One day I was walking up Jogiwara and I saw an elephant. Who knew that they hang out in the Himalayas? This one probably wan't here if his own accord, though, since he was being dragged around by a bunch of Hindu holy men who wanted 100 rupees from me because I touched the trunk of their trophy. Heaven only knows how much they would have demanded if I had actually climbed aboard the elephant as he stood in the traffic-laden main square, car horns blaring at the crowd around him. As much as I wanted to find out, though, I never got to ride the elephant. My opportunity was spoiled by the rain.
As Khushwant Singh says in his novel Train to Pakistan, monsoon is not another word for rain; monsoon is a season. Monsoon means that every morning, I slide my feet into wet sandals that haven't been dry since the hot roads of Amritsar. It means that I no longer forget my umbrella at restaurants. It means that we haven't seen the sun for days, and it means that I gave in to the 70 rupee rickshaw ride to the TCV.
It's really easy to be irritated at the torrential rain. Once I was walking back from the TCV when the clouds broke. I hadn't rolled up my pants in time, so the linen was soon sopping wet. As I plodded along, I regretted refusing the rickshaw driver and motorcyclist who had offered me rides. On the deserted mountain road there was no shelter, so by the time I trekked the five kilometers I was soaked from the elbows down. In my mind I was reviewing all the things in my flimsy backpack, which I had clutched to my chest, that would lose the battle with the water. A cell phone, a digital voice recorder and its record of my interviews, and the irreplaceable notebooks that represented weeks of school work were what I stood to lose. Oh, please oh please don't make me analyze Kim again . . . .
After I read G.K. Chesterton's "On Running After One's Hat," though, I decided to change my attitude about the monsoon. No longer was my umbrella an additional, obnoxious appendage. No, now it is my cane, and I am a stately gentlewoman riding in my coach that is really a rickshaw. And now my umbrella is a spear with which I must save myself from yet another furious barking dog. And, right after, it's a cane again, and I'm an old woman who takes a very long time to climb the stairs.
I was walking home from meditation in the heaviest rain of the monsoon so far. The wind actually blew my umbrella inside out, exposing my head and precious backpack to the furious downpour, but I just laughed because I am a character in Mary Poppins, and that's part of the territory. The road was a brown river, but that's as it should be, because I'm a pirate jumping from rock to rock to avoid the crocodiles. I want to take a picture, but my camera battery died, which is just as well because I'm Rachel's avatar Shelley, and I'm just experiencing this moment instead of trying to capture it. When I finally reached a shelter, halfway home, I leaned on my umbrella cane and laughed as fat droplets fell on my head after they slid down the underside of the pavilion. Because I'm a girl in the Indian monsoon, and that's half the fun.
Photo credit lokenrc