In the dead of night, I sit on my bed and type away. I’m not the only one awake at this unearthly hour – there are many more lights that are twinkling in the dark; in the houses across, shining like stars descended on earth against the blue-black sky.
There’s also the incessant sound of horns and screeching of wheels on the road. The sounds are faint but they are just enough to let me know that not everybody is in bed, for this is after all the city that never sleeps.
The dogs are strangely quiet today, they’re not barking. On other days, its almost as though they’re possessed. All day they sleep after being fed by kind souls here and as the skies darken, they begin – first one, then another and soon the entire pack follows – from all directions.
The fan in my room whirs inconsistently as I try to focus. It has a mind of its own; quickening and slowing down, as it pleases. The maintenance guy says, its the voltage fluctuation or the regulator or the loose connection – one of the many things that I’ve got to hear, since I’ve moved here. It was the same answer when the doorbell stopped working and the bulbs that we had just changed in the store room refused to light up or the intercom stopped functioning. Its an answer that fits all questions here when things don’t work – there’s always somebody who is to blame and until that person is willing to take responsibility, life goes on.
Fortunately, the fan’s whim doesn’t affect me. It’s pleasantly cool as it generally is at this time of the year, because of the rains – the rains that we waited for, all May – that arrived later than usual in the middle of June and struck us with a vengeance; uprooting trees, flooding fields, destroying homes and drowning cattle.
We never seem to be prepared here; neither for the delay in rainfall nor when it pours. I’m not sure if we ever will be prepared because those of us who take the decisions, who have the clout and the finance to make a difference remain unaffected by the unpredictability of the rains. And those whose lives depend on it and honestly, those who truly are the most important for the economy and the rest of us to survive, just don’t have the voice or the purse to make a difference.
As I watch the rains, I am aware of a change in me – a change that took shape gradually, over the last 13 months; so slowly that I hadn’t realized. It’s disconcerting – gone was the woman who took pleasure in everything associated with the rains – the petrichor, the glossy blades of grass, the dripping leaves, the sound of the raindrops as it hit the ground and the soothing breeze. In her place was a woman who knew that she had to be grateful and she was but whose heart refused to be moved by the rains or the morning breeze or anything else.
The sand dunes beckon me
Across the oceans and seas to a land
Which I once called home
My heart longs for those deserted pavements
As I walk on this ground; lonely
On streets that are never, ever, empty
My soul yearns for the world of toy soldiers
As I watch with vacant eyes; bored
At this ever-changing smorgasbord
My eyes search for planted greens and ephemeral pinks and purples
Beyond which the sand dunes lie unabashed
Among the sturdy perennials here, growing wild and free, as far as the eyes can see
Why does my throat feel parched
Here, in this rain-drenched city?
Why do I feel lost
In this blessed nation, where i was born?
Why do I miss
The foreign shores that I left behind?
All my wisdom tells me that this here is home and is more beautiful than that, more real than that could ever hope to be, more rich, more stable and more mine than that. Yet, my heart is addicted to the city that can never be mine; for we grew together – my struggles, my victories written on every lane. I knew it and it knew me in a way that this country of mine never will.
The city grew on me – for better or for worse; my life inextricably linked to it.
Have you ever felt like this? Would love to hear from you.
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