Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Tea-time rains

The rain is unexpected these days. It’s difficult to say whether summer will ever really arrive. Or if its here, but in an impish hide-and-seek mood. Or if it’s over already, bored that nobody wants to come out and play. It’s suddenly here and then suddenly gone.

I stretch in the afternoon heat on the office balcony. I put tea leaves out to soak in sunshine for iced sun-tea. I turn up the fan when my colleague isn’t looking. And knot my adamant hair as high as it’ll stay before coming undone on its own once more.

And when I step onto the balcony to retrieve my slow-brewed tea, the skies are dark and the strong, cool winds have already begun their dance through the streets, flirting with fallen leaves and napes of necks. It’s a sneaky little nip just when you’ve started to sweat. A kiss on the cheek. A pleasant surprise. A light shawl over your strappy top.

These days, the smell of roasted peanuts wafts over traffic to find one’s nose most efficiently. Pants are rolled up as puddles are navigated on half-tarred-half-mud roads. Polythene bags become wraparound, tie-up raincaps. Couples huddle close under shared umbrellas. Roadside chai shops do roaring business, selling sweet sweet chai to those who drain the warmth from plastic cups. Men in formals bend over to light their cigarettes from labourers squatting and smoking beedis on the footpath. Buses are shiny wet and cold on the outside, muddy-floored and warm on the inside.

And I add ice cubes to my sun-tea as the rain drenches the city in surprise.