There are days in ones life, when some seemingly disconnected sequence of events occur only to culminate into a memory that will never fade. It does not happen often, but when it does, you get a glimpse of what we call the Acts Of God.
The rain reduced to a drizzle and to a complete stop; a brief intermission in the spells of monsoon rain that raged in July. The city of Kochi and its suburbs were drenched, had acquired the scent of wet earth and we felt like twilight even in the afternoons.
We school kids had learned to have a love-hate relation with “Edava-pathi”*.We hated it because we had to drag ourselves from warm beds to cold bathroom floors to get ready to school.
I remember asking Mother,” Why can’t it rain during the big summer vacation mornings?
Mother had replied nonchalantly, plaiting my hair,” For two reasons; one; it wouldn’t be summer if it rained like this.Two.How will you play in the morning if ground is wet?”
That left me with a dilemma to choose between loosing a summer vacation or to waking up to chilly mornings. Well, we loved it because it was a season of novelties. It was the season for new bags, books, lessons and a golden chance to do rain-dance almost every other day.
That Monday evening, Father was getting ready to go out to the temple. He had waited so long for the rains to cease and it finally had. He was searching for his umbrella, “Just in case it starts all over again.” I could hear him say to Mother, rather grumpily. Mother was shuffling around closing all windows cursing the mosquitoes and muttering something about fresh air and rain.
I sat at the dining table facing the open window with their curtains drawn, my geometry book open. “If a triangle is drawn inside a circle with one side as the diameter of the circle, the angle in the triangle opposite the diameter is always 90°”.I liked that. I mean you can draw a million triangles with the same diameter as one side and the angle opposite the diameter? 90 degrees! Infinite possibilities, yet the same answer. I stared out of the window, smiling at the geometry secrets.
I could not say I had a great view out of this window. Our backyard faced the neighbors’ backyard. There was a construction going on there. The elder son of the family was constructing a house. There was a water tank at the ground level, filled with water for construction purposes. I knew all this. We had no walls between the compounds then. Instead, between the two houses we had a municipal canal, about a foot wide. I have never liked the canal much. In summers, it was all slimy and in monsoon, it was like a powerful stream that flowed so fast that the poor water snakes floated by instead of swimming.
I heard a rattle from the neighbors’ compound. Smiling, I lifted my head from circles and triangles. There he stood, my cupid faced friend with black hair and dimples on his cheeks. He was about two at that time and was one of the most charming kids I have known. I remember, even now, he wore a lemon yellow sleeveless cotton shirt and black shorts. He smiled at me and waved proudly his playthings, an orange colored rattle and a tea strainer. I waved at him, a little surprised that the kid had managed to come to the construction site alone.
He sat down on the wall of the tank with his plump legs dangling into the tank looking immensely happy about the whole thing. The little thing took the rattle in his chubby hands and threw it into the tank. He looked at me and chimed,” Fell down.”
Now my 12-year-old mind could not work out that the little man was already in treacherous zone. So I simply told him,” Where’s you mom? Call her.”
He made a hand signal to the general direction of his home,” Mom there.” And before I could say anything slid into the tank.
I saw him sliding down into the tank. I froze. What had the kid done? He was going to drown. This was not a joke. I jumped off my chair, nearly falling over myself. I panicked. I ran, stopping my Father who was going out. All I managed to say was.” You cannot go.” Father gave me a quizzical look. I added quickly,” The baby fell into the tank.” I guess I looked like a scaredy-cat that Father knew I was not feigning.
Mom hearing this had already opened the back door and within seconds, Father had jumped over the canal into their compound. Later he told us, when he went near the tank, he saw the kid slowly going down into the depths. Like a porcelain doll, only that he was human. Father jumped into the tank .The water was high, unto his chest. Father took a deep breath, went under water and picked him up. The kid spat out some water and smiled. We all sighed in relief. The moments of torture were over.
Then came running the kid’s mother with her younger child in tow, bewildered.Her husband was out of town and the elder one had sneaked away whilst she was giving the younger one a bath.
Father had to wait for the next spell of rain to wash over to go out. He did go to temple to thank God and had come back home drenched, but cheerful.
Fifteen years later, I was home for a vacation. As mother and I were walking to the temple, we were stopped in the middle of the road by a tall, lean young man.” Do you remember me?” He asked smiling. That smile, I could not have forgotten. He bid us goodbye and walked away promising to pass to our regards to his family.
Mother said reminiscently,” I still do not want to know what would’ve happened that day, if I had closed those windows at five as usual, if you weren’t sitting there in front of the book, if Father was not at home. I shudder at the thought.” She was right. If I had not been pretending to be studying and was watching TV, I would not have seen him fall. If Father had gone out, what could we have done? I knew the obvious answer to every question my mind voiced. The young man I had met on the road today, I would never have seen him. All my life I would remember that tragic event and mom would cry every time she remembered it.
I do not know if it was a miracle. Nevertheless, it was his destiny to live and ours (Father’s and mine. Mother’s also in a way because she had forgotten to close those windows) to put together his lifeline that was almost prematurely severed. It is days like these that help one slow down and ponder on, how fragile we humans are.
* Edava Pathi: The onset of monsoon.