It was just another ordinary Tuesday evening in a typical suburban Toronto neighborhood. It has been a cold harsh winter and the early April showers were turning out to be cooler than usual as well.
I hate to be whining about the weather. When I moved to Canada from Pakistan, somebody told me
weather is never the issue, the issue is how you dress up in that weather
I have dealt with cold winter days, shoveling snow, sprinkling salt without a whimper. However, a cold April was dampening the spirits a bit.
I was going through the regular bed time rituals with my two and half year old son. Watched ‘wiggles and learn, took a bath, read a story, read a dua and was now cuddling with him in his bed. The room was dark with a dim night light and a lullaby CD playing in the background. Suddenly, there was a loud thunder and my son jumped up in the bed. Go to sleep, Jibran, I said.
The thunder now turned into a thumping tup, tup, tup sound of heavy rain. Jibran ran towards the window and slid between the blinds.
he said. I slowly followed him to the window as well. I use to love the rain too. I pulled up the blind. It was pretty dark outside and there wasn’t much that you could see except for the rain falling on the window. For some reason I have never liked window glass with rain drops on it, it always look like crying eyes to me.
The clouds exploded with a thunder again. Jibran stepped back from the window almost as if in a reverse gear and eased himself into my lap. A feeling of warmth and love just overwhelmed me. My heart melted like a piece of Cadbury’s chocolate in a hot cup of milk. I wrapped my hands around him and kissed him on the cheek. We were both sitting in front of the windows staring into the wet darkness. The clouds thundered again and then there was lightning. The whole world outside our window lit up. I expected this light for a moment or two but it stayed, like someone has switched on a tube light. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was so much hustle bustle on the street. People were walking here and there, children laughing and playing. They were all familiar faces.
I could see a string of little green and white flags from last year’s independence day celebrations hanging on the electric pole standing right in front of our window. The flags were all wet and I felt like reaching out and securing the flags so that they can be used next year. I would hate to see the flags fall down on the street. We should have taken them off after 14th August. I will definitely remember this next year. There was an amrood wala (guava vendor) and a sabzi wala (vegetable vendor) parked underneath the mango tree in front of our house, waiting for the rain to stop. All this rain had not dampened the amrood wala‘s (guava vendor) business, as there were a bunch of children surrounding him. The sabzi wala (vegetable vendor) however, sat underneath the tree with gray chaddar (sheet) on his head and a grim expression on his face. He was lost in his thoughts, perhaps wondering if his jhuggi (straw house) would survive the rain storm. Suddenly his thoughts were interrupted. Faisal and Kashif bhondu just sped away on their rented bicycles and splashed the poor sabzi wala (vegetable vendor) with water. The sabzie wala (vegetable vendor) yelled at them and pretended to run after them. He sat down again after a few moments. He probably knew kids will be kids. I am sure they wouldn’t have gotten away with this if it wasn’t raining today. I felt bad for him because I am guilty of this too. We rent bicycles when it rains and speed away on the streets, splashing water all over the place. We can rough up these rented bikes in rain. Although, we all have our own bikes, yet they don’t come out in rain. You wouldn’t want your dear bike and it’s chain to get rust with all this water, would you? Renting bikes is the way to go.
There is a speed-breaker on the street, right in front of our house. In our neighborhood in Nazimabad, they are commonly called car-breakers because of their size. Rain water was running down the street and the street looked like a river. The river would hump over the speed breaker and fall like a mini Niagara falls . The only difference was that there were a few rubber slippers floating around. A couple of children were chasing those slippers in the fast flowing water. These children were not from our galee (lane). I think they were from yasir mama’s galee(lane). I know how their slippers slipped. They were trying to get the Kairees (unripe mangoes) from our mango tree by throwing their slippers at them. I know their game and I am glad Atif Bhai from next door came in time and saved the day. The children ran after seeing Atif bhai. This mango tree was the pride of our galee (lane). We shared the mangoes with the neighbors and that is why it was guarded by all neighbors against this kind of foreign intrusion. I wish I could say this about our country as well.
I could also see a torn kite stuck in the mango tree in front of me. The sound of rain on the paper made the crows take notice of it. The kite was surrounded by loads and loads of wet crows. They all sat frozen, a bit debilitated as if they were shocked at the wrath of the rain gods. A pack of stray dogs was passing by and they started barking at a couple of Afghani kids collecting garbage. The poor children already half bent with heavy loads on their back, dropped their bags, picked up a few stones and took their shots. At least one was a hit because the dogs ran making all sorts of noises. It wasn’t Islamabad , otherwise one could have mistaken it for politicians after a military coup. I have always wondered why dogs don’t get along with these children who pick up the garbage from our dumps. Do they think they are their competitors for the food salvaged from the dump? I wonder what these children think of these dogs.
I could see Kashif sir knocking on Arshad’s door. Knocking was a wise move because ringing the bell in the rain could be disastrous. I am not a mean person, but I hated the fact that he was knocking the door. I am in no mood to do Maths homework right now. Kashif sir was our tutor. He taught Arshad and his sister, then Faisal and his sister upstairs and then came to our house to tutor me and my sister. I was so hoping that he wouldn’t show up in the rain but there he was. I could see there was some conversation going on and Arshad had a very serious look on his face. After a long conversation, Kashif sir turned around, looked at me and smiled. I tried my best not make any eye contact but he somehow manages a conversation without talking. He was going back. Chutti ( Holiday ) !! Arshad yelled and I sighed with relief.
Even the ‘unfriendly’ uncle who lived next door to Burney Sahab’s house was out and about. We have pretty much stopped playing cricket here because he never returns the ball. I know once Faisal had hooked the ball right into his glass window and that was it. We must have lost hundreds of balls in his house by now okay may be ten. The uncle was going to the amrood wala (guava vendor) and I could see the children clearing the way for him. I couldn’t really hear the conversation from my window but I saw all the kids getting an amrood (guava) each and then there was a loud cheer. Uncle must have bought every one an amrood (guava) and the children were overjoyed.
As I looked on my left, I could see a cricket match going on. Shanoo, Sarfraz and others from our galee (lane), were having a cricket match with the boys from Samir, Bobby’s galee (lane). It was always an exciting affair. The Englishmen who fathered the game would not have imagined a cricket match, in the middle of the street , in heavy rain , with a ganjee (bald) tennis ball. Prior to the advent of taped tennis ball, this was the fastest form of cricket known to man. and the Australians still thought they had fast and bouncy wickets. After all Wasim’s and Waqar’s don’t fall off the trees.
The rain had subsided a bit and as I looked down, I saw my father coming out from the house. He was holding a child’s hand as he stepped out. I think the child looked like me. Both my father and the child started digging in the front yard. I think they were looking for earth worms. They must be going fishing! A feeling of warmth and love just overwhelmed me. My heart melted melted like a piece of Cadbury’s chocolate in a hot cup of milk.
Suddenly, it was dark again outside the window. I heard my son,
Daa’yee , I shleepy.
He was looking at me with drowsy eyes. I hugged him as hard as I could, kissed him on the cheek and carried him to his bed.