With my mind in turmoil, I rush out of the house. The weather outside is also the same- full of thunderbolts and lightning. It's 5:45 and the library closes by 7. Will I reach in time? I will have to return the books by any means. The due on them is more than Rs.50. With all these things in my mind, I close the gate and get onto the street. I look skywards to see huge nimbus clouds. The horizon towards Mehdipatnam bus stop is thickly covered with clouds as far as I can see.
I walk towards the bus stop. My new slippers are pinching me but the pain in a way seems pleasureable. Atleast it gives me reason to cry. My eyes are filled with tears. Why does everything go wrong with me? Though I have been slogging like a donkey since morning, I get scoldings from everyone for not doing my work.
Tears spill out of my eyes. While I try wiping them away, huge drops of rain fall on me. Is the sky crying for me? Or it does not want anyone to know that I am crying? It starts to drizzle. The rain pricks my skin. It trickles down my nape onto my back. I do have an umbrella. But why should I use it? Do I want to fall sick? Atleast then people will start caring for me. But no. I will NOT fall sick. I don't want to be dependent on anyone. I need my health the most. Only if I am healthy, I can face to fight the world. I unfurl my umbrella, a black one, and walk upright. I make sure that my books don't get wet.
I reach the bus stop just as a bus is about to leave. As I get in, the driver and conductor get out. I will have to wait. It's close to six. Will I reach the library on time? I don't want any new books but will I have enough time to return these and pay the fine?
A couple of minutes pass, before the conductor gets in. She starts issuing the tickets. But where is the driver? He is nowhere to be seen. I feel like crying again. I have to control myself. I am no more a school kid. I am old enough to be a mother of one. I mock at myself.
The bus driver gets in and starts adjusting the mirror. He lazily starts the bus and drives it at a snail's pace. By the time we get out of the bus stop, the drizzle has become a heavy downpour. I have consciously taken an aisle seat. I will not be drenched by the water dripping through the half-shut window.
There is traffic jam at each and every signal. On most of the roads, the water level has risen. We are moving slowly and steadily. I am beginning to like the driver. He is stopping at each bus stop and waiting patiently for all the passengers to get in. He even stops in between stops for old people or ladies. He seems to be a caring person. I feel like appreciating his efforts.
It's 6:40 and there are two more stops to go. Will I reach on time? What if I dont? I will take another bus and return. A lady with a baby gets into the bus and I get up to give her my seat. She gives me a victorious smile which means:"Arey Buddhu! See how chaalu I am to get a seat!" I should not have got up. But old habits die hard. How can people not appreciate a good gesture! I am standing behind the driver's seat. During a turn, I almost fall down. I somehow manage to balance myself. The driver gives me look that seems to say: "Why are you standing here?" or "Don't you know how to stand?" No one cares for me.
My stop has come. I jump from the last step of the bus onto the pavement. There's water everywhere. I wonder if the signal is red, so that I can cross easily. But I can't see anything. It's already dark and it's also raining very heavily. Twice I try crossing and suddenly a vehicle vrooms past and I am forced to get back onto the pavement. Finally, the signal turns red or I assume it to be red as all the vehicles halt at the zebra-crossing. I quickly cross one half of the road. I am underneath the Secretariat flyover now. There are loads of two-wheelers parked and people waiting for the rain to stop.
While I am crossing the other half, I realize that the water, on the road, came above my ankles. I quickly reach the other side of the road. I am on the pavement walking towards the gate. I am shocked to see that the water is almost on level with the footpath. There is a man in front of me, folding his trousers almost upto his knees. I follow him to get down the footpath to get inside the compound. At the corner of the road, a car is stuck in the mud. The driver raises the engine but the vehicle refuses to budge. I try not to get disheartened and I don't want to look at the watch.
Holding the gate railing, for support, I get down the footpath and get in. There are lots of people standing at the entrance of the library. Everybody is waiting for the rain to stop. I close my umbrella and stop at the security. I take my books out and show him my card.
The entire floor of the library is dirty with footprints of the muddy boots and slippers. I directly go to the issue/return counter to return my books. The librarian says that the due amount is Rs.54. I go to the next counter to pay the due.
Now I can look at the time. It's 6:55PM. I decided that I would not take anymore books. Enough of rushing to return them, even though I dont complete reading them. I know, I will not have time for any of my hobbies. Life's cruel!
Yet my love for books attract me to the shelves. I go around just to get the feel of being in the library. First I look at the Agatha Christie novels to see if "One, Two, Buckle my shoe" is on the rack. As expected, it isn't.
