January was July and July was January. The clouds came knocking as if taunting the earth. I had just returned back home from the warm salient weather of Bangalore. In January the breeze had an identity of its own.
I was born on the 30th of July. A monsoon baby. A people pleaser. A geometry of spurs.
When the contractions started, the sky was blue and when it ended, I was out and it rained then, the first time that year. The sky was still blue though. Azure maybe. An insufficiently revolutionary rain considering this rain came as if unannounced, without any need to be forewarned and all gutsy. With a plan. The untimely messiness of the rain was emergent in the aftermath of the half-baked puddled road. Pasty mortar ruins. This irregular downpour exuded a faint fragrance that was impertinent for petrichor to rule the air. The vengeance of nature embodied in the winter waterproof jackets which I had gotten from Manali last winter as it had lost the
concision of the disambiguated and in this disquiet, it suddenly dawned upon me that I had given them away just last month to my niece for her school play. Suddenly, the rain was pattering on everything- the presence of prescience raindrops in winters accumulated to a coldness which cut through thin ice and set itself in the bones of bones. I had never felt so forlorn on a January in India. Walking down the stairs, I already missed my bed. The Indian Jaadugarni (witch) with the distinct gap tooth, Eoh, like the eye of Horus, who lived next door had prophesized a seasonal upheaval a few moons back. Suddenly, the rain was debasing an astrological amount of humidity in my festive washing of head full of hair minus a dryer. I was in precise discomfort (30per cent), hungry (30 per cent), cold (20 per cent) and wet (20 per cent) with a full moon prophecy of myself to care - I resigned to not relax. Until the mists part, I was ready to suffer. I waited for the sun. I yearned with closed eyes for the window to light up with a familiar burst of energy, waiting for the phosphenes to dramatize
a dance of rays on the grey damp walls. The lack of mechanical, electrical, or magnetic stimulation on a waxing gibbous (85%) the previous night was a warning for the uneventful next day. It was a cruel way for the season gods aka Iravat to betray me when my wait turned plausible enough for me to accept my reality. My hair formed knots, knotty wetness. The wool on me stuck onto me. The winter skincare routine turned patchy, oily, and defunct.
I outed Balaji chips- salted and masala from the crevices of a cupboard at noon. It must have been the fifth big browned chip in my cotton dry mouth when I stopped listening to Kishore Kumar on loop. At the tenth saltiest chip in -- I was counting calories and it was lightning outside. A few measly minutes later, the partially eaten chips were soggy. The oil dripping humidity sickened me enough to regret the salty bile disputing in the corners of my mouth as I emptied my stomach. Suddenly, the toilet bowl was in my face like a melancholic day. Suddenly food poisonings were not endemic to monsoons. Suddenly, the weather did not forgive me on a day when I did not fly kites and did not kill birds in the sky. I did not. A cold wind stayed with me like a hanging man waiting to go home at the end of the day, after a tiresome try at weakening my spirits in a sunless cold which had gripped my city. Like a pulled kite stuck on the other side.
Skittles in my pockets so old / Like a concrete stone I hold / I can give you wisdom / But I
shook hands with nihilism and now I need to wash them / Hiding in my music block unseen I listened to Oscar Scheller unhinged. When it was thunder time, I was watching two mango trees in my backyard- like they could not believe their luck- they could not bear mangoes this season because the rain gods had displeased, excused and landed earlier than the seasons of red & mauve, single & double. Balsams cared less. Cockscomb wilted with the rain, tearing up at times. By evening, I had stopped looking at my plants.
A child wept outside. Mucky, uncomfortable. Like the cotton fields, dying with the rain. It’s a certain kind of curse to end with the rains if you are a plant or a crop. A howl later, I debunked from my bed- straight to the balcony, clinching my hoodie, folding my hands, praying for the wailing to stop. I reasoned with the cold, thinking of the metaphoric corn on the cob of July, nimbu in salt and laal mirch, rubbed gently, mildly and the burnt lemon numbing my nostrils, the Naga chilli watering my eyes which planted tears at the sight of the unruly rain, pattering away. The pattering turned into a drizzle by and by. It was a late night when the toads came out and the crickets made merry. A wet poster of Spiderman kissing Mary Jane in the iconic upside-down lay muddled and confused on the floor of the balcony, a lone star in the black sky for company. The petrichor suddenly intermingled with the half-lit cigarette in my hand, my saliva plummeting through the
nicotine which turned me on in a reckless way, a sick way. I missed the winter moon then. A crusade of summer was lost in this rain. The guts. Curt.
On January of a seemingly July 14th, the child wept again. Only this time, more children wept. I could not eat, sit or sleep. This day was worse than the previous days. An image of a bunch of kites, trying to float in the rainy sky. I picked up a book to read a story of a kite which was made to lift a lover over the walls in the Han dynasty. I really tried.
When the city of Patang Walas soiled wet, restless in the winter rain, a morsel of pity in the form of til appeared. A heart-shaped 'til ka laddu' floated in the drain outside my house. Someone had thrown a tantrum somewhere uphill I reckoned. ‘Nah koi umang hai.....’ in my ears as I paced back and forth. My nerves did not understand my love for winter. The ‘Uttaryan dhamaka’ playlist churned the previous night now lay deserted, making way for crying children, wailing at the top of their lungs as if they had lost all the imaginary kite fights. so much was amiss. The missing blast of music. A full firki or spool of kite lines missing in action. No birds were harmed in the process of the premature homecoming of rain. No kites soaring through the sky. No tangles. Disquiet.
No more shrieks of bewilderment. The noise was replaced with sighs and a battered cheater of a company. Also, no swinging on lampposts jumping in puddles and twirling of umbrellas. A scene of altered despondency. Like a drought would have been better and could have made sense. Singularly, the wind would only carry the burden of entertaining.
The kinnah (kite bridle) tying parties now seemed like an exercise in futility. The kite sellers don’t even take refunds. Tugs and jumps of the youth now was a distant memory. A day marred by contretemps. A wet rub of the green.
I went down to the back shed. Outside, the rain did not get the hint. Before the younger brother left for Bangalore, he had stored his childhood here, in the shed. It was safe here. From the rain even. From kite fights. From my father. From the ultimate winter sport of the January sun. As I scanned, I started thinking. I stared; I gently kicked a few cardboard boxes around. When I saw it, I knew. When I knew, I remembered. I drew it out like a Houdini at the end of his last show on Earth -- a huge pink and organdy fabric ceremonial kite known as a tukkal which is a fire kite. Kite light with a lantern and hoisted up in the sky. This three-bow tasselled kite was as light as a leaf.
The dust on its edges revealed a spider's web. Its occupants hurriedly disappeared in the dark of
the shed. Kite making is an art while kite flying is a sport. The only question was- Will the winter rains
win or my kites in this winter sport?
I handed the kite to the last crying kid when I came out of the shed. Remembrance became a revelation. It was almost dusk. He stopped crying as the lantern-lit up his headspace. The rain had finally died. The Shiroshi consoled the child in me. A hundred tukkals lit up the clear starred sky.
(Shalini Singh is an experienced book author with a demonstrated history of working in the Legal Services Industry. Skilled in International Law, Criminal Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Arbitration, and Public Speaking. Strong Media and Communication Professional with a Master of Laws - focus on Constitutional And Administrative Laws)