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ISSN: 0974-892X


Jul 2015 - Jan 2016



A Strange Rain

Mona Dash


Lara knew this tropical rain by now; a deluge that cleansed and melted the earth into a soft slush. It had been raining since noon and the narrow roads were flooded. Her wedges were wet, her hair hung limp on her shoulders, and it was impossible to carry on shopping. She ran into a shop’s veranda to take shelter.
It was almost 7 p.m. Bill would soon be home and find her letter. Then he would call but her answer was ready ‑ clear, direct. ‘Goodbye Bill. I don’t believe your lies anymore. This is it, this is the end. I am going back home to England.’
Her phone rang from the leather depths of her bag. It was Jane.
‘Lara!! Where are you? The streets are flooded! Why haven’t you reached yet?’
‘I am in Crawford market, stuck in the rain.’
‘Why on earth are you there?’
‘I had to stop by – had to get something.’
‘You are shopping? Is this the time?!’
‘I just had to.  I saw this lovely fabric, just had to get some. Don’t think would get it in London.’
A crackle of lightning lit the dusky sky, almost cutting it into two. The sight and smell of the rain in India! She would miss it.
‘Honestly Lara, perspective! You are leaving Bill, your flight’s tomorrow and there you are shopping for some silly fabric or buttons or similar! No wonder you are still stuck with Bill, you need to be practical you know and …’
The rest of Jane’s words was lost in a peal of thunder. It was certainly a godsend that her friend was in India on holiday, but Lara didn’t want to listen to a lecture right now.

            ‘Look, I will soon be there, don’t worry,’ she said hanging up. Crawford market was a treasure chest she would miss. In London, there was always Camden Town. But these special buttons, little ruffles, laces in unique colours, at about one-fifth the price! Of all the things she would be saying goodbye to in India, this street market would certainly be one of the hardest.

‘Rain, eh! The forecasts in this country are easy, continuous sun or continuous rain.’
She turned around in surprise at the voice. A man stood in a corner of the veranda, at the back. Had she not noticed him just because she was so preoccupied? How could she not have seen someone standing there?  Maybe she really had no sense of perspective.

            ‘This looks like it will go on for hours,’ he continued as if he had been talking to her for some time. ‘People will die, lose their homes. The papers will talk about it a little but nothing will change. This is India.’ His accent was like hers, from miles away, caught here in the Mumbai monsoons. She hadn’t seen such bright blue eyes in a long while.
‘Excuse me, do I know you?’
‘Oh hello!’ he turned to face her now, ‘no I don’t think you would. Unless you were sent by my wife to follow me of course.’
‘Follow you?! Look here, I don’t know your wife. Where did you come from anyway? You weren’t here a minute ago.’ It would be just her luck to take shelter with a deranged man.

            ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I was here when you came rushing in. Looks like you didn’t see me.  Am not that noticeable, it’s alright.’

She looked at him closely. He seemed a decent bloke, dressed in a linen jacket and trousers, quite smart.
Her phone rang – ‘Bill?’
‘Babes, what’s all this about leaving? Come back home!’
‘Not this time Bill, not anymore,’ she said, turning away from the bill- board. Bill smiled at her and the rest of Mumbai from his bike, ten feet over the ground. ‘Kawasaki: The ride of your life,’ said the advert. Billboards dotted Mumbai’s skyline, but this advert with Bill was omnipresent. He wore a leather jacket and his sexiest smile.
‘Bill, you promised! You took an oath in that Shiva temple, never to stray again. You said your God was your witness. You said you loved me.’
He implored. He loved her. The girl was just temporary. These hot blondes, they always threw themselves at him.
‘And you have to learn to refuse!’ she said, glad she was on the phone. Otherwise she would be moved by his dark, sad eyes. Then, just to see those eyes sparkle, his smile flash, she would give in. The world would be set right. But for how long? A super model had no dearth of girls. His indiscretions reached her through the press, through common friends, or sometimes when the girls showed up at parties in their flat.
He said he loved the light of her eyes. They were soul mates. Could she not forgive him once more? She knew he would start spouting poetry next. And he knew enough of Elliott and Wordsworth and the whole lot.

