After the pleasantly salubrious South African winter, Mumbai’s fiercely unkind summer came as a rude shock. No two thoughts then, the short sojourn to Pune turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. Setting out in a pal’s swanky new car, foraging through the baleful traffic, I see the vehicles playing a teasing game, coming seductively close to one another but never touching hands, never brushing lips with each other. The swarm soon parts and the long flyover above part of the Arabian sea signals the arrival of the suburbs, or as I like to call it lovingly, the ‘jungles’ – just because it is so damn far away! The pace picks up on the expressway, and a few hours pass by indulging in conversation, some idle and some relevant, tossed with a generous helping of good music, laughter and mischief. Soon enough, we’ve left a hulking city to reach an equally chaotic junior one.
My stay with friends is at the Appointment House, a British era mansion in the Army Cantonment area, extremely reminiscent of school years spent in the lush & tranquil environ of Dehradun. . A mansion of similar architecture in school(since it was started by & for the British elite) , with slanting, thatched roofs meant to let the rain drop by and impossibly high ceilings to keep the house cool, would accommodate 28 boys, with six beds in one dormitory, a shoe room, a changing room & common toilets!!! Let me assure you it never was a tight squeeze. Not when the house was as capacious as this, not when the bathrooms are as big as kitchens and the living room alone as big as my entire house! Add to that a huge lawn and a massive backyard which hosts a servant’s quarter and a potential space for a sports facility. Once beyond the mansion’s gates, the hush becomes our consort and the outraged surroundings are mercifully placated. There in that house, I wish those moments wouldn’t slip away in a hurry and yet, there is never a dull moment, with healthy servings of laughter, cheap jokes, recollections, anecdotes and baatein kuch ankahi si :) And when the conversation threatens to die down, the pitter patter of rain on the roof adds music to an already magical setting.
In the short period of time spent in Pune, I glide dreamily through the simple pleasures of life (which I just can’t stop endorsing of late). Feeling the first rain as it runs down my body, soaking mind & body and rejuvenating the spirit with enthusiasm noveau. Sharing one puny umbrella, resulting in four very wet & cold friends. Chatting up a dear friend with whom exists an unexplainable bond over a cuppa coffee in a proper “coffee house”. Ruining a brand new shoe in a puddle of rain water. Sitting in the lawn on easy chairs, feeling the night rain give you goosebumps as it traces your face & bare arms. Facing power outages gleefully. Wrapping oneself up from head to toe to brave the cold, and still refusing to go indoors when it gets too cold. Seeing shadows where there are none, and noticing with trepidation hunching figures behind the branches, flower pots, chairs, curtains… Letting the imagination run wild, getting scared and scaring others as well.
Wanting a hug.
Wanting to give a hug.
The night in the house is spooky, with the sheer ampleness & the vacuum-like silence adding to it.
(I’m 8 years old again, waking up at abnormal hours in the night and experiencing dread in spite of the reassuring snores of dorm mates around me. My solace is to shut my eyes tight & pull the bedsheet over me, hoping it will be adequate to keep the spirits out).
When the bedsheet is pulled down, the sun has risen and it’s time to go back. The feet are dragging and the mind is unwilling to return. A hearty breakfast, a merry conversation and hugs & goodbyes later, the road is our domain again. The drive back is punctuated with more rain, a hilly landscape dotted by grey clouds, and a honeyed, dulcet voice singing sweet nothings in my ear :)