City Season – A Mid-July Rain, Elma’s Bakery and Other Places
The afternoon shower.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One afternoon in July 2013 The Delhi Walla was having green tea at Elma’s Bakery in Central Delhi’s Meharchand Market when it started to rain. I immediately called photographer Raghu Rai.
From his studio in the historic village of Mehrauli in south Delhi, Mr Rai said he was working on a new book — it’s on the monsoon and clouds. “My window looks to the Qutub Minar and a jungle of keekar trees,” he told me on phone. “When it rains, the leaves of the keekar don’t let the raindrops slide off from their surface and so the slender branches droop even lower. The sight is magnificent — sharm se khoobsurti jhuk jati hain (the beauty bends down blushing).”
Growing sentimental about the monsoon, Mr Rai said, “I think of myself as the first drop of those dark clouds of the pre-monsoon storm that moves with great ferocity upon a land, which is hot and dry and waiting for that first drop, which is me.”
Further north, the hill-town of Mussoorie in the flood-hit Uttarakhand is home to author Ruskin Bond, who spent his lonely childhood years at his father’s house in Delhi’s Atul Grove Marg. Mr Bond said that he spends the season’s rain-filled hours with a bottle of rum. “Since the temperature has fallen drastically, I’m having a lot of it,” he told me on phone. “Rum is a good hill-station drink and it keeps you warm.”
Referring to the unusually ferocious showers of mid-June, the novelist said, “Although the destruction took place in the higher reaches and not in Mussoorie, I must say that I don’t remember seeing such heavy rains before. While lying in the bed at night, it was disturbing to listen to the continuous racket the rain was making on the tin roof. What if there was a landslide? Would the house fall down? It is perched on the edge of a cliff…but the house has remained perched on the cliff for over a 100 years and it could perhaps hold on for a few more years.”
After the rain stopped, I left the bakery for a walk outside.
On reaching India Habitat Center, I chanced upon a tulip — it was floating on a puddle.
Further ahead on Max Mueller Marg I discovered that the side-lanes, addresses of Very Very Important Delhiwallas, were filled with rainwater.
Across the road, trees of Lodhi Gardens appeared to be cloaked in mist. The sky looked damp. One cloud was shaped into a map of undivided Kashmir.
Stopping at a bus stop, I took out The God of Small Things from my shoulder bag and started to read one of my favourite passages:
It was raining when Rahel came back to Ayemenem. Slanting silver ropes slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire. The old house on the hill wore its steep, gabled roof pulled over its ears like a low hat. The walls, streaked with moss, had grown soft, and bulged a little with dampness that seeped up from the ground. The wild, overgrown garden was full of the whisper and scurry of small lives. In the undergrowth a rat snake rubbed itself against a glistening stone. Hopeful yellow bullfrogs cruised the scummy pond for mates. A drenched mongoose flashed across the leaf-strewn driveway.
Closing the novel, I messaged its Delhi-based author Arundhati Roy enquiring where she was. Ms Roy responded, saying, “I’m a leaf on the water in the Kerala rain.”
The wet scenes