Updated: Sep 19
It was the first of August. She wasn't cognizant of dates usually, but she had just flipped all the calendars in the house that morning. They had been saying that Mumbai might not receive even half of its precipitation quota that year. Sure didn't seem that way that day, it was bucketing down heavy.
She was a Mumbaikar through and through, born and raised. As a child, when the other kids donned their raincoats and avoided all contact with water on their way to school, she'd jump in puddles and loiter about without an umbrella. Through the years, a lot had changed, but not this. She loved the monsoon just as much, and looked forward to these months. It was the only time when the dulcet sounds of the rains and winds overpowered the heathen noise of vehicles and construction sites. What others cruelly characterised as gloomy, she called mellow.
She looked at the time. Chacha must've reached by now. The rain had escalated a notch above the everyday drizzle. It was barely evening, but the sun was lost among dark, heavy clouds. Perfect. She left her phone and wallet on the table, grabbed her keys and some loose change, and locked the door behind her. Barring the city buses and rickshaws, there weren't many people on the road. The ones that could be seen, were running for shelter, giving her an odd look as she passed them by. She leisurely walked along the footpath, alternately jumping into and over little plashes on her way.
She was drenched by the time she spotted her destination. Slightly farther ahead, she saw her daily haunt - one of the oldest buildings in the area. Under the protruded roof, she saw Chacha setting up his little table. It was a modest arrangement - a single burner, some disposable glasses, and a variety of biscuits laid out neatly. In all her years, she had never had better tea than the one Chacha served, and she frequented his little stall every day unfailingly. The flame burned defiantly against the strong winds, as Chacha put on a fresh pot for his favorite customer.
She walked up to him. Greeting him with her usual, cheery smile, she picked up a packet of glucose biscuits and plopped down beside him.
"Namaste Chacha, how are you doing this beautiful evening?"
"Same old, beta. You should really start carrying an umbrella, you know? You'll fall terribly sick one of these days."
"I could never get sick from Mumbai rains, Chacha. If anything, this time every year is what gets me through our everyday drudgery."
Chacha chuckled with an endearingly disapproving nod. As he went on to carefully put an assortment of her favorite masalas for her tea, she settled down in her corner, nibbling on her biscuits, lost in thought. A sudden buzz broke her trance. Her phone was vibrating heartily to her notification ringtone.
"Arey beta, this is that Marathi song from that Bollywood movie, isn't it? Navrai Majhi. It's refreshing to see somebody your age listen to this kind of music. All you kids play now are your new disco songs. Makes my hip pain just to think about it."
She laughed out loud. No matter her mood, Chacha always amused her with his notions. "You're too much, Chacha. Anyway, I wasn't listening to it. It's a notification. A friend of mine is getting engaged today, it was a reminder. A fun alert for the event, no? Every special occasion should have something unique about it, even if it's something as simple as a custom tone."
"As always, your thoughtfulness amazes me, beta. Otherwise, who puts so much thought into these things in this day and age?"
With a grateful smile, she quietly accepted the compliment, and her cup of tea from him. She was halfway through her first cup and about to ask for a second, when she spotted somebody at a distance. A man, dragging some luggage behind him, trying to shield himself from the unforgiving rain that continued to pour down.