One Fine Rainy Day
by Anjali Bhavan
‘Say yes. Not yup.’
‘I do,’ his dad’s voice rang, both authoritative and shaky, but controlling more than unsteady. ‘It’s not the way to talk. You’re seventeen years old, and still you talk like an uncouth kid!’
Varun silently thrust the last bag inside the back of the car, and slammed the door shut. His mother was startled.
‘Shut the door slowly,’ she grumbled.
‘Don’t you worry, the next time I’ll remember to kiss the door’s ass,’ Varun said quietly, churlishly.
‘What did you say?’ his father growled, but Varun looked up with shining eyes, resisted his mother’s pathetic attempt to hug him and his father’s gruff, half-baked handshake, warmly embraced his Golden Labrador and his sister, and sat inside the car, looking gleefully at his house, mean and imposing. And though he was too ashamed to admit it, he indeed was very glad to be leaving the place to get on with his life.
Yes, finally! He had gotten into the best college in his field of study, rather in the entire country – the Indian Institute of Technology, also known as IIT. And now he could go and never, ever come back.
He waved the friendly (nosy?) neighbours goodbye and set off for the airport; his college was in Delhi.
As the driver, who was serving his family for the past twenty years sped up, Varun saw the familiar places – his pink-coloured, despicable school standing there as if lonely, his childhood crush’s house just going by, rambunctious kids racing each other to the paani puri stall run by a greying old fellow with nine children and a tenth on the way, that old woman spitting on the road just in front of her neighbour’s house, the Vaishno Mata temple…all would be gone in a dream, a trance, until nothing would be left, nothing – except himself. No need to look back, no attachments – though he was already missing Rocky, his dog and Salma, his sister – the only one who loved him unconditionally in his family. But even they weren’t enough to stop him from flying away to his freedom.
It was now drizzling lightly, and Varun eased back into his seat. He could hear the loud voices of the people chanting verses in Urdu
on the loudspeaker in the mosque nearby, and the loud, angry crack of the skies as if interrupting, majestic. Like the lord of the rains unleashing his fury and crushing all those worshipping someone else.
And all of a sudden, just like that he began thinking about his home. It seemed weirdly natural, but Varun had trouble accepting it, before realizing that it was all in his mind and he could think away anything he wanted—nobody ever had to know.
He was fourteen, and here he was, sauntering towards his home with excitement and trepidation, wanting to show his parents his new haircut—spiky and edgy, with a dash of purple. And here he was, standing before his mortified mother and furious father. Ah, that rhymed.
‘Tomorrow you will march to that salon and change back your hair. Get it cut.’
‘Uh no, I will not.’
‘Yes you will!’ his dad shouted.
And then again, he was fifteen, coming back dejected after his team lost a cricket match. It was searing hot that day; he remembered a mynah crying incessantly outside his house, and drops of sweat falling from his face down on the ground.
‘Lost again?’ his mother yelled. ‘Are you of any use at all? Go back and change, and get back to practice. Useless idiot.’
He was now sixteen, conscious of his beard, the hair everywhere on him. Bitingly cold and bleak, and homeless people decorated the streets, as did barking, shivering dogs and drops of dew.
‘You may not go to Chennai.’
‘Why! My friends are—’
‘Let them go. You need to study.’
‘Oh leave me alone!’
‘No we will not. And if you talk like this—’
Slam. He shut the door on his parents’ face.
The drizzle was now a downpour, and his flight would probably be delayed—and suddenly, Varun found himself crying, crying softly, feeling tears fall down the folds under his eyes, his thin cheeks, and make dark circles on his shirt. Were his parents really that bad? He found himself aching all of a sudden to go back and hear his dad yell at him, but the black darkness of the car enveloped him into nothingness.
And soon he would reach the airport, reach Delhi, far far away from his family.
Maybe that was a good thing. ***