That day I learnt what rain was…

Ritika Chawla

rain I sat at home watching it fill around me… it was water…just water. But for me it was different.

I, Sameera Javed, live in the Ambujwadi area in Malad (West). You don’t know me, you may not even have heard of the area I live in. It’s a slum, you know, hidden behind a huge MHADA complex in Malwani. Each year, when it rains in Mumbai, the area around my house gets waterlogged. It is difficult for a 3.5 ft person like me to get to school. My parents don’t let me go. What if I drown? Or I slip and fall in a ditch? They would lose me forever.

Every morning when it starts pouring, I try and get ready fast so I can walk down before too many puddles fill in for me to jump over. I don’t have an umbrella. Just a partly torn raincoat, which I got from my school last year. This year’s new raincoat will come in August hopefully. I walk down a kilometre to the school. Yes it’s raining. Yes it’s pouring down heavily. But I know I need to get to school. After all Didi promised that whoever has full attendance will get to go to the school trip at the end of the month. I smile at the thought of it. Even before I know it, I reach the school gate and realize my hair is wet.

I woke up to the sound of the rain this morning… it was raining cats and dogs… I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my dry home, but I start getting ready for school…

I, Ritika Chawla or Ritika Didi as my kids call me, teach in a municipal school, situated at gate no. 8 of Malwani in Malad (West). You would’ve heard of this area if you read the Mumbai Mirror, as almost every week there is news of a murder or some crime occurring in this area. Each year when it rains, my school gets flooded. The backyard turns into quicksand. The kids don’t have a place to play. There is at least two feet of water in the school building, leaving no place for my class to sit. Well, their benches are just one foot from the floor. To make matters worse, the school toilets get flooded, with human excreta flowing in the corridors.

Today, I step out of my building, safely under my umbrella and start looking for an auto. After almost 20 minutes of wait and 10 autorickshaws refusing to go to that area, I convince one. The traffic gets worse by the second. I finally reach school and I am still a little dry. As soon as I step into the building I am met by a warm smile. It is Sameera, a 7-year old little girl from my class, who stands in front of me, wet from tip to toe, yet smiling. Despite all odds set by the rain, she has made it to school one more day….

The author is a teacher at MHB English Municipal School, Mumbai. She can be reached at ritika.chawla2010@teachforindia.org.