Running between raindrops

How to get where you want to by finding the safe and sweet spots through all manner of hazards.

Published : Dec 29, 2022 10:15 IST

You simply have to learn to run between all kinds of drops.

You simply have to learn to run between all kinds of drops. | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

“I run between the raindrops” was her explanation when we asked one of our schoolteacher nuns how come she never got wet when she crossed the quadrangle in a downpour without an umbrella, while we cowered inside our heavy Duckback raincoats. She could well have used the opportunity to give us some lofty explanation about faith, belief, miracles, blessings, and suchlike, a temptation many a religious person of any hue speaking to a wide-eyed audience would usually not resist.

But she simply told us something more fun, magical, and if not plausible, definitely something that fires young imagination—that it is possible to run between the raindrops. And find yourself home and dry even in the thick of it all.

Coming to think of it, all of us, quite unconsciously perhaps, have learnt the intricate steps of this dance, whether we live in rural India or urban towns and metros. How to get where you want to by finding the safe and sweet spots, negotiating all manner of hazards coming down, springing up, and blindsiding you as you wend your way.

As all our towns and cities feverishly “smarten up”, which leaves citizens smarting in pain, we are learning to find smart solutions to the various things that befall us. We have learnt the art of coming up with the most evasive and defensive forms of getting anywhere.

“Commuting” is a rather bland word to cover the series of stratagems and sheer nimble-footedness that helps us get somewhere while entire bridges are being demolished before the promised roads and rapid transport systems (some already abandoned before being used, stillborn children of a previous phase of the smarts) are in place.

ALSO READ: Salaam olden days

You simply have to learn to run between all kinds of drops—sheer 10-foot drops on the edges of under-construction roads, unmarked, where entire cars can be swallowed whole, or falling debris, or construction rods left sticking out, all the better to impale you with. We are learning to move like chessmen—on the diagonal, or sliding sideways, or in increments of one-and-a-half steps with a deft right-angle swerve.

Various departments involved in pipeline laying, metro building, road broadening, drainage systems, and special digging permission for pandals during our holier-than-thou festivals are like one big unhappy family—no one talks to no one, and will not coordinate their plans. One big game of katti (unfriending), with no batti (befriending) in sight.

‘Weather incidents’

If the city or region that you live in has faced 300 per cent more rain in one season than ever before in recorded history, you are not just dancing between the raindrops, you are possibly dodging waterfalls and whirlpools, and hanging on to anything solid while the rain floods you out. Couple this with the smart-city excavations, and you’re looking at some serious need of buckets, boats, and bailing outs. This is mostly thanks to the double-whammy of “weather incidents” as it is so delicately called, and a long history of absent urban planning.

The old guard of environmentalists and planners grew hoarse and then aged and are now exiting this planet trying to talk and be heard about the simple but vital issue of planning for water to run off into the god-given natural waterbodies that once were part of any settlement anywhere.

And not in ancient maps of India, but just a few decades ago, in living memory. Now we have to go anywhere dressed for the occasion: prepared to wade through swirling muddy waters, amazingly accumulating even on bridges. And mutter to ourselves a la T.S. Eliot: “I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.”

In what other ways are we learning to run between the raindrops? Event organisers have understood that planning an evening of anything, concerts, plays, screenings, protest, parties, talks, inaugurations, launches, is asking for trouble. In place of the 60 people you may have invited, only 6.5 people may make it after being through the ringer of traffic, flash floods, and debris and/or welding sparks falling from above. Sometimes the main performers or speakers at such events themselves do not make it, and the rag-tag lot that does manage to show up settle down to play antakshari with each other—surely the lowest common denominator of desultory human discourse.

Increasingly, we see organisers inviting you to attend 9 to 11 am or 2 to 4 pm; or cultural festivals that are all-nighters, to which you travel on city streets late at night and return home at dawn, unimpeded and unharmed. This is a change in convention, to which the populace has begun to say a resounding yes, given that reaching a venue, parking, and emerging become a hundred per cent less challenging.

“Imagine being able to identify and respond to just the good that comes from a person, and just dropping the baggage, the history, the negativity, the aspects of that person that do not work for you. It would be a deft definition of that elusive concept, acceptance.”

These kinds of timings find that sweet spot in the course of every harried city’s 24 hours. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth can then be avoided on the road. Afternoon ragas can be heard, brunches can be had, something that work-from-home has begun to allow many to do. (Work-from-home itself was a nimble response to the pandemic, a great new way to run between the raindrops.)

The art of running between raindrops is a useful and elegant one to master and practise in relationships as well. Which is not to say that you learn to be clever and evasive and opportunistic and look out only for yourself. Far from it. Imagine being able to identify and respond to just the good that comes from a person, and just dropping the baggage, the history, the negativity, the aspects of that person that do not work for you. It would be a deft definition of that elusive concept, acceptance.

ALSO READ: Tracing the history of Tiger Balm

Whether you are involved with a child, a parent, a spouse or partner, a neighbour, a friend, a colleague, even with oneself, imagine not having to wear that heavy Duckback raincoat, brace yourself, keep your head down, and soldier on in the downpour. Imagine managing to be able to simply find and enjoy the dry spots and work with them. This would free us from seeing and dealing with only the surliness or untidiness of an adolescent, be able to spot and smile at that wacky streak, and run with it.

It would be a way to set aside the all-too-familiar and annoying proclivities of a partner that seem to drown many relationships, and choose to notice and enjoy the interstices, in which other more appealing parts of the person dwell too. On a day that you are particularly floundering in a swamp of self-loathing and censure, if we could find our own warm, safe, and lovable spots (which people close to you do tell you about, and you tend to discount), it would be a way to run between the raindrops.

Does this way of looking at things boil down to that old construct: “Do you see the glass as half-full or half-empty”? Partially, yes, but it is more about actually putting it into action, taking that leap into the downpour and yet getting across home and dry. And enjoying playing catch-me-if-you-can with the rain, on top of it all. As our nimble-footed nun once showed us.

Gouri Dange is a novelist, family counsellor, and author of nine books of fiction and non-fiction.

More stories from this issue

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment