Surf Excel Hai Na!

The afternoon today arrested me in a wet or not to wet.
Downpours are a rare phenomenon here or perhaps not. In my two years, I have seen the rain play more of chess( whenever it comes during the year) rather than soccer. Today afternoon, soccer it was, at the most opportune time- the pick-up time of my son. Being a bike rider, I did not risk holding the umbrella with one hand and riding with another. The chances are dismal, almost NIL that I will meet Shahrukh Khan on my way. No point. Chuck, it.

The big jumbo umbrella, I must say, whoever invented that size must have had a big family, came for my rescue, and I started with a bang. Leggings pulled up a little above the knees, house keys shoved inside the pocket, and Adidas shoes for extra grip and protection (considering age ;))

Few steps away, and what stood in front of me were streams of tiny rivers all over. I love America. It was officially dismissal time, so the walking trail was congested with people and a rainbow of umbrellas. Kids, of all age and kinds, mommies of all variety and fathers of one kind ONLY, I made my way hopping and skipping, avoiding all the puddles, mohabbatein leaves, the squeals of children, the loud banter of moms, and the pitter-patter of the rain on my umbrella. Somehow, my sophistication paid off, and I was at the pick-up point, clean, tidy, few drops here and there, legs without any muddy splash, and Adidas shoes smiling proudly at my efforts.
The Deerfield Elementary School was bustling with children and parents. I stood in a corner, my umbrella neatly tugged beside me, when a group of girls, maybe 8,9,10 years old, started the game of Peppa pig puddle jump right next to me. Before I had time to notice and take action, the dirty splash was all over me and my Adidas shoes. The Indian in me silently grumbled. I was almost ready to lash out my grand theory of manners, hygiene, and responsibility when someone crept from behind and stepped on my Adidas shoes. I looked around to see Namrata standing there, all of 10 years or maybe 12 years old, in her DBMS school campus in Jamshedpur, with her friends, splashing in the puddles.

Jamshedpur has rains and soccer-type ones too. The long sultry summer rejoices when the monsoon hits the city traveling all the way from Kerala. Then, understanding the southwest monsoon was difficult; I only knew that they were on their way and would come soon. Having rains in the morning, when the school starts, was perfect chaos but raindrops lashing on the window panes around 7th or 8th period (dismissal time) was pure bliss. Every drop that fell on the dehydrated ground and disinterested students signaled- NO STUDIES. It simply meant that and nothing else. It would take some amount of cruelty to make the students study in the last period when the thunderstorm and the downpour created the perfect ambiance for FUN.  

The last bell announced the dismissal, and students jostled their way out to head back home while taking their share of rain with them. I was one of them for sure. My home was within walking distance, and that gave me unlimited power to exercise to get WET. Who will question? What will they ask? When you have to walk home, getting WET is the only option. Poor me ;)

I exercised that power with some irresponsibility. Have you seen an Indian puddle? Apart from the fact that they are just inches apart, apart from the fact that the road itself is a big puddle, Indian puddles have a rich mix of dirt, mud, and water in them. Did I care? Naah! The black shoes, the grey skirt, the white shirt, the blue bag, and the brown paper-covered books inside, I ensured all had a good time. They bear the boredom of school life day in and day out; a rainy-day dismissal time is their golden opportunity to beat the heat and to treat. My mother anxiously waited for me standing on the balcony of our flat. It used to surprise her how her daughter remarkably came home drenched every time it rained. A volley of questions was hurled at me- “Why did you come late? The rain didn’t start then? Where were you? Why didn’t you wait? Why didn’t you use the umbrella which is always kept in your bag during the rainy season? How will this mud stain get cleaned?” etc.  I had one answer for her all the time, every time- ‘Surf Excel Hai Na’ blurted with a cheeky smile. I still remember one day she actually replied to my nonsense, “Surf Excel is very costly. Who will buy it?” Hahhaha!

Mom and her words reverberate in my soul and infuse such love and warmth. I miss her, and I miss those frugal words which enriched my life.

Back to 2018
“Take a shower; otherwise, you will fall sick.”, “Let me put mustard oil on your hair; it will absorb all the cold.”, “Put the books on the rack to dry.”, “These shoes will take days to dry up now. We will soon have to buy new ones. Why do you soak them in the puddle? Why can’t you walk away from the puddles?” ----------these questions echoed in my ears when I saw the little girls splish and splash, laugh at every jump, carelessly getting wet, their hair flying all over their face, their school bag hanging loose on their back, umbrellas disowned, and me watching them with tenderness. Just when did my smirk turn into a smile, I do not know. What I know is that when my little one showed up, he was excited seeing the rain and the chaos. While we hurried back home, cuddling under the jumbo umbrella, the chilly wind caressing our face, I alerted him – “You have a big puddle, like  a small river flowing across the road.”

He interrupted- “Oh! You want me to be careful…right Maa?”

I blushed my face a shade of bubblegum pink and chirped -“ No, jump in the puddle, make a big splash.”. My Adidas shoes looked at me scornfully as I silently comforted them – “Chill! Surf Excel Hai na.”


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