It was raining heavily. Water logged streets all around. The bus’ windows were closed but still he can see people getting wet in their futile attempt to save the last inch of their office dress under the black K.C.Paul umbrella. He has been seeing this scene for the last 13 years, every July during the raining season and wondered every time why he did not get bored after seeing the gloomy weather and people fighting against the nature. He loved it. He found his life bore an eerie resemblance with the outside scene in the rainy season. Everyone is fighting to save themselves, they know they won’t win, but they kept on fighting.
He started his career after doing his B.Com, in a Marwari iron shop as a clerk back in early nineties. Every day he will start at 7 in the morning, board his regular local train, get down at Howrah at 8:30, take a bus and reach down at his shop near Dalhousie. Although he is now the head clerk of the firm, he is still on time. In this journey of 13 years his life has hardly changed. He followed a routine and really liked it. He has made a few friends who are regular travellers of the local train. He shared a bond with them and with the few ferrywallahs who called him ‘chosma-babu’. He doesn’t remember how he got that nick name but he liked it.
He liked it better than the nick name given to him when he was too young to speak. ‘Puchu’, that is what he was called back then. Family members still call him ‘puchu’ and the younger ones call him ‘puchu-da’, ‘puchu-kaku’ and so on. He hated it, especially when his granny calls him ‘puchku’. But he never complained. He never complained when his younger cousin snatched all his colour pencils and threw them in the pond beside his home. He never complained when his classmates bullied him throughout the day as they saw his zip open and started screaming, ‘shame, shame, poppy shame’. He never complained when he wanted to study arts but was forced to study commerce. He never complained when in college the only girl he had feelings for said, ‘all guys here are like my brothers’ and then went on to marry the richest of all. He never complained when he was married to Shephali, and why should he.
Shephali has been a faithful companion in his life. She cared for him a lot. Her favourite hobby was to weave a sweater every winter for him. As soon as she kept her feet inside the ‘Roy’ family she showed them who the boss is, and the family liked it. She was responsible, caring, very good with kids and paid due respect to the elders by keeping a noticeable part of her saree covering her head all the way to her nose in front of them. She always remembered when to give the diabetic pills to her husband and called him every single day at 1 pm in the office just to remind him. She always remembered to put the essential things in the black leather bag that he used to carry to the office every single day. The bag was around 10 years old, but still looked new having the shining steel badge with ‘Duckback’ written on it. She remembered to put monkey cap and muffler, both woven by her, during chilly days. She remembered to put the black umbrella on hot and sultry days and in the rainy season. She had a sixth sense. If she said that it will rain today on a bright sunny morning, he is going to need the umbrella that day for sure. The only thing that bothered them is their not able to give an heir to their family. They tried but failed. None of them were bold enough to go to the doctor for a check-up. None of them were ready to hear, ‘Sorry, you have a problem’. It is not that they would be ashamed or embarrassed. They didn’t want the other person to feel bad. So they decided not to play with the wish of nature. She said that it will rain heavily today.
He loved this time of the year when nature played with the wish and might of the mortals. Although the window glasses of the bus were hazy due to rain, he was still looking outside. In all the haziness he was able to smell the rain. ‘Trrriinngg’, the harsh bus bell rang and the conductor announced that he has reached his destination, in an equally harsh voice. He picked up his leather bag, brought out his black umbrella and a plastic bag. He kept the black leather bag in the plastic and squeezed it beside his armpit. Before boarding down the bus he opened his umbrella and hurriedly tried to adjust himself under it. He smiled as he realised that a few minute back he was dry in the bus looking at other people getting wet, now he is one of them.
He started walking towards his office, a ten minutes’ walk from the bus stop, at the end of which he will be completely drenched, but he never complained. He never thought of buying a raincoat. In the middle of this ten minute journey everyday he stopped at ‘Ali bhai’s’ tea stall to grab a cup of tea and a cigarette.Previously he used to smoke ‘Charminar’ and had ‘regular’ tea but five years back, he started having ‘Flake’ and ‘special’ tea, after Ali Bhai insisted. That year he got promoted to the post of ‘Head Clerk’.
It was raining heavily when he stopped at the tea stall. The wind was blowing heavily and rain drops were dripping from everywhere. His umbrella corners, his spectacle glasses, his hair, Ali bhai’s tarpaulin shed, everywhere. Ali Bhai gave him his ‘special’ tea and ‘Flake’. He kept the tea under the shed. He adjusted the umbrella between his neck and shoulder to light up his cigarette and then it happened, which made him remember the day throughout his life.
As soon as he lit the matchstick, a strong breeze brushed him out of nowhere. He tried to save the burning matchstick from rain and wind, but in vain. In this attempt, he became a bit careless about his black umbrella which was resting on his shoulder. The sheer force of wind and rain snatched his umbrella, made it cross the street, and gave it to a trunk of tree on the other side of the road. The black umbrella was stuck in the trunk of the tree and the rain was not able to move it from its place. He was about to run and cross the street to get the umbrella when he noticed a wonderful thing. A street dog quickly got under the shelter of the umbrella with three little puppies. This is a sight he has never seen. It seemed as if nature was happy with him and gifted him to see this wonderful view. He was so mesmerised that he forgot to light his cigarette, his tea, and he forgot that he was getting wet in the rain. And when he realised, he smiled.
He returned home that day at his usual time. Shephali looked at him, ‘Why are you wet?’, she asked, ‘Where is your umbrella?’ He for the first time looked into the eyes of his beloved wife and told a truth and a lie, both for the first time. ‘I lost my umbrella’, he said, ‘I love you.’