I’m very scared as I type this. I’ve never shared my fiction with so many people before. As a matter of fact, I’ve never shown my work to anyone who understands literature. I know this is not my best work – just a piece from the many I have been writing every day. I read it the other day for the first time weeks after I wrote it, and I really liked it. I know there are better stories, and this one isn’t publishing material, but I like it nonetheless. I don’t even know if it qualifies as a complete story. I can see how my love for Ruskin Bond’s work has influenced this story. I don’t know if it reflects my style (or if I even have any), I don’t know if this story is original, if it’s any good at all. I’m sharing it here so that I can now how good -or bad- it really is. All comments and criticisms are very much welcome.
She gifted me the rain. Not that she could do magic or anything. This is not a fantasy story or a fairy tale. It’s just a simple story about her – she who gave me the rain.
It was just another day, like the days are when stories begin and end – you know, nothing out of the blue or extraordinary. It was a new day, and through prayer I’d learned to be grateful to have it. She came up to me half-hopping, half-jogging in the morning and handed me the bottle. It was a very small plastic container, no larger than the length of my thumb. It was one of those bottles Homeopathy doctors give you with those round white pills in them.
“I got this for you,” she said in her girly, but kind of adult voice. I took the bottle from her and opened it. Inside was water.
“What’s this?” I asked her.
“It’s yesterday’s rainwater. I collected it for you.” I half-smiled. It was a nice thought; a beautiful one, really, to gift someone the rain. But it was possible she would’ve scooped some up from the puddles that had settled over the grass lawns after the showers were over.
“How?” I asked.
“You know it was raining heavily yesterday and I was working at my window, but then the power went out and I couldn’t work in the dark – Ma says that’ll ruin my eyes – so I sat looking at the rain and I thought perhaps I should give it to you.” She was fiddling with the blue glass bracelet in her hand. “So I got this bottle and put it on the window sill. It filled up quite quickly.”
I could see she was trying to look away – look away at anything but me. “I saved more bottles.” She looked up nervously at me with her blue eyes. Everything was blue about her. Her bracelet, the floral frock she was wearing, the sky above her, but most of all, her eyes. It is rare to see blue eyes here in India. You’ll see brown eyes and hazel eyes and grey eyes and green eyes, but you very rarely see blue eyes, and until I met her I thought only American or Europeans had blue eyes, because that’s how my grandparents had described them to me when they’d seen them during the colonial times. It was a surprise when I saw her. For a second I thought she was American, but her brown hues – so soft – confirmed she belonged here in the hills of Meghalaya – the wettest place on earth. She resembled her mother in looks but her body was more like her father – tall and skinny.
“I – I thought you would like it, you know,” she said, still avoiding my gaze, though I could see those eyes flickering once in a while to look at me. I wished they would stay. “Since you said it doesn’t rain much where you live.”
New Delhi. I’ve lived in New Delhi ever since my first month in this world. I’d been born in Indore, where my mother’s family lived, but we returned to New Delhi soon after and it never rained much there. In the 90-100 days of monsoon, it rained perhaps a dozen times or less – with such misery that I wondered why it rained at all. More than twelve or fifteen showers were considered more than usual – they described it the way you describe a flood. I sometimes wished, when I stood out on our terrace to wet myself in what the skies had for us, that I never knew what rain was, so that I could never long for it the way I do. The lack of it makes me miserable and moody.
She was now looking at me, and her gaze fixed on me longer than it did before. I looked back, and then suddenly shook my head, and then realizing what I’d just done, nodded and said “Thanks,” and found myself smiling. She grinned back.
I put the little cap back on and examined it in my palm for a few seconds. I thought of drinking it. Two days ago, it’d rained lightly – a little more than a drizzle. Excited to see it raining for every day since our arrival here, I ran out of our cottage and didn’t have to try much – the rain had me soaking in no time, and even though it was cold, it was wonderful. A few yards to my side, she was there too, chasing her little sister in the grass and mud.
An hour later all three of us were taking turns to chase each other. Tired of the running but not of the rain, we sat down on the grass – I knew I would get scolded for the mud stains, but I didn’t care – and then her sister jerked her head towards the clouds and opened her mouth, letting her tongue out, tasting the rain. We imitated her. The rain was cool and fresh on my tongue, and was purer and better than anything I’d ever tasted. Better even than the mineral water we had back at home.
But this was not the time to drink it; I wasn’t thirsty, and I would have nothing to carry with me home, no memory of the rains, nor of her. The rain would come and go every year, but I couldn’t say the same about her. I wondered when I would see her again, but didn’t voice my thoughts. She lingered there in front of the cottage for a few seconds more before smiling again and saying, “Goodbye, then.” I didn’t want to say it too, so I just nodded, and when she was out of sight, I patted the pocket where I’d put the rain. Her rain.
It has been more than a year now since then, and I just found the bottle in my suitcase which I’d take with me to a trip down south – the backwaters of Kerala. It was in one of the side pockets, that little bottle, and as soon as I recognized it, I screwed it open, but it was empty. I put it to my nose, but there was no smell – not of the rain and not of her. The rain was gone, and so probably was she – we’d just heard of floods in her village a month ago, and most of them had been victims. I didn’t recognize the name of the village at once; the village was not what I’d bothered to remember; it was her.