Saturday, April 21, 2012

Singing In The Rain

After the late afternoon shower, dark, fleecy remnants of the black monsoon clouds were still hanging in the sky. Ridima pushed open the window, and took a deep breath—the scent of rain rushed to her face...the outside reflected light, almost translucent, like a sheath of mirrored metal. The day was drawing to an end, but the puddles were so inviting that ten year old just couldn’t resist. She slipped out of her house and jumped on a puddle beside a big pot of bougainvillea and swung the purple tasseled blossoms with her finger, cheerfully.

A bunch of wet owls hooted and slithered over the space. Little droplets fell from the tree and splashed on her face; and impatiently her tongue flicking lightly against her lips licked a few drops. She picked up a drowsy butterfly; its velvety purple wings shimmered on her palm, but she settled it down on a tip of a grass, smiled and turned away. The air was full of sweetness.

The wind was howling. Ridima gazed up at the dark clouds, already muddy from head to toe, forgetting her step-mother’s rebuke, she sprinted defiantly and past the rice fields. And suddenly came to a halt looking at a flock of cranes feeding in the flooded rice fields… Her five years old step-brother Ritwik was also sitting around the edge humming his made-up songs.

Ridima loved her little brother but envied him too. She walked up to him and sat down beside him utterly absorbed in bird-watching. Under the ashen sky everything had fallen silent. The plumes of the cranes beaten down by rains were glittering like ounces of silver. They were sprinting, flying across the field, some curious ones came towards the edge; their eyes were like beads of blood… that spot of red on the grayish horizon reminded Ridima of her dead mother, who was dark complexioned, and had a dash of red vermillion on her forehead. Her world changed after her father re-married believing she would always be safe.

Just then, a white crane holding its chin high walked up to them. Ritwik excitedly screamed pointing his delighted finger at him, ‘Look Didi!, but the scared bird fluttered its wings and pulled away…

Ridima yelled, “No!”and smacked him on his face. ‘Shut up!’-- An angry sound, half roar, half hiss rattled the whole place. Nervously Ritwik was rubbing the tips of his dirty nail, but soon her voice died away unnaturally …he looked at his sister. Ridima was sitting with her chin cupped in her hand, strands of uncombed hair like water weeds were stuck on her angry face. Ritwik stammered a little, but apologized and shook her gently. Lightning flashed, and a thunder rolled.

Ridima clucked disgustingly this time; she got up brusquely and began to walk. Ritwik jumped up and joined her. But, he couldn’t keep up with her pace, so kept pleading:”Didiiiii…Don’t run, slow down please didi.” The voice kept following her, but Ridima kept racing up the mound, pulling, dragging herself like mad. Suddenly there was a thud, Ritwik had fallen into the marshy field.

Ridima pulled him out of the ditch and wiped his face with the hem of her frock, and helped him to his feet, and now took his hand in hers. A booming thunder echoed through the place, they crouched down in fear.

The sound of thunder disturbed the demented birds; so they took off, beating their powerful wings, and were suddenly wheeling with grace over their heads.

For a moment the sky was full of wings….whiteness and possibility. Ridima put her arms around her brother’s shoulders and gave an awkward hug. Ritwik was relieved in a way, so he stood very quietly by her side this time, making sure not to make a noise. They waited with arms around each other until all the birds disappeared…

It’s getting dark and cloudy again, didi. I don’t want to stay here. Let’s go home.’….Ritwik pleaded.

‘Coward!!! Aren’t you meant to be a boy? Look at me: I’m not scared. Let’s go and play in the swing.’

The children ran nimble-footed until they reached the swing. Ridima sprang up on the plank, pulled her brother up beside her. The fury wind leaped up in their hearts, and carried them way up under that ashen sky. Both of them were now laughing, waving and giggling...Fear and panic vanished from their minds. Ridima gave a slight push, the swing sailed up… springing them up in delight. …the spirit of adventure took them higher almost to touch those low flying birds in the sky—they continued rocking, singing, swinging...It started drizzling again; Ridima pulled her frock over her brother’s thin,wet, shivering legs. Sisters have strange power, they could do magic, he thought. He covered his eyes, as though dazzled, and bent his head on his sister’s shoulder. Ridima wrapped her arm around her little brother with relief and pleasure. The wind, the darkness, the light muted perfectly in the atmosphere.

The kids had never felt so settled, so sure of themselves before; the world moored ultimately, swinging.

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