All the lights are switched off, an indicator for the closure of the library. I walk towards the exit. It's crowded with people. I find my way out. The security guard guides me to a shelter outside the library. I stand there.
The rain has not stopped. Infact the water level on the roads have increased. The water is now on the pavements as well. How am I going to find my way to the bus stop? There may be open manholes on the road. I get very nervous. What if I were to stay here till the rain stops? But it is already 7:15. It is not that safe. If someone were with me now, it would be a great moral support to me. But who will accompany me? The one soul who said, would come, broke the promise as usual. What if I call up and ask? Then what? It will only worsen the situation. Are you ready to hear a "No"? Are you ready to see your expectations being trampled upon?
Will I have to stay here through the night? This is not office, where you can safely sit for hours together. What do I do? If anyone starts walking, I can follow them. There are so many standing under this shelter. People are only getting under, no one is getting out.
I have been watching this traffic policeman for the past half an hour. He has been asking each and every vehicle to slow down. I did not know that there are still sincere persons living in this bad bad world. He has been helping people cross the road. He has been helping move the vehicles stuck in the water. Shall I ask him to help me? But I am not used to asking anything.
A call from home.
"When will you be back?"
"As soon as I can."
"Try to be back soon."
I have decided that it's time that someone takes an initiative to get out. Why can't that someone be ME?
I unfurl my umbrella and get into the rain. One or twice I stumble. The water is cold. It is almost knee deep. I did not expect it to be that deep. I slowly reach the gate. I observe two people following me. I hold the gate railing and walk towards the footpath. The water is still deeper here. There are two men standing there. One asks, "Why do you need to venture out in this rain?". I reply, "I need to get back home and it's already getting very late." Meanwhile the two people following me, overtake me. Now I start following them. But they get into the very next building. I have to face this all alone.
I walk cautiously holding onto poles or any other objects on the roadside for support. The man who spoke to me near the gate, is walking with me. He guides me a little. But we reach the end of the footpath, we become doubtful of our progress. There is a petrol bunk on our left-hand side and that stretch of the road has been uneven for ages. What do I do?
Meanwhile two ambulances pass by. I am a little scared.
As the petrol bunk is still under repair or renovation, whichever it is, there is a rope tied across the entry of it. I hold it for support and walk across it. The water gets deeper and it pushes our feet whenever any vehicle passes by. My fellow escort walks towards the road as it's high ground there. I wade through the water and follow him.
Finally I am at the bus stop, waiting for the bus. I stand, on the road, not under the bus-shelter. Two buses come at the same time. Both are 5Ks. The first one is a Setwin bus. There is hardly any place to stand. I want a place to sit. I think that the other bus may have unoccupied seats. I run towards it. But it's also jam-packed. The Setwin is much better. But before I can reach it, the bus pulls away. I have missed both the buses.
After a 10 minute wait, I see another bus. But I cant see it's number. Is it 113? Yes, it is. I move closer. Oh no! It is 113A, doesn't go to Mehdipatnam. The driver asks me where I have to go. I reply, "Mehdipatnam." He asks me to get in and get down at Ladki-ka-pul. I hesitate. But yes, he is right. I will get more number of buses there. I get in and stand just behind the driver's seat.
The driver shows me 119 in front of our bus and says, "You can take this bus." Even the conductor is very kind and talks affectionately. He also suggests the buses that I can take. Are they thinking that I am new to the city? Or am I looking very worried and tense?
I get down at Ladki-ka-pul and immediately get another bus. It is a bus to HCU. When I get in, I notice that there is one person in each row and noone is willing to give place for me to sit. The reason that they give is: Water is dripping from the window and they will get wet. A man sitting in the ladies seat, very reluctantly, gets up.
I sit. Immediately another lady gets it and I am made to sit at the window. I don't mind the water falling on my me.
I call up home to tell them that I am safe. I am asked to go to our ex-neighbor's place to return their keys. Who is bothered about my life! But in a way, all through my return journey, I am made to realize that even strangers care for me. First, the man who guided me till the bus stop, then the 113A's bus driver and conductor. Even this HCU bus driver is also kind enough to stop the bus near to my house.
I am a little relieved but still I have to cross Amba Theatre where there are two or three open manholes. I take the main road. Luckily there is not much of water on the road. May be I did not rain much in Mehdipatnam.
By the time I reach home, the rain has stopped. Even my mind is blank. I feel as though my brain has stopped functioning. I feel tired and exhausted.
Rain is said to be romantic but for the first time in my life, I realized what kind of a nuisance it is.