The rainy days

So you have been up to some interesting shenanigans lately? Traveled somewhere cool, met someone famous, cooked something special, went to a sheesha place with friends? Obviously, you posted about it all on Instagram or somehow somewhere got a fix for your FOMO. This is the time we live in, it has become so banal to see these "insta worthy" moments. Is this the new ordinary?

..........It was a mild Saturday noon and the calendar approached the end of Fall, having recovered from the Friday Night and bored out of my mind I decided to do what had now become a sporadic habit in the last few months. Go people-watching on Pearl street. It was just a 15-minute bike ride but was enough to become airheaded and I started wondering how I'd started to indulge in this activity which I'd perhaps have detested a couple of years ago. There are times when you just don't feel like watching something, reading something, going to the gym or a hike. You just wanna be there, existing and this activity was something that I discovered out of sheer randomization of universal conspiracies (maybe). As I sat porch side at a brewery after locking down my bike across the street I ordered what had now become the usual: medium hot wings with the inhouse IPA. It was a pretty usual half an hour with the street buzzing with tourists and their cameras compounded with loud, obnoxious discussions. A Beagle belonging to someone from one of the tables around me played by my feet. As time passed by the light intensity descended. There was a bit of a chill in the air and tiny droplets of water started falling from the sky.  In no time this turned into quite a heavy rainfall, the number of people walking around the streets reduced drastically with their loud talks now replaced by the sound of rainwater falling on concrete and on the large umbrella attached to my table. Cursing myself for not checking the weather app before leaving home, I prepared to spend more time than expected under the umbrella doing absolutely nothing.

Growing up I used to hate the rains, the monsoon in Mumbai was always brutal. Summer was mango season and winter marked the start of cricket season but rain, it had nothing noteworthy. That struggle of getting to around with water everywhere and having to sit around with pants drenched in the water below the knee. But then the rain did mark a phase every year, it meant the end of summer vacations and the start of school. Today, I'd give up anything to relive that joy of being in a classroom full of friends no matter how bad I hated going to school back then. The air bustling with petrichor when it rained after quite a time and the sound the raindrops made falling on the leaves of trees right next to the windows of the classroom. That was the time when I read some of the most influential poems and texts which have stayed with me even now. From Keshavkumar's "Majhi Shala" to Khalil Gibran's letters to David Hartman's inspirational story who went on to become America's first Blind doctor. Missing on Physical Training(Gym) classes because the ground was mud-caked gave us time to explore unconventional sports like Pen Fights and Book Cricket. Perhaps I'd never have such a propensity for formal education if I didn't have to start off the academic year during a time you are forced to stay in. I can't help but believe it was these rainy days that played a part in leading me to end up being the person I am now.

The Monsoons in Mumbai have great power over the city. A rainy day is synonymous with that most people will try and avoid getting out of their homes and the rail lines will be closed. To us undergrads, it meant one thing... high chances of no classes for the day. We all know how if a large part of the classroom skips classes, the whole class is eventually going to get skipped. Not all, but some of these days entailed an opportunity for going on drives instead of being stuck at home. I probably would have had 10 more runs of The Office under my belt if all I did was quarantine myself at home when it rained. Though these were not plans and trips to some extraordinary places but maybe just around the city or to a nearby hill. Exploring tons of food places around the city would leave me wanting for more of these days the year after each. My Zomato profile from back then really does typify this. I can't help but think how these rainy days have catalyzed lifelong memories and friendships.

Florida might be known for it's nice and sunny weather but know what Gainesville is also known as? Rainesville. One would never know when and at what time of the year they'd be trapped in showers of rain. Simply put, everyone almost always had an umbrella in their bag. Of all the free things being distributed on campus, ponchos probably were always the number one. Looking at the century tower "in all kinds of weather", it probably was the first time I realized a piece of architecture could be associated with motivation and evoking a sense of grandeur. Hurricane Irma was not something great, but it wasn't something normal either. However, all of us hunkered down in an apartment for almost 3 days straight ended up with us being scared, having fun all together leaving us with some great memories to recall from our first-ever major Hurricane. Probably the only reason my short attention span could go through the entire CLRS was being gone to the library and then being unable to get out of there because it started raining. So many recipes I remember cooking, of course, it was important for survival but then the rain did give the incentive to try out so many new fancy foods a bunch of times. There was so much chaos going on all the time those two years, but during the last semester, we developed a habit of heading to the patio almost once a day with some tea in fancy cups that one of my friends had got and diving into some of our favorite biscuits we used to get from the Indian store. Some moments of quiet tranquility talking about random stuff and sitting in unmatching wobbly chairs. This was stability amidst chaos and the rain added to the term coined as "feels". Gainesville was the place where I actually got closest to understanding what sunny rainy days could mean when mentioned in movies or books............

As I look back at all of this, sitting in my hastily set up home office space I can't help but think that almost all of us have these moments in our life. Probably not significant at that time to be worth capturing, but if you think long and hard enough you end up recalling a deluge of them. As we strive to get out of the situation we're in and hopefully, we will soon. These moments will probably end up getting their due appreciation. People talk about how going through this pandemic is going to change a lot about our lives, and there are tons of articles about speculations. Most of them about how we work and how our economy works or perhaps our healthcare systems. Let's not forget this one thing, we probably won't be just looking forward to and making the most of the six weeks of vacation we take for the year and the weekends. In one of his songs, Billie Joe Armstrong writes "What would you wish if you saw a shooting star.... in an ordinary world?" The question really hits too close to home now. These so-called rainy days, they'll keep happening as they have happened before but we just might have a different perspective for them, which might have been there before too but not as apparent. While we're at it, sometime down the road looking back at these days of staying in, we'll all have our rainy day story for them too!


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