Soft fingers drum on my window pane
Early in the morning, under cloudy skies
Wet leaf-smell drifts in on the breeze
I wake to the welcome rain.
The orange bell flowers that thirsted
In the sun
Are washed clean, but the hungry humming birds
That relish their nectar are hunkered down
In their nests, waiting for the clouds to clear.
I sit at my cushioned bay window, after lighting the lamp
In the little niche that’s my shrine.
My dog nuzzles my palm, he wants to sniff at the aromas
The rain has released.
A clicking sound signals a gecko
Casually walking up my wall
To hang upside down from the ceiling
He winks at me.
I recall a childish dream
Of floating in free fall in a spaceship.
A wet doggy smell from golden fur
A plash of paws, a pause to sniff
At a soggy improvised boat in a little roadside rainwater stream
Just a wooden box with a paper doll inside
A sign on the box says Export Quality Darjeeling Tea.
I see someone has been out at night
For stencilled in black under the bridge a sign says
‘Honk Only If You Are A Goose! ‘
The rain caresses my arms and I turn up my face
To kiss the drops.
I pick up the damp newspaper from the porch and enter
And my dog shakes himself, showering my salwaar and the clean floor
Why does he never do this on the porch?
I towel-dry muddy paws and fix breakfast
For him and me. Not the hot pancakes
My mother used to make, topped with honey
That used to come in brown bottles
from nearby farms.
Back at my window, I watch the rainwater
Soaking into the recharge pit.
Our neighborhood conservation hero
Who had predicted water wars in the future
Had also helped communities set up rainwater harvesting systems.
Now we shall reap the benefits.
A bedraggled crow looks beady-eyed from behind the glass pane
I gently open the window and leave him a quarter sandwich.
I settle down with the newspaper, and find
Only headlines about the coronavirus.
The boldest type lauds the lockdown as the only safe measure
Till a vaccine can be found.
Its Sunday and I’ve promised myself
A long overdue clean out of my desk.
I pull out a drawer, and from underneath,
A scrap of paper flutters down with writing on it.
My grandmother’s writing.
She always wrote once a month to each of us.
Except for the summer months when we visited her
What fabulous stories she could tell
I’ll never forget her description of the Roc
His sheer size and power, his raucous cry,
The anticipatory hush at lights out
Was it this warm in those Arabian Nights?
Her low tones like swishing waves
Bringing Sinbad close to us.
Drifting into sleep to walk down
The alley next to her house where
Trees held hands overhead, counting minutes, jumping sidewalk cracks,
Looking up at the count of a hundred
To see — the Roc
Sitting on a high wall it’s curved claws unclasping slowly
I leap, like I imagine Sindbad did, on to it’s back
And we’re airborne! Pinioning, vaning, sideslipping
As we reach the border of my city, I hop off
And hear the ancient town clock strike
And the nesting bats, disturbed, flap around the tower.
Bats that still remind me of a fanged Dracula
Though the frisson of fear is feebler now.
You must have seen the tower clock that artists have many a time painted
And which features in many a postcard
Of this, my city
Where I sit at my window, watching the rain.