Clad in knee length track pants and an old tee-shirt, I head down for a stroll.
“In the rain?” enquires the husband.
“Yes.” It’s mucky and there are puddles everywhere but what’s life without a bit of risk? The inroad behind our apartment building is a tortuous one and leads to a park. It’s a great place to visit throughout the year. Why, you ask? I’ll tell you in a moment.
I pass by make-shift stalls selling candy, crisps – the local variety, beedis, and other knick-knacks. A dog by the side of the road laps up milk out of a metal bowl. So kind, this shop owner I say to myself, smiling.
A little further, there’s a fishmonger, sitting with her pomfrets and mackerels and shrimp and clams. She’s wearing a bokan kashti – the traditional Mumbai fisherfolk sari. I smile at her but she doesn’t. Wow! If her smiles cost so much, how much would her fish? But then again, she’s worn down by the vicissitudes of life; her eyes say it all and the crowfeet around them.
At the turning there’s a tuition class. Young people create a ruckus, talking, laughing, flirting even. Flashback to my college days. It’s been a while but not too long, I’m still in my prime. How much I’ve grown since, matured. Wait, is that a synonym for boring, I wonder.
Where there’s a park, there’s going to be children. They’re running around, screaming and shouting; children of well-to-do families and street urchins. The contrast is sweetly striking. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we thought like them? Oops! I almost trampled a cat. The ginger moggy scans me with her gems of yellow. I’m not a cat person, I tell her. She ignores me and continues licking her paws and soft pillows of pink beneath them.
Old men discuss the news of the day, vehemently gesturing as they state their opinions, sitting on a bench; on another bench I spot a couple displaying affection by the dozen; on yet another, there’s a handsome man sat down, lost in thought. Maybe he’s thinking of karak chai, I tell myself because suddenly, it starts to pour. Some run to find shelter while others enjoy the showers. I pop in my earphones; music and monsoon are a deadly combination. The grass smells intoxicating now. Stray myna birds are scattered across the park’s centre, a blanket of green.
A group of gleeful gully boys practice their moves in a pagoda-like structure. ‘Street’ is an emotion, you can tell, as you watch them pop and lock and krump and fail, and then, try again.
My shoes are squeaking now, begging me to leave. Five more, minutes, I plead, in vain. On the way back, I wade through puddles, stuffing my face with hot pakoras for comfort; a pluviophile’s paradise. The dog I saw on my way to the park is now crouched under an ATM shed. Some sparrows are shimmying to dry themselves and black crows are cawing but not complaining. Until next time, fellas, I say and walk away.
The author is Bahrain-born and raised and now lives in Mumbai.