Summers were always the worst. The city scorched and charred under the blazing heat. So did everyone living there, including me. It was always hot I guess, one never really realizes such things until it cooled. Which it never did. So, I never really understood how hot the days were and how wilted, parched and thirsty I always seemed.
I did notice the subtleties around me. The ones that made the times I live in, the place I grew up.
The trees went pale green and then gave up as the brown overwhelmed them. The dust forming a fine layer over all in nonchalance. The caked grounds forming deep empty gutters with each passing day. Even the ants moved lethargically, tempting me to crush them under my finger or even the big toe. Just like I did with the flies. There were many buzzing around the bananas that were turning black in front of our eyes. Flies were the hardest to get rid of. Mosquitoes were easy. These flies, they were dropping like the mosquitoes.
Sorry state of affairs when energy saps enough to change one from within to form a different specie.
My lazy teenage neighbors would throw disapproving glances at us when mom’s pressure cooker woke them up at 8 am. The sun’s rays burnt deep streaks onto our beds, kitchen and patio. We shielded their rooms in the mornings for exchange of the pleasanter cooler waves of the evening.
Balance, as my grandma would say.
Perhaps that’s what she meant when she said she had never known drought growing up and now at the age of 70 she managed to shower and wash her sari all from a small bucket of water that she pulled up the well herself. It usually took her one whole Hanuman Chalisa to bring up enough water to fill that bucket. Then she included Lakshmi Ashtotram too. This was God’s way of making sure she paid attention to Him than while she sat in the Puja room, with just the wall separating the neighbor’s incessant chatter with his girlfriend.
Mother was upset as much as she was excited. All those summer prep foods including green mangoes that needed to dehydrate enough to look like raw bone hide were being made at a pace that would put an assembly line at the local rubber factory to shame. She didn’t like the fact that she had to draw water from the well and she couldn’t just turn the tap and do her things like at her home in the town. “This is what I traded for the city lights?” She’d grumble. Every mug, glass and vessel she filled when the local tank came to supply the rationed 4 buckets of water per family. We managed another 2 more as the bachelor living upstairs really didn’t need 4. What would he do with so much water? Swim in it?
“We adapt.” Dad explained: “When you learn to live with very less, you can survive anywhere and a survivor’s always respected, admired. By stroke of luck, fortune or hard work if you do land in a better place than you are, it’s just going to make living all the more sweeter.”
Dad should’ve been a boy scout master or a pastor. He seemed to always find hope in the hopeless.
Apparently, I’ve lived thirsty and parched, for a good part of my life. I had no idea what thirst was, as that’s how it’s always been. How does one know better when one hasn’t experienced it?
Since he’s walked into my life last year it’s been raining. There have been the occasional drizzle, the thunderstorm, the tropical lush soothing rain, the spring showers and of course there’s always that hail of last winter. There’s a pleasure, a thrill and even a fascination in each experience. Always leaving me changed just a bit from within. Perhaps moisture has that effect as much as heat did? He told me that he didn’t like the thunder and the hail. Rains he could take, showers he loved, and the occasional drizzle was the best. Anything else shook him from within. Like the palm trees shook at the approach of a tornado.
Dessicated I stand wondering on how one adapts going back. I’ve tasted water, and now the thirst dries me up from within.
So where’s the balance I ask myself and my grandma, now in heaven. She however, is a smart lady. Hitting her forehead, she goes back to her Vishnu Sahasranamam while I stood under the sun, scorching. Again.