‘No Bill, no more! This is it. Goodbye!’ She was shouting now. She switched off her phone, knowing there would be hundreds of messages when she switched it back on. If he could trace her, he would be here in the rain, drenched like some Adonis and make such a scene in public that she would be forced to acquiesce. Jane was right, she really had to leave and get to the Taj. She had dropped off her suitcase in the morning.
‘Problems?’ the stranger said suddenly.
‘None of your business really.’ She had forgotten he was there. How much had he heard?
‘Sorry. Just thought would ask,’ he slumped even lower into his hands.
‘Mister, are you alright? Are you feeling unwell?’
‘John Brook. No, I am not ill, just have some problems as well.’
‘Sorry to hear that. I’m Lara Rawat.’ An introduction wouldn’t hurt. And he did seem rather nice. Kind blue eyes.
‘So this Bill – he’s not been nice?’
‘You were listening to my conversation???’
‘I couldn’t help it, you were talking rather loudly. I am just trying to help out a fellow countrywoman.’
‘You think I am from England?’
‘Just assumed from your accent.’
Here in India they assumed she was Indian. They wanted to welcome her as one of their own. But she felt such a misfit, to be the same colour but not the same culture.
‘I am indeed,’ she said. ‘And you? Are you visiting?

‘I live here. My company is outsourcing operations to India, and someone has to keep a check on things. We have been here for a couple of years.’
‘Do you like it?’
‘It’s interesting…but challenging.’ he smiled at some memory.

‘Do you miss England?’ She was suddenly curious. Jane’s voice rose in her head. Stop being so impulsive Lara. Stop trusting people. Be practical. You packed your bags and came to India with Bill.  Now you are drifting. You need to hold your life with reins. Come back home. Jane her voice of reason.
‘Sometimes, yes. But more than anything, I miss happiness.’ He sighed with the air of one who often sighed.
‘Why, what’s happened? Why are you not happy?’ she sounded like she was talking to the six year old boy next door.
‘Foreignness. It does things to you. If you live in another culture which is not your own, if you leave your roots and come somewhere else to live as if your roots can settle anywhere, things will happen. It’s not just nice and normal anymore. Your whole basis of comparison changes…’

‘Very profound.’ She was beginning to feel sorry for him. What could have possibly happened to this handsome man? She noticed a wedding ring.
‘Do you have children?’ she asked. Maybe he had a child who was unwell, these things happened.
‘Children… not at all!’ he seemed very amused. He started laughing.  Her question wasn’t that funny. But he wasn’t stopping, maybe he was a bit loopy. She turned her attention back to her phone and switched it on. Five voicemails, a text said.
‘Wish this rain would stop,’ she had said it aloud and the laughing stranger looked back at her.
‘Sorry, I am sorry. It’s not you. Don’t mind me,’ he said still laughing.
'Err…Alright.’ The rain had stilled a little. She decided she could try to find a cab.
‘I know you must think am crazy or something. I can explain,’ he shouted as she walked away. The city was still at a standstill however.  There were other people standing under shop awnings. One man waved at her, winked and beckoned. Mumbai was safe but roadside Romeos abounded in India. One had to be really careful.  The mad English stranger might be a better choice.

She came back to the shelter.

‘Alright. What is your explanation?’ she asked thinking maybe Jane could get a taxi from the Taj and rescue her, before Bill managed to find her somehow.
‘It’s my wife,’ the stranger was saying, ‘she’s having an affair. And I was talking to her about starting a family. That’s why your question set me off.’
‘Sorry to hear that,’ she said, incredulous that this could be happening to someone else also. All of a sudden, she was even more interested in the stranger.
‘Does she love this guy?’ she asked.
‘Don’t know. She just leaves when she wants to, comes back when she wants to. Hard to talk to her.’
‘How long has this been happening?’
‘Months. Weeks. Who knows? I found out a few days back.’
‘Leave her!’ she said, suddenly cruel. ‘What doesn’t work out must be snipped.’
‘Is that how you feel?’
His eyes were looking into her. As if they could read her mind. As if he knew what had happened in her prefect love story. The story of passion which had brought her to India following this handsome model, only to find his gaze was always for another woman.  As if he had put two and two together and made a perfect four.
‘Kind off… That’s what I am doing, going back to England. One must move on, find a new life, a new person, a new love.’
‘But things can be worked out. Every problem has a solution, that’s my mantra at work.’
‘True for work, not true for love. Just let go.’
He was quiet for a while. ‘But how can I just leave her? She doesn’t have a job, where will she go? What will she do?’
‘That’s not your problem.’
He fell quiet, as if he was thinking.
‘Look at him,’ he said after some time. ‘He’s everywhere. Laughing at me all the time. I know what he looks like and that makes it worse.’
He was looking up at the billboard.
‘You know him?’
‘Not me. But looks like my wife does, rather too well. That’s the man she’s seeing…’
‘That’s Bill.’
He looked at her, not comprehending for a minute. 
‘You’re Bill? The man you were speaking to?

