, I went to the extent of enacting how frogs croaked during rain-soaked evenings. And would show him how Noddy walked with an umbrella in the rain. He seemed curious, “Rain only in Noddy house. But where rain in my house?” He meant in Dubai. Did rain live in the shower or in the pool? He was confused.
I took him to various places to see the rain, to all the cliches in particular, when in India — to the flat lotus leaves on which raindrops trembled like mercury, to forests where the sound of rain is imbued with nervous fear, to car windowpanes and electric wires where their beauty was in their vulnerability, to puddles — the temporary graveyard of raindrops. He remained adamant in his query as to why rain did not ‘live’ in his city.
A few years passed. He began going to school. He loved to spell.
One day he told me that he’d found the “house of rain”. I wondered what he had to say, “Where is it?” I asked, like only a mother can, marvelling at the metaphor of a four-year-old. He took out his notebook and scribbled something in his hasty handwriting. “It’s inside this, see.”
That was the word. He covered ‘B’ with his tiny thumb and showed me the rest. “Rain.” On hindsight I feel that unknowingly he stumbled upon the right ‘house’ after all it does need brains to “cloud seed”!
And that day I learnt a new language.
The language of the rain.
Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai.