As she sipped her coffee, she couldn’t help but think how magical the night was. It was raining softly outside. She listened to the rhythm of the rain lashing over the roof as if whispering unheard tales inducing the night into sweet slumber. She finished her coffee and went about her routine activities. She kept a jug of water next to her father’s bed; her father who had been paralyzed by fate for years now. For the last time she made sure her little brother was asleep. Then, she stepped out into the rain, in her crimson red sari, when the world was fast asleep.
She didn’t bother to carry an umbrella. The rain was no alien to her, nor was the rain to the expressions of her heart. She felt the cold shimmering pearls of rain that fell from the heavens above, drench her warm body slowly. It was not the kind of rain that poured with vehemence that cut through the sacred earth and echoed the storm within you. It was the rain that caressed you with each of its drops trying to wash away the pain engraved in the heart of your soul. She took a deep breathe of the sweet fragrance in the air. Yes… this is the closest one can get to magic. Each drop fell gracefully on the unforgiving ground in steady rhythm; music as if to guide a lost child to find its way.
As she approached a turning in the road she could hear the laughter of children. Just around the corner there were a group of children playing in the little lakes that the rain had made and were ridiculously giggling away to glory. At that moment she wished she were a child cached in the bubble of its laughter… A child with only childish fantasies so improbable within the realms of reality, yet seeming attainable within the vagaries of a child’s mind.
She walked further down the road to the bus stop and stood a little away from it, waiting. After a couple of minutes a man came walking down the road towards the bus stop. As he neared the bus stop he looked at her. Time seemed to stand still as their eyes locked. A flash of lightening momentarily illuminated the dark night making her face shine with an unearthly glow, which was followed by the sound of thunder that rolled across the sky. Everything seemed to be frozen around them as their eyes penetrated each other, assessing each other, anticipating each move. She caught her breathe as a cold chill spread across her bones. Was it the rain or was it fear that gripped her every time for just a millisecond?
She walked towards him and stood beside him. He looked the other way and asked her, ‘How much?’
She replied, ‘500’.
‘Hey, that’s too high. I’ll give 200.’
‘Look, I am not settling for anything less than 400.’
‘Go away. I’ll look for someone else’, came the reply.
When he moved as if to go away, she instinctively took a step forward before stopping herself. She swallowed hard hoping to erase the desperation in her voice and said, ‘Ok. I’ll take 300 for one hour and that’s final. Take it or leave it, old man.’ She said it as vehemently as she could. She didn’t realize her eyes portrayed a strange blend of conflicting emotions.
He seemed reluctant for a minute, which seemed like an eternity to her. But finally he said, ‘Fine. Follow me.’
She let out a sigh of relief and followed him along the road to a dingy hotel. There were other women standing outside the hotel. The men in the hotel gawked at her. Her gaze didn’t waver even for a moment as she glared back at them. The hotel was dimly lit and smelt of stale air. She waited near the window as the man spoke to the guy at the reception.
She watched the sporadic drizzle through the dirty window. She was struck by how different the rain looked from this side of the world, as it fell on the puddles creating ripples that spread far beyond only to see its own end as the ripples of each droplet merged with each other. From that dingy, stale hotel lobby she felt the rain looked like heaven’s way of washing away all the filth in the world.
Her trail of thoughts were broken when the man called out to her, ‘Hey you. What is your name?’ He was standing inside the room that he had rented on the ground floor holding the door open for her to enter. She walked towards the room and said, ‘Does it matter?’ She shut the door behind her. For about an hour she shut herself away from the rhythmic tales of the rain… shut herself away from her childish dreams…
Later, she sat on a half-broken chair staring at the money the man had kept on the bed. He was sound asleep. Opposite to where she sat there was a mirror that held captive her image, reflecting silence. It seemed like a stranger was staring back at her from inside the mirror. But if she looked closely she may see the distorted image of a person she once knew. Someone had once told her that your world eventually becomes a reflection of yourself. She instantly looked away, picked up the money and quickly left the room. It was still raining gently outside, as if it was waiting for her… knowing the need of its comfort.
Once again, when the world was fast asleep, she stepped out into the rain. The rain swept her face as she walked along the lonely road following the rhythm of the rain… like a lost child… trying to find its way…