When words begin to curl up in the corners, and meaning begins to drip off the blurry edge, you know it has rained all night in Delhi.
Adhchini, Gurgaon... the words patter with a sweetness, a slippery clayey texture that hadn't been there before. And to your ears, 'gurhganva' is firm, a vagabond word with tight calf muscles and a checked vest. Gurh-gaanv-aa. Gurhganva. The word is like the sweet, heady smell of the first light shower on a hot afternoon in a dusty town.
But that is left behind. In Devnagri, the word asserts itself firmly on the metal chest of a bus - 'gurhganva'. Not Gurgaon. Not glass. Metal. Rust. Rain.
Over the awful rev and roar of Dilli's sarkaari bus, there is a sound like a cross between a tyre bursting and a string of firecrackers muffled in cotton. There is such a blinding flash that for a minute, you think there are cameras around. Then you look at the sky. At ten in the morning, it was like before dawn. Dark and full. There is no threat, just a certainty. Firecrackers muffled in grey wool sky.
The bus driver changed the music from haryanvi folk to trance. The sky roared. The music hammered down as hard as the waters.
With each little lurch, water filled up in the ridges of the windows and spilled. Spilled.
All thoughts slipped and spilled into each other. All shades of green turned melty through the refractive window-seat. The word 'subz' floated through your head. That's the shade. 'Subz'. That it is not a shade, is meaningless. All meanings are melting.
The driver changed the tape again.
Ae door ke musafir, humko bhi saath le le
hum reh gaye akele....
I look at him closer. Wet hair. Plump. Joking with the boy-conductor.
The gear-stick is covered in scrunchies. Girls' hair scrunchies. An entire rainbow of them. Red, pink, blue, lilac, green, neon. A sticker of five film actresses in a row, holding up filmfare award trophies, with a little ditty below:
"Titli udi, bus pe chadi, seat na mili
driver bola - aaja mere paas; titli boli - hat badmaas."
In felt pen, there's another curliqueing bit of text: 'Love is God'.
And Rafi sings:
"Mere haathon mein tera chahra tha
jaise koi gulaab hota hai..."
Orange, velvety flowers have falled into a heap of fallen yellow leaves.
In the nursery, potted flowers stand ruefully straight. Resigned to the battering of the night, but all the fuschias, scarlets, pinks are coloured a deeper shade, as if a drop of meloncholia has fallen into their pollen hearts.
... jaise joi gulab hota hai...
Outside, the puddles are deep. A girl in pure white lifts up her salwar half-way up her calves. Her friend, in rani-pink, follows. They stop and look at each other and their smiles stretch from horizon to horizon.
The auto-driver slows down near Nehru Park and his head is turned so that he's looking at the grass, and he takes his time rounding the roundabouts.
You breathe. Each breath is crisp and wild and slow. You shiver and think: This air does not belong to now. It is the air of February, and has been dragged back, howling and lashing, by the crackling skies of a strange hot week in Delhi.
Dilli ke is lamhe mein, kisi ko koi gham nahin hai. Raat bhar, din bhar, baarish hui hai.
And there is no sorrow possible in a moment that does not below to now.