Today seemed to be different – I guess, its that time of the year when the first rains show up late in the summer. The hot afternoon seemed to be transforming slowly – there was a distant thunder. The breeze had picked up in strength to a brisk wind, brining in dark clouds from somewhere else and deposited them right overhead. It was cool and sultry. As the afternoon wore on, the college crowd seemed to increase, so were mothers who were going home early from the office. Everyone seemed to have a frown and a worried look on their faces as they looked up to the darkening clouds – there was a smart old man, who was smug in his looks as he was the only one with an umbrella !
Then the drizzle started. In a while the drizzle turned in a down pour – typical of Chennai, quickly water puddle appeared. As the rain poured, there seemed to be a transformation within that shelter – it had turned into a small world itself. Jimmy was curled up besides me, inconspicuous and trying to blend into the backdrop so that his place in shelter would not be taken away by others. I looked around – a fat lady, who seemed to take the whole corner, seemed to deflate herself willingly and give place to another old lady. The three college girls were giggling and talking about something else – at the same time they seemed to enjoy the rain and being consciously careless and get themselves wet. That office guy in the opposite corner, who seemed to peep out to look if the buses were coming, stole a look at the girls every time he did that. The girls conscious of that, increased their giggling frequency – one of them even smiled at the guy. Hmmmmm….
The shelter was getting smaller for the crowd; but everyone seemed to be kind and accommodating as more people filled in. The smart old man with the umbrella, even opened it against a leak in the corner and let another old man to share his umbrella, but at a cost – the other man had to listen to the changing weather patterns in the world and how unusual this rain in Chennai was.
There was a mother with her two kids in the shelter. It looked like on the way back from her office, she had picked her children up from the school. As she was protective of her kids and shielding them from the cold water spray from the heavy rain now, she found another kid, a bit older hit by the spray at the front of the shelter. She took her tiffin box out of the plastic cover and handed that to the boy – the boy thanked her and wore it over his head as a protective cap. Meanwhile, the old man’s umbrella had become another shelter on its own, he had added a small girl and her mom to his vast umbrella, and added them to his audience on global warming. The cycle-rickshaw man, who was in the shelter with others, looked hopefully at the crowd to see if he would get a ride when the rain-stops. He took at a beedi which I’m sure was a substitute for his lunch and started lighting it. Few of the people at the shelter looked at him; the man smiled and put the beedi out. As I watching the world around, I saw this person purposefully threading his way through the crowd towards us. He came near, opened his tiffin box and offered us his uneaten food. Jimmy’s ears perked up and started wagging his tail; I would have wagged mine, if I had one too – we both looked at him thankfully and devoured it down; I had not had anything since morning and the late-summer heat and humidity had taken a toll.
It was an ideal world in that shelter – everyone was benevolent and helping each other. It seemed a vibrant and symbiotic existence there. I thanked the rain, and looked at the people with gratitude, particularly the one who had shared the food with us.
Normalcy was around the door – slowly the rain had stopped to a drizzle and people were now craning their necks to look if their bus was coming. The girls had stopped their giggle, their wet dress a liability now. The rickshaw man who seemed not to have found a customer in the crowd, lit up his beedi to the irritation of others – but he could care less now. The old man had now turned his ire from global warming into the state of Transport Corporation – only now there weren’t any willing listeners – they had turned their back to him. The office guy stepped into a puddle and muttered a curse – he was no longer looking at the girls. The mother with kids wanted to get home early and was looking for an auto; she was irritated by the other kid who threw away the plastic cover that she gave as a shield against rain; at that instance her kid dropped the school bag on the ground and she smacked him.
As the bus appeared, in the horizon, everyone was hopeful – but the bus had a board that announced it was headed to shed and moved on without stopping and in fact seemed to speed-up as it was close to the shelter spraying an unprepared few with puddle water. The character of the shelter had changed definitely – it was clearly more tense and filled with irksome people. Fortunately, within five minutes another bus appeared, but it was so full that it had people hanging out of the door-way. The college girls were able to board the bus through the front door – they guy who had shared his food with us, tried his might to get in, and Jimmy went behind him. The bus started to move and the guy was left behind – as he turned, he stumbled into Jimmy who had followed him; The man was clearly annoyed and angry – he swung his office bag at Jimmy; it hit him on the head – Jimmy gave a loud yelp, continued to wag his tail and scampered from that place.
The rain had stopped, the sun had come out. As the collective mood turned blacker in the shelter, a rainbow had blossomed at the horizon. I wonder at the end of that rainbow, if there was a bus-shelter in a pouring rain.