Chanced upon a not-so-innocent-song about the rains. Needless to say – it brought very happy memories from the days when life was a possibility. Not as artificially predictable as we have made it to be through anxiousness and concerns of security.
When I was in college (1989-92, yeah, really long time go) there was this tea-stall at the Pune University Circle — run by this diminutive, yet regal, man who went by the name of Anna. He made good tea. Notice, the subtle emphasis on the word — good. Like the smell of your grandmother’s unique recipe and the mesmerising visions that your father could paint with words, flowing with ease; this is one such taste. It remains with you forever.
My analytical mind, unfortunately, takes over.
Since Anna’s chai, I have had tea at a gazillion tea-stalls, all over the MH state. I am sure I have had as good tea in at least one of these stalls. It makes you wonder, if it was really the way that the tea that was brewed that keeps the memory alive.
It wasn’t the brew.
It was the environment. There is a word, maahoul — which, I doubt has an equivalent English word. Chai at Anna’s was a concept that we were in love with. One Skid-prone-Kinetic, a Bajaj Scooter and a black Yamaha 100cc bike, if he chose to ever find time for us, from his why-does-he-have-such-an-ugly girlfriend. Conversations of today that were heavily punctuated with loud laughter (in the days when LOL or ROFL weren’t invented and you had to use facial muscles to “Laugh-out-Loud”). Building dreams of tomorrow with almost-Italian-style-waving-bare hands in the thin air of Pune’s December. The clinical dissection of emerging role-models by brash arrogance that was nurtured by fearless dreams.
There isn’t a University “Circle” anymore.
The circle has been sliced and bled dry by sharp and stoic grey plates of thick concrete fly-overs that help you get quicker to where you will not stay anyway. I often go to Pune, and every time I take the fly-over to head towards the Expressway, a late-eighties cell-and-tissue-combination in my heart dies a lonely death. Some psycho-somatic mechanism almost denies entry to those memories.
But, coming back to the point, I hate the rain.
I really do. And ironically, my self-proclained-and-personally-discovered roots are in Konkan, and I spent formative years in Goa. Imagine, I call Mumbai — Home. I think, since I started driving, rains in Mumbai have banged in the last nail in a rotting coffin. But, I try and remember, and, I have never liked rains. Not as a kid, because you couldn’t go out and play. Not as a commuter, because I start two-hours earlier for a thirteen-kilometre ride (and yet I am not sure). There is something about rains that seems so “arresting”.
Go out, get wet!
Right. Water in my mobile phone. Fading driving license; thrice wet since it was issued. Wet currency notes that need to come under an iron. Soggy cigarettes that are anyway useless, because the bloody match-box is a hopeless lump of phosphorous, devoid of a spark, even. They still haven’t invented practical wipers for the glasses on your nose. Can’t take photographs – ever heard of a working wet camera? There isn’t even anything really romantic about the rains, unless you are on film set and have a director who can manage your smallest action. In real life, the girlfriend is always on the 5:56pm Karjat-Slow that is late because of the rains. (And she couldn’t call you because she had water in her mobile phone. Imagine this scene as you wait and watch the shoe-shine boys at Ghatkopar station, for ninety minutes, creating a ruckus with their wooden implements. Continuously. Without a break!)
Rain and wash-outs, have an illegitimate relationship.
I have seen the freshness and the squeaky-clean sense that you get after a rain. Rains clean everything. They affect your thoughts, if you are in the rain. I have had, many opportunities to be in a dry place with large windows and a very comfortable chair. Those (very few) instances where I did not need to get somewhere in the same dry state as when I started, when it was pouring outside.
When rain doesn’t touch me, it does not wash-out anything. It brings back a-small-smile-on-your-face memories. And that dry place that you are in, with a glass of chai that reminds you of Anna (and his well-oiled moustache) and reminds you of Abhijit who can never laugh with his eyes open. Or the glass of Old Monk and Thums-up stirred with your ring-finger, that reminds you of Mahesh’s theory of how love really happens. That place and time is my happiest place and time on the face of this warm and parched earth.
It is not nostalgia. Oh, hardly.
It is not raking in the past like cleaning up the dry leaves orphaned on the ground. It is not a time-traveler’s wish. It is not the pangs of wanting to get back to those times. Neither is it the craving for a carefree life. It definitely is not a judgement on living a life of responsibilities. It is an acknowledgement of how beautiful a life we have led. This life, not any other.
It is proof of life.