Recently, while traveling on work, I met a group of Americans on vacation in India. We were all quite at the mercy of an airline and stranded at Delhi airport. Our flight was delayed as it was raining outside, there was some thunder but little lightening. It was an interesting coincidence that they were from or around Minneapolis, a city I had spent most of 2006 in. Conversation centered largely around what to see in Jaipur, till our flight was announced. One of them was completely against flying in the rain and said “it’s not safe”. That is true and though I find rain Unpredictable too, those words got me thinking. The photographer in me is forever excited at the possibilities that rain reveals – technicolor flowers, washed surfaces, air so clean you want to breathe more.
The flight was a small turboprop aircraft; runway had puddles despite, well, modernization? Over the dull whirring of the rotors, I couldn’t hear the rain, but i could see it well – trickles down the window obstructing my view of the world outside. The craft, as it got parallel to the terminal building, revealed a sight unusual – the aerobridge lights were starbursts and the raindrops on the windowpane were distractions from my worries of the day. The tarmac was a golden carpet – reflecting all that it could, its edges crafted by rain itself.
Our takeoff was bumpy. Indeed it was a wonder we did take off – and not taxi back to the terminal. As we lifted-off and left megapolis, I saw a world behind – cleaned by the raindrops, perhaps they wash away worries too? Worries of a household economy trembling under rising prices, of relationships straining under traffic that makes people miss meetings? I certainly couldn’t see much – but if you can, do tell!
When i reached home late at night, I looked at the photos and recalled a quote somewhere that the photographer in me thinks it is the best advice –
“To see a rainbow, we must first deal with the rain.”
The next morning, as I left for a routine walk, it was overcast but didn’t seem terribly threatening. Hence, i didn’t carry an umbrella – I always think of it as a hindrance for anything except an amble. Halfway through the park, a drizzle started, and then another half a kilometer later, turned into a steady downpour. Does God or nature have a way of figuring out when I’m at the farthest point from home during the morning’s routine? And that farthest point is on the edge of a golf course! I wasn’t the only one, several others chose to ignore these signals, jogging along a path where the laburnum trees had perforce shed their blooms.
So I did too, getting a better shot of the blooms themselves for example – Later, i learned that these lovely lavender bells come to India from Texas and Mexico. Leucophyllum Frutescens , has a colorful common name – Texas Ranger. It takes well to the rocky, arid soil of Rajasthan and requires minimal maintenance.
Perhaps the clouds noticed that I had dropped my guard in front of the ranger? Merciless cumulus opened up – the drizzle was a downpour and fearful for my phone – I scurried to the nearest tree. It was tall, shady, but within ten minutes, no match for the ferocity of the clouds. I looked up, only to find a wet branch insufficient against the great monsoon. I made the best of the situation though – tasted some rain water. It has a unique, earthy taste unlike the chlorinated tap water [I’m still alive and writing this, so perhaps not such a bad move]
Ten minutes later, still under the tree, another walker went past, exclaiming – “it is a futile effort to save yourself from this torrent, might be faster to get home.” Ah, a contrarian play – now why hadn’t i thought of that. Strolled forth I, boldly, past the gaze of the puzzled gardeners under the next clump of trees. Another half kilometer, near the exit, I wasn’t only soaked, but also the subject of many puzzled looks – “Who is this mad man who photographs flowers in the rain?”
I walked on, drenched, past rainwater puddles that turned into pools. A couple in an old jeep just sat there – preferring to wait it out. Maybe because it didn’t have doors?
By now, I wasn’t feeling so bold either. To reach this point had taken twice the time I spent on a clear day. The water all over the road was a muddy brown, carrier of diseases tropical. A frog croaked, and i imagined snakes inside the opaque surface. As the wind picked up and the rain turned to a storm, a lonely cycle crashed to the ground. . I only had my phone – clearly no match for the inclement that turned my benign stroll into a part nightmare. But the couple had each other – so they were not perturbed in the least.
In several minutes, the rain quietened down again, and I could walk the remaining distance back home. There was no rainbow – it was overcast. Few ventured out, only those who had business to conduct – a shoe polish man was busy erecting his garden umbrella for example.The pomegranates had no protection – I wondered if they’d be happier being on trees?
Still, I hadn’t found the proverbial rainbow. I felt cheated – i had dealt with the rain, with murky water, vehicles whooshing past, with judgmental stares – why didn’t i get my rainbow. lost in thought, I lifted my gaze upwards and in a flash – saw the rainbow. It wasn’t in the sky – it was in my camera’s lens – a red bus went past the fruit seller whose multicolor fruit were almost all shades of sun’s creation. The seller was only taking care of business, for a man who wore a polo shirt with magenta stripes , both of them calm in spite of the rain.
Somewhere up there, whoever was watching had sent me my rainbow, i only had to notice it. Perhaps in our daily struggles, we all miss a rainbow every now and then. Perhaps.
With that thought in mind, I went back home – smiling.