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THE 5 PM RAIN by Nissar Ahmed
(Translated from the Kannada by Roopa Pai.)

The 5 pm rain of August,
comes down, as always, on Sahyadri College,
grey as the Chemistry attender’s
once-white turban;

Darkly hooding the western horizon,
Flushing peacock, parakeet, mynah, and
other nameless woodland birds,
from haunts suburban.

In Thirthahalli, it charges, roaring,
Across the silent hedges of the areca plantations
Of headman and chieftain –
Pounding sugarcane and wheat
Rubbing out the hills
Shoving slothful sunlight out of sight
Making a Big Top of the sky

On the ground behind the Geology Lab,
It beats a furious tattoo
In drops as fat
As the bindi of the headman’s wife;
The wind, a dark fearsome thing,
Blows a sudden shower into a corridor
Where the professor has wandered, oblivious, chatting—
He curses hard (like he was Hitler’s brother or something).

The unwelcome nuisance
Drenches cattle, asses, buffaloes, umbrellas, raincoats
Bike and scooter tarps—
Sparks fear in the darting eyes of the girls
Anxious to get home before dark;
Tantalises Rajanna (the clerk)
with the come-hither aroma
of mustard seeds-curry leaves-asafoetida
crackling in hot oil
in Gopi Hotel—
Galvanises him into efficiency.

The rain

That put a spring in the step
of the sluggish summer
(Which, like a whining schoolboy,
had crept like snail)
And made it skip, exuberant with girlish joy—

That forced a sleepless night
Upon the hapless Principal—
‘How am I to put up the pandal
for the student union inauguration,
If the bloody rain continues like this?’

That put a dampener on the plot
To disrupt the inauguration
Of the chosen ones—
Causing Kotreshi, student malcontent-in-chief
To wring his hands in consternation—

5 pm rain.

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