I was inordinately late for the pick up that Friday afternoon. I had informed Srishti's class teacher in the class WhatsApp group about my delay, but the text didn't go through, because of bad connectivity. And I got caught up in traffic on the road, the kind that only monsoons in Kolkata can throw up. When I reached, there was not a soul to be seen anywhere -- no cars, no police, no children coming out of the gates with their parents or escorts, not even the trickle of late pick-ups. It felt eerie. For a moment, as I stepped out of the car, it felt like I have come to the wrong place.
I had not. It was just a familiar setting of five years rendered unfamiliar by the absence of predictable details. I would experience something else soon.
By the time I had reached, it had been pouring heavily for more than an hour. And in the few seconds that it took me to open the door of the car, open up my umbrella and step out, the rain was already slashing hard against me, wetting my left arm and leg. I was wearing a pair of light cotton skirt and blouse that day, with a pair of slippers. The most casual of casual wears, which allowed a greater play of rain and wind on me.
In pre-pandemic times, on rainy days like this, cars are allowed in to take the children. They circle round a tree, in front of the portico, as they move in and out the school premises, in a tortuous long line. This orchestrated movement of vehicles coincides with the shrills of children delighting in the rain, in a heady mix of control and abandon.
Post-pandemic, once the school reopened, parents have not been allowed inside the main school building; and in the few months of school till the monsoons, there has never been the kind of rain that necessitated cars going in to pick up the kids.
I (wrongly) assumed that day that the car wouldn't be allowed; hence walked in -- rain-slashed, wind-blown. Beneath an umbrella that dripped its own water, in eight parallel lines encircling me. I have always marvelled at that geometry!
Srishti was waiting for me. But her impatience for my arrival had already worn thin by the time I did, and she had settled into chatting with one of her attendant-'didi's. Her lips broadened into the widest smile seeing me wet. Didi asked us to wait out a bit. We did -- watching the rain bathe both the concrete and the green of the school, listening to its peculiar music. I had a strange feeling of dejavu, as I stood there.
The rain showed no signs of abetting. Fearing it would get worse, we walked to the car. It must have taken us seven/eight minutes to walk from the portico, down the straight tiled path to the school gate, and out to our car. It takes much less than that on normal days. Srishti and I were slowed down by the rain, and the fact that we were sharing an umbrella to shield us from it. We didn't mind the slower pace; we could have even embraced slow-motion. The eight parallel lines of rain dripping from the umbrella were now encircling us both. It was the most beautiful circle of joy that we have known. But we both (two giggly girls now, not mother and daughter) wanted to throw it off and surrender ourselves to the rain. Only the fear of falling sick again (Srishti had just recovered from Covid a few weeks back and we both catch cold easily) stopped us. Still, we got drenched - Srishti, half; me, almost full.
The day after, I showed Srishti a short video (the one with this post). Told her it was from August 2017. Her first day of school after relocating from Amsterdam to Kolkata. We had stood at the same spot, waiting out the rain (though the car had come in that day). "But Mamma, it looks like you have taken the video from yesterday", she said. I agreed.
It did look like it. In fact, it was it. The same moment, resuscitated over time. Over half a decade. She was 5 then; she is 10 now. Our lives have undergone enormous change in between. We are no more what we were in 2017. Yet, this moment has remained just the same -- only enjoyed by a taller Srishti and a grey-er haired me.
Sometines I feel, our lives are nothing but an endless resuscitation of earlier moments. Earlier moments from our own lives, and those of our parents/grandparents/ancestors (however different the external trappings may seem). Through the unfailing rhythm of the seasons. And it is through these moments that we partake of eternity. As against immortality.
We desire immortality; we wish to continue in our children and loved ones; we pour our energy into doing things that we hope will last forever... but in reality, we are just specks in time, whirling temporarily through the immensity of space.
Tiny moments of eternity connect us to those who have been here and gone before us, and to those who will come after.
This month has been a roller-coaster of an altogether new kind in my life. All through the crests and troughs, I held on to the memory of that rain-washed moment several weeks ago. To its beauty and innocence. And the unalloyed joy it gave us, however briefly.
I also reminded myself, I am just a tiny speck in time...