Of rains and islands
There are two types of people who reach for their phones when it rains. The successful ones and the unsuccessful ones. I have belonged to the latter category for what has turned out to be eternity (or as I call it the month of September).
I am privileged enough to live near the ocean from where I could watch the sea rise up to embrace the falling liquid sky. It was a union of horizons, a distinct line increasingly blurry with the rubbery brush of the rain. There is something very primordial about rain; a primitive, expression of fertility (and which the people of Karachi through deprivation, more than others, can appreciate) which calls out to us. Petrichor (or the smell of rain – as was pointed out to me; such an ugly word for such a beautiful sensation) creeping under doors to entice us with heralds. Invisible monsoon fingers tugging at our hearts, coaxing us to escape our concrete bubbled hovels and meet nature, at least temporarily on its own terms.
It is maybe why that we feel disconnected if we do not give ourselves to the rain, why we feel a certain hollowness within us, which we must plaster with companionship or the ritual of sharing. This is the only reason my limited mind can grasp why we feel an uncontrollable desire to tell someone it is raining. To describe to them what we see, what we hear, what we smell and what we feel. We may be Khalil Gibran’s desolate islands in a ruthless sea. But when it rains, it invariably rains on all of us.
Needless to say, the onset of a September shower leaking from God’s faucet could no longer confine me to my home. I needed to get out. So I did. An amateur flaneur if any, I stepped out into nature’s dunk-the-humans-game. I was not prepared for the torrents that were making their way from dark, pregnant clouds. The drops hit me like melted cubes, cold enough for me to shiver and hard enough for me to feel, that I had become numb (for how long, I cannot remember). It was not rain. It was a cold river that splashed around me, innocuous zephyrs turned blustery gusts lashing me as they kicked puddles the size of see-saws in a geometrically fuzzy line. The sky rumbled with the catty arguments of cumulonimbus’ as God took pictures of a city, that had been waiting for release.
It was a rainstorm that had been building up. A moody intermittent spigot of recent days, the rain spelt the faucet’s demise, a great watery grave that proceeded to splash over a wary Karachi’s face. We had all been cauldrons of pent-up emotions in the last few weeks; fears, love, uncertainty mixed with the horrors, misery and violence of a city, of a people whose hearts had been put under the strain of a stone whose raison d’etre we had and will not truly understand. Under such pressure, the rain felt like freedom.
So I walked in the rain, caught a bus, saw people and talked to them. One of the greatest things you will ever witness during rain is the fact that people, who will never give you the time of day otherwise, will exchange smiles, even engage in banter, that heart-warmest kind. It is almost if the event was made for companionship, a walkie-talkie weather for people who’d really like to do that. I saw children and families and a son and a father and a mother. Despite the roar of the rain, I could hear the delight in people’s voices – a respite evident from the urban, social, ethic, racial and political prisons where we incarcerate ourselves.
Even as I felt myself become water itself and disappear in the torrential amalgamation of sound, liquid and air; my conscience somehow thought about people whose livelihoods would be affected, who might not view this event as I do. I thought about still other people. Those I know who wanted to go out but could not for reasons as stale as unquestioned conventions of society (societal mannerisms, work, or just because it is not ‘proper’). I thought of others who were leaving and how the rain was the best gift Karachi could give to those departing. I do not know about others but the rain made me more empathetic; I could feel others’ thoughts, their fears, their uncertainties, their very being more close to me than I could imagine. I guess it might have been more than just empathy. I have been told, Karachi cannot help but be unpredictable – maybe that is the beauty of the place.
Drenched, tired and more than a little bittersweet under the tears of the sky, I slowly walked back as the faucet above got replaced and then subsequently stopped. The pitter patter and bated breath of stranded raindrops carpeted the splishy-splashy reluctant retracing of my steps. All that was left was the quiet, the emptiness and the whisper of winds bringing back familiar voices. I thought of my cell-phone. Then I stopped and went back home.
Ahad Ali is thought to be a lot of things but is really not much (he loves being distracted in brackets though). He is merely trying to find a way between the punctuation and farm animals.
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