"Day by day, I float my paper boats, down the running stream. With big black letters I write my name on them, and the name of the place where I live."
I still remember by heart these timeless lines by Rabindranath Tagore, which were part of our syllabus in school. The verse evokes nostalgia, taking me back to my childhood days when I used to drench myself in the downpour every monsoon and float my paper boat "down the running stream".
It took me a few seconds to tear away a fresh paper from my notebook, make some quick neat folds, and the world was ready to sail on my "five-star cruise".
Paper boats were a tradition, especially in the parched plains of Punjab where monsoon rains always came as a sacred festival, celebrated by all. From peasants to rich farmers, from street children to rich parents' kiddos, from a 'bhutta' vendor to a well-off businessman, rains in Punjab stirred up the same excitement, because they all knew its glory would be short-lived, like a peacock dancing in its full glory under the umbrella of monsoon clouds.
Nostalgia takes me back to the much wetter monsoons that we experienced in the state of five rivers, which brought smiles on every face. I still remember my schooldays in Ludhiana when we used to tap our water-filled shoes on the streets filled with knee-deep rainwater. "Chhap chhap chhap!" said our deliberately tapped shoes in the school ground that resembled a muddy swimming pool. Pearl-like raindrops falling pitter-patter on our colourful umbrellas brought such joy.
The fragrance of the wet soil is no more enchanting. Lost are the days when children had the pleasure of making their own "cruise" and let it sail in the streams of joy. Lost is the smile on the face of a farmer who, like an excited kiddo, used to run with pleasure on seeing the first mass of thick black clouds, because he knew they would fall hard, hard and abundant.
Streets now are no more filled with knee-deep water to let the kids make the most of their childhood. Not even once in these rainy months have I seen the same old streets of my hometown Ludhiana filled with water, not even ankle-deep. With hardly three rains for a couple of hours, one can imagine how different the rainy season now is.
Three days of endless downpour ending with a classic treat of seven-coloured banded spectacle of rainbow gracing the sky was what rains in Punjab were once all about. Forget paper boats and rainbows, rains in the state have not even been able to reward the hard work of farmers.
Some kids were excited when I shared with them my own monsoon experience of drenched uniforms and paper boat races. Some even learnt the few folds needed to make the "cruise". But deep in my heart I knew there are no more floating paper boats in these thirsty plains craving for some thick pearly raindrops. All I hoped was, "When night comes, I bury my face in my arms and dream that my paper boats float on and on under the midnight stars."
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