He walked past the railway crossing and the local grocery store, generally a very “happening” locality in the otherwise sleepy suburb. Not today though. The heavy clouds looked all set to pour its fury down on the simple folk of the neighborhood. The grocery shop owner pulled down the shutters, cursing the rain gods for all his misfortunes (as if it was their fault that his daughter ran away and got married to the local tailor. )
The railway gate operator pulled down the transparent plastic sheet and covered the opening where, legend has it, a window once stood.
There were birds flying around frantically and trees swaying softly.
The dream still troubled him. He looked up to the sky hoping for some answers. A large drop of rain landed on his nose and proceeded to flow down his face. He wiped it off with his shirt’s sleeve. He noticed a sudden increase in the activity around him. People were running for cover, hotels being shut, windows being closed, leaves of coconut trees rustling in the strong breeze that had now set it.
The light drizzle became heavier and got still heavier. The swaying trees hummed an enchanting tune, the birds flying back whistled a matching melody, the rain set the rhythm in the background as it hit the crudely made country roads. As the potholes filled, the rhythm took new dimensions.
He took an umbrella out of his bag and opened it before he got too wet. He generally carried only one but today, by some mistake, he had two. The orchestra playing in the background, his thoughts firmly on the dream, he walked on. Not even taking the time to close his bag properly.
He reached the turning leading to Shazia Manzil, a palatial house that was atleast a couple of decades old. Yet, it was majestic. Apart from the unartistic green colour the current occupants had painted it, it had a definite charm about it.
A young girl stood near its gate, under the large canopy to escape the heartless rain. She seemed to be looking around for something. A companion, maybe. Or an autorickshaw to go home. It looked like she had given up all hope of the rain letting up. Her forehead crumpled, her eyes swelled with tears, she waited. The wind blew her hair over her face. She looked around once more through her hair that had quickly tangled up into an utter mess. She saw no one. A lonely tear escaped her eye and rolled down her cheek and soon, a few others followed. She tossed her hair back and wiped the tears. To her right, on the opposite side of the road, she saw him walking in her direction. She’d seen him in college. They’d worked on an article for the college magazine together but that was for only a couple of hours a year ago. A large smile crawled onto her face. He even had an umbrella! She began waving frantically at him, ID card in hand. She hoped that he’d recognize her. Atleast from the ID card.
Head bent down, deep in thought, he walked in front of shazia manzil and past it. He wasn’t paying attention to anything around him. Not even the pretty woman getting wet in the rain trying to cross the road and get to him. His house was just around the corner and he didn’t even have to look up to find his way.
The next day, in college, he occupied his normal seat. Next to the wall at the back of the class. He found that place very convenient.
There was a window behind him from where an almost perennial breeze blew. The wall on his left let him rest his head and dream but stay awake. And of course, it was the last bench so he had all the privileges that come with that too. The only disadvantage was that the corridor was behind him too and that meant any passing teacher could see exactly what he was doing.
His friends began recalling the episodes from the previous day’s lunch outing. They’d settled for the usual place. ” Malabar paradise” . A small eatery, popular among college students for its cheap food and free stories from the military days of it’s
proprietor. It was located inside city centre, the local mall. And so, was unaffected by the rains. Infact, they had more business than usual because of all the hungry people who came inside the mall to take cover from the rain.
As his friends described the mouthwatering wraps and appams and heavenly coffee, he craved for some of it too. The rest of the class was spent in scribbling down the precise circuit diagrams that the teacher was drawing on the board with multiple colours of chalk.
At the end of the class, everyone stood up, wished the teacher and sat down. He stretched his arms out wide and let out a yawn that lasted significantly longer than average hippo yawn. He rubbed his eyes, trying to stay awake and drank some water. Somebody tapped his shoulder through the window. He turned around and looked out. A pretty girl stood there.
“Hi “, she said.
To be continued…