 ‘Bill, top model Bilva Rajan. Do you not know his name? He’s all over the magazines. To some extent, so am I. Been his arm candy in the film fare awards.
‘No wonder you look familiar,’ he said loyally. ‘I must have seen you in a magazine.’
She knew he hadn’t. He clearly wasn’t into the Bollywood scene.

 ‘I was attending a conference in the Leela. I saw them leave a room when I had stepped out of the conference room to take a call. She denied it at first. Said she’s a fan, he lives close to us.’

‘Lokdhanwala?’ But could she be talking to the man whose wife her boyfriend had slept with. It made her hysterical. She started laughing. Now she was the one who couldn’t stop.
But he looked pale, his hands shook. She hoped he wouldn’t burst into tears or do something as embarrassing.
‘She said it was only once, it was a mistake. But she keeps seeing him.
‘I have heard that before, been there. They never mean it.’
‘But what a man ‑ to stray when he has you?’
He was looking genuinely surprised that someone would. Men often told her she was pretty. Olive skin, dark curly hair up to her shoulders, large eyes, perfect lips - but it hadn’t been enough for Bill. She felt tears of self-pity in her eyes.
‘I can call my driver. Did you want us to drop you?’
‘You have a car? Then why are you here?’
‘I was trying to think, had to get out from the office, lose myself in the streets. But I hadn’t expect such heavy rain!’

‘What strange rain indeed,’ she said.

She moved closer to where he was sitting. ‘Take courage, do what your heart says.’

The rain was gentler now, almost caressing. They watched the road in front of them transform, cows stepped out from under vehicles, cyclists stepped out from their shop shelters, and the streetlights were coming on. Mumbai was waking up, washed clean.

‘I have to go now,’ she said, ‘a lot to do.’
‘Stay! Sit here for a while!’
‘Isn’t there something to this? Meeting someone who is going through the same problem? So mysteriously in this rain?
‘But we don’t have the same problem! I know what I am doing but you don’t. Goodbye stranger,’ she said smiling. Jane would be proud of her; how decisive she had sounded. She stepped into the slush outside.

There was a taxi stand at the next right turn. She hurried along. The stranger – John’s face floated into her thoughts as she walked. Would he listen to her advice and leave his wife? Was there really a reason she had met him at this point in her life?
Maybe she would see him in London one day. Sitting opposite her in the tube. Walking along Piccadilly. But what if it was the last time she would ever see that handsome sad man?
When the present was here, right here in your hands, should you think of the future?

 She walked back to the shop. He was still sitting there, head in his hands.

‘You shouldn’t you know,’ she said, ‘In India they say it brings bad luck to hold your head in your hands like that.’

‘What brings good luck then?’ he smiled
‘Let me give you this,’ she handed him her card. ‘I leave tomorrow, but stay in touch. If you ever come to London.’
‘Here’s mine, though it’s my Indian one.’
‘Or maybe, well, if you wanted to talk tonight…maybe… dinner 8 p.m. at the Taj?’
While she thought of how she would explain this to Jane, he switched on his mobile and called his driver.
‘Let me drop you to your hotel.’
She smiled at him through the raindrops.



Mona Dash was born and educated in India, and came to London to work, in 2001. With a background in Engineering and Management, she works in Telecoms Solution Sales.
She writes fiction and poetry and her work has been published in various magazines internationally and anthologised widely. She has recently gained a Masters in Creative Writing, with distinction, from the London Metropolitan University.

Dawn-drops is her first collection of poetry published by Writer’s Workshop, India.  Her first book of fiction is represented by Red Ink Literary agency.