Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Jungle Song

It was drizzling softly when I decided to end the disastrous day. It had been raining heavily inside. A storm warning was screaming in my mind; my mood, ambivalent and lost in the fearful flutters of my frayed soul. The sky, too, was an undecided shade: somewhere between gray and white. The wind was buffeting the tiny raindrops, pushing them this way and that. I stood by the steps waiting for a break in the clouds. The scene around me was pretty much your usual rainy day. A lot of half drenched people were hurriedly scattering to avoid the pellets of cold water beating down steadily. A few traditional black umbrellas were hovering near a cluster of shops and a few colorful umbrellas were skirting the puddles and dancing their way to the nearest buildings. Two boys were happily playing in the rain, enjoying the wind and the almost empty streets. Some others, of the same gang probably, were huddled near a parked car and were blowing warm breath onto its glass and watching their invisible graffiti magically appear.

As the rain built up its rhythm, a small stream came into existence by the last step of a flight of stairs atop of which I still stood, hesitantly eyeing the rain. The muddy little thing just ran down the stairs, flowed down the road, widening, and soon, cutting everybody off from the footpath. The sloping roof of my shelter collected the rain and contributed to the little stream just as a steadily running hosepipe would. Soon, with all the drenched greenery around me dripping rain like delicious drops of melted diamonds, and trees on either side which set afloat a leaf or two in the meandering stream, our road was a small jungle right in the middle of a city. A few birds sat on the boughs of a nearby tree adding their voices to the bass beats of the rain and the intermittent slush of wet, running footsteps. I was lost in my thoughts, amazed and utterly surrounded by bright green leaves, the soft, moist ground and all the little sounds that made up my jungle song. It was a while before I looked up and noticed that my building was now shelter to quite a few people: too many people. Some of them had decided it was time to leave and were making their path across the little stream.

A young man in sneakers merely stepped into the rushing torrent and walked off unscathed. Two old gentlemen in flat chappals hovered on the edge, anticipating a fall. But one by one, they somehow made it across (although the second one did step into the water and loose his footing. But catching himself just in time, he managed to walk away with just a pair of ruined pants). A couple of light umbrellas came by. They were debating the safety of attempting to cross the stream. The muddy water was intimidating to them. One even audibly said ‘eek!’ when a stray wave of water sloshed on her sequined soles. But they decided that waiting in the rain would only make it worse and soon, there were expensive-heel shaped ripples in steady stream. All this was getting irresistibly interesting to watch and I settled into a more comfortable position to watch another dozen people in their voyage across or, sometimes, through the stream. Not much happened for a while except that water from a few brown puddles flew up to meet a couple of boys on the foot path when a car swooshed on the road from one end to the other. Its sleek body was slick with the rain like sweat running down an athlete’s brow.

It was also quite a while since the rain had begun now and the people around were getting restless. I, too, lost my patience with the scene and closed my eyes upon it. A babble of voices that had been in the background met my ears. Two young men who had been squabbling heatedly about something from some time were now planning to leave: separately. One of them had just come running down the road in a huge hurry and in the process, lost a shoe to the whirring currents of the gutter and a frown furrowed through his wet cheeks as he examined the road and the stream. I was curious, mildly; just to see the scheme he might come up with to solve the problem. I’m sure he contemplated everything from a flying leap to building a bridge. One of them-the one with both shoes intact- was silently looking across at a car across the street as if measuring the distance for a run. Once the purring of the engine came close, I did not bother opening my eyes. I expected it to fade away just like the others albeit a bit more angrily and then, I heard the wet brakes screech and the driver groan something about erratic parking near the footpath with a smile in his voice. The car could not come close enough and yet egging nearer, the driver encouraged his reluctant friend to simply hop in- although it was quite a hop! As I sat listening to the sounds of encouragement and dissent, a sudden cry of jubilation and loud, boyish laughter made my eyes fly open. They had managed it. I wondered if it really was possible to hop across the stream that easily when I noticed the driver removing a squashed, wet and brown shoe-clad foot from the middle of the brook and chiding the other man about his weight issues. They had finally made a bridge.

The soft patter of the raindrops on the pavement was drowned by their laughter. The rain almost stopped just then. I picked myself up from my corner for one last look. My jungle looked again like a city waking from a slumber. Or a shower! The wet paint on the surrounding buildings smelled moldy but gave the whole street a fresh new scent. Dew drops were settling snugly onto leaves or sliding off cuticles as if returning home after a nice, long chat with the buds and kissing flowers softly on their petals. My jungle song faded into the background as a snoring truck lumbered past me. The earthy after-rain-shower smell invaded my nostrils as I backed my vehicle out from its customary place in the parking lot. For a while, the blitz in my mind eased as I reminisced on the tale of friendship the rain had shared with me, humming my jungle song softly while driving home. :)

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