Circa 2001, Monsoon: “…..Heavy rains and thundershowers are expected in national capital in the next twenty-four hours”, off went the announcement on All India Radio. For a rapidly urbanizing city like New Delhi, monsoon meant more than merely getting its own share of rainfall. This is, after all, a city that is not accustomed to dazzling views of the grey firmament over the majestic Howrah Bridge during the times of KaalBoishakhi or the fury of the crimson Arabian Sea with gigantic waves lashing the Marine Drive. It is nothing short of a privilege for this city in the dustbowl of Northern India to be in the good books of the Rain God.
There is a propensity of people to become starry-eyed during the Monsoon; the actor or singer or painter or philosopher, latent in every human being, gets a window to peep out during this season. One could thus become a Dilip Kumar or a Chetan Bhagat or an Arijit Singh against the backdrop of an overcast sky and the thunder of the moisture-laden clouds and the scent of wet soil.
As all Chartered Accountants usually do, I was hard at my job in front of an oversized LG monitor. The occasional stroll during the lunch hours was the only time when I could let my hair down. Professionally, I was in a stable position and had managed to carve out a niche of my own in the Multi-national company I worked for. Being a typical Bengali and an ardent fan of Feluda and Robi Thakur, it was a leap of faith for me in getting used to the foot-tapping beats of Punjabi party numbers and the aromatic Butter Chicken on the premises of Khan Market. The sun was hidden behind the dark clouds by the close of business at my office. The air had become moist and carried a conspicuous message: Get home as fast as possible or you risk getting drenched and trapped in unending traffic snarls. The monsoon showers are no friend of a city’s creaking civic infrastructure. Open sewers, non-silting of drains, caving potholes, water-logging on roads, dangling wires-the travails of New Delhi during the monsoons are well-known.
The distance between my Office and Paying Guest Accommodation was about fifteen miles. In those pre-Metro days, the Blue-Line buses were the most dependable public transport of myriad office-goers. I had to change buses mid-way. That day, I hopped on to the 05.10 PM Blue-line bus to Saket and was fortunate to get a seat by the window. It had started to drizzle even as people returning from their workplaces scrambled to reach home early where they could enjoy a cup of Masala Tea and munch on a crispy Samosa with their better halves in the safe confines of the house. There was no such thing to look forward to in my case. I had turned twenty-eight last month and was considered among the list of ‘most eligible bachelors’ by friends and relatives. My parents in Kolkata were already going through the profiles of prospective brides and sending their horoscopes to our family astrologer for matching. They were nonetheless liberal and were open to me marrying a girl of my choice. Their son, though a die-hard romantic at heart, had indeed been a book-worm during his academic life and not particularly the sort who would indulge in a clandestine college canteen romance with a girl.
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In the meanwhile, the drizzle turned into a torrential downpour. The motorists were looking for the nearest shelter along the road. Nature seemed to be at her pristine best. The flowers in a roadside garden were looking resplendent in their natural shades. The trees appeared rejuvenated after days of weathering oppressive heat. The air seemed to have been purged of dust and pollutants. This is the sheer magic of monsoon- it cleanses and redeems all! The neon lights had lit up at 05.45 PM. I got off at Saket Bus Stop where the connecting bus would arrive. The bus stop was deserted compared to other days when it would be teeming with crowds. I was wiping the moisture off my spectacles while office bag was strung over my shoulder. On the opposite side of the road, a small group of children was playing in the rain. Two among them made paper boats and floated them in the freshly formed water puddles. How innocuous and sweet of them- my worldly wisdom-infested heart exclaimed with a sigh of delight! The ecstasy of these simple activities during childhood is something no child should miss out on. Amidst this, a white Maruti 800 stopped in front of the playing children. It appeared that the car had broken down. A man stepped out to undertake repairs in the bonnet. The event unfolding in the following moments changed my life forever.
The rear door then opened. A petite lady in red Churidar Salwar suit alighted from the car. Her hair was unknotted. The yellow tippet was so elegantly draped over her shoulders. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Wonder what a beautiful lady was up to in the heavy rain! She looked towards the sky, as if in a gesture of thankfulness towards the Almighty. The children stopped jumping all of a sudden and became perplexed. This damsel gradually walked towards the children in her fashionable heels with both her hands behind the back-her gait was so graceful. She could well have been a classical dancer. The rain was caressing her face and rain drops rolled down her plump cheeks. She took off her heels. Her arched eyebrows relaxed, and with a smile worth a thousand watts, she jumped in the rain and kicked up a puddle of water, oblivious to the world. The children erupted with joy. Here was a fairy, straight from the Heaven, joining in the celebration of a phenomenon called Monsoon on this planet with the most amazing of God’s creation – children.
Dancing merrily as if there were no tomorrow, the young lady and the children kept pace with the deafening roar of the clouds and the bristling noise of the rain hitting the ground. Her face had a unique glow; the lightning flash added its own sheen to it. This bachelor immediately lost his heart to that lady and could not help but conjecture where on earth she had been all these years. I was swept off my feet by her attractiveness and extrovert temperament. The free-spirited carnival of monsoon took me to an altogether different world. I was stunned. My soul was drenched in the ocean of love. New Delhi never appeared so much a part of me till then. The traffic lights gave the impression of glowing with greater warmth. I yearned to join the group of children and immerse myself in the eternal fount of contentment. The lady opened her arms, gave a hug to one of the girls in the group, waved ‘Goodbye’ to the children and sent a flying kiss to the group. She put on her heels and rushed to the car. A few seconds later, the car was out of sight. I had however noted the registration number of the car. The next few months were spent in tracing this car and its pretty occupant with the sole objective of finding a way to her heart. What happened subsequently would, of course, take me to another story.
Circa 2017, Monsoon: I am standing with a cup of coffee in my balcony with a gratified gaze at the cloudy sky with the same lady who is now mother of my two lovely teen-aged daughters and a doting wife to her husband! Yes, I got the love of my life courtesy Rain God. My marriage may have been ordained in Heaven but I met my soul-mate on a surreal monsoon evening sixteen years ago with the striking rainbow as the witness to the proceedings. I express my profound gratitude to Monsoon for playing such a fantastic match-maker for me. For many more monsoons to come, I have only one earnest plea: May you continue to quench the thirst of our parched planet and keep giving ordinary mortals like us bucketful of nice memories to cherish forever!
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