Pinky sat inside a huge concrete pipe lying aimlessly at the side of a road. She was looking at the water which was collecting near her foot, disturbed constantly by the raindrops falling harshly from the sky. Last year when it started raining, she made paper boats and sent them on voyages. This year was poles apart. She was alone and petrified.
She could see the chawl where she lived on the other side of the road – covered with blue plastic sheets on which rain made a rumbling noise as if trying to rouse a monster. Everyone she knew was huddled inside, placing uneven bowls at places where the huts dripped, scrapping water out as it seeped in from the doors. She then looked at the streetlamps – flickering like a dying man, mustering courage to light up the road below and failing miserably. She rested her back on the curve of the pipe and abruptly tears raced down her face, taking the dirt with them and carving two clean straight lines. My eyes are clouds, she thought. She doubted her own monsoon will ever end.
Pinky was joyful a month ago. Her mother had finally enrolled her in a nearby school run by an NGO. The sweet lady at the NGO persuaded Pinky’s mother for almost five months before she reluctantly gave in. It meant less money coming in the house and more burdens on her mother. She went to the school for five days and then that dreadful day happened, when her world turned black, just like the sky covered by dark clouds.
Amrita sat in the drawing room of her posh second floor apartment, staring vacantly at the raindrops as they slid down the large windowpane facing the balcony. The city beyond the window looked blurred and uncertain of its existence, but it went on. Yes, it went on irrespective of the fact that a small cog in it has stopped working. Then she looked at the raindrops as they splattered near the top of the window and lazily moved towards the bottom – sometimes meeting each other as they went down, sometimes dividing into two. She marvelled if the windowpane was a portrait of life – people met like those droplets, shared a part of their journey with each other, sometimes got separated and then walked alone. But the truth remained that there was just one eventual destination – the bottom of the window, where all the drops met, only to reach the clouds again so that the cycle could continue. She sighed and closed her eyes. She knew what kind of a raindrop she was now – the walking alone kind.
Aaryan was in high spirits when they bought this apartment. Surrounded by gardens and fountains amidst the hustle-bustle of the city, this was a dream they were waiting to come true ever since they were married three years back. When they moved in six months ago, Aaryan took her in his arms as soon as the movers and packers were out of the house. They held each other and smiled, looking around the empty space they were going to fill with their life.
“I love the balcony.” Aaryan said as they walked out greeted by a soothing wind.
As time passed, they filled the house with things they picked up after numerous deliberations, colour matching sessions and various rounds to the markets. Amrita loved to shop for small things like the wind chimes which hung in the balcony, or the Rajasthan puppets hanging from a wall in the dining area or the painting which she got for the drawing room or the rug which went under the centre table. She was creating what she always wanted to live in and there was an intoxicating satisfaction in it. Their life was perfect and Aaryan was the colour that made it more beautiful.
Amrita opened her eyes. The rain was still falling – colourless drops falling from a dark sky. There was a picture of her and Aaryan on the wall opposite to where she sat – Amrita was looking up and laughing, Aaryan was smiling and looking at the ground, his hand on her shoulder. She sat there for an eternity staring at the photo and in the end decided to come out of her misery. She could think of just one way out.
Amrita opened the door of her apartment and let Pinky in. It took some time for Pinky to realise that this was someone’s house. For her a house was a confined space where you could hardly move. She looked at Amrita with apprehension.
“Come on.” Amrita said and held Pinky’s hand and led her in, smiling at her dust stained face. She could clearly make out the lines of tears on her face.
“This is your house?” Pinky asked.
“Yes and from today it’s yours too.” Amrita said.
Pinky looked at her with surprise.
“You will live here with me, go to school, then to college, you will make good friends, and you will get a very good job, fall in love, get married and live a very happy life.” Amrita said as she took Pinky’s face in her hands and smiled at her. Tears were welling in her eyes.
Pinky looked at her incredulously. She had seen this happen to people in movies and to people living in big houses but this was not the future of her life. She was supposed to live in a chawl wondering whether she will earn enough money for the next meal and sometimes go to sleep without eating one.
“Are you my new mother?”
“I can try.” Amrita said as she kissed Pinky’s forehead.
The wind-chimes started making ringing sounds as the wind picked up.
“It is going to rain again”. Pinky said.
“Yes, yes it will. It’s Monsoon.”
They sat there in silence as the clouds welled up, lights flashed in the sky and the downpour started.
“Can I go in the balcony?” Pinky asked suddenly.
“Yes, go ahead.” Amrita said.
She looked at Pinky as she walked into the balcony. She first touched the raindrops cautiously and then stood near the door watching them fall. She was not old enough to know the truth, Amrita thought. She had decided to wait for a few more years to tell Pinky that the car accident which killed her mother also killed Aaryan; that while trying to save her mother, Aaryan drove the car over a divider after hitting her; that he was dead before he reached the hospital. Amrita was with him in the car that day. They were laughing at a joke Aaryan was telling her. The accident left Amrita with a few scratches on her right arm and head but she was unconscious for the better part of the day.
She knew there was a little girl with the woman who died. It was raining heavily that day but she knew there were two people crossing the road when she screamed at Aaryan to stop the car. It wasn’t difficult to find Pinky. She started searching her from the chawl near the accident site and a few days later she found her, sitting inside a concrete pipe, staring at the rain.
She walked towards Pinky who was standing near the door, lost in thoughts as the rain picked up momentum and dropped in a rhythm. The raindrops have seen it all, Amrita thought. They saw the accident and they are seeing us now. The rhythm was comforting. You are not alone – the raindrops seem to be saying. She turned around and looked at the windowpane. Amidst a number of drops moving towards the bottom, she saw two drops joining together and moving down.
“I love the balcony.” Pinky said.
[[This short story won the first prize in a story writing competition and was published in the office magazine of the organization that employs me. The theme of the competition was - Monsoon. Permission has been taken from the company HR to publish the story on my blog ]]