PG, slash. Daniel and Rodney in India.
Rodney hated India. He hated the heat, he hated the crowds, he
hated the clinging beggars, he hated the food, he hated the stray dogs and snake
charmers and happily chittering monkeys that always made a beeline for his head.
Most of all, he hated the dust.
“The dust?” Daniel repeated. He wasn’t even listening, Rodney thought sourly;
too busy having orgasms about the bazaar and its anthropological significance.
He was about to launch into another tirade to this effect when Daniel abruptly
stepped off the kerb.
“Bhai!” he called. After a moment, a rackety old rickshaw came perambulating
along the road. “Chandni Chowk,” Daniel said.
Rodney felt a sensation vaguely akin to impending doom as Daniel started waving
his hands. “No,” he said. “Daniel, no. I am not getting into a rickshaw to get
buffeted about and pay for the privilege. Daniel. Daniel, no!”
Daniel ignored him thoroughly. From the hand gestures, he was in the middle of
depriving the rickshaw-walla of his livelihood, food for his children, his
self-respect, his family’s honour and his continued existence in this world,
while in his turn the rickshaw-walla was taking Daniel for a fool, an ignorant
American foreigner, paying three times the price whatever next who did the man
think he was kidding and so on and so forth.
It eventually concluded with particular enthusiastic hand gestures on the part
of both parties and none of the bloodshed Rodney had been expecting. Daniel
turned to him and smiled happily. “It’s going to rain, and this will be quicker
than walking. Get in, Rodney. I know you haven’t done it before. It’s fun, trust
It wasn’t fun. It was painful and resulted in banged hip-bones and bruised
fingers and a continual feeling that you were about to be tipped over the side.
And it was dusty.
“Dusty?” repeated Daniel yet again, over the noise of traffic and people
shouting that constantly filled the street.
“And noisy!” Rodney yelled, warming to the topic. “No-one ever shuts up! They
scream and shout and it’s all right for you, you understand the language, but
for me it’s just noise! Yesterday,” and he paused for breath as quickly as he
could, “we went to that market, Jun-something...”
“Yeah, and I thought they were having a political demonstration, but it turned
out they were selling shirts! And the dust gets everywhere! It’s in my ears and
eyes and all the places I don’t tell my mother about and I’m never going to be
clean again! And have I mentioned the heat? Or the food? Or the noise? ”
As Rodney finally ran out of steam, the rickshaw entered a gap in the traffic
with particularly violent lurch, giving him a closer-than-average look at
Daniel’s expression. He looked honestly nonplussed, you could say that for him.
After a long (relative) silence, punctuated by the rickshaw almost but not quite
having a collision with a bullock cart coming the other way, Daniel said
quietly, plaintively, “But that’s the point.”
Rodney just stared at him.
“It’s supposed to be noisy, and dusty, and hot with people shouting,” Daniel
went on. Somehow his voice carried over the traffic noise with no difficulty at
all. “That’s why I wanted to come. The richness of culture” – he waved an
expansive hand at the street in general – “and the people. It’s India, Rodney.
This is what it’s like.”
“I hate that,” muttered Rodney.
“You hate what?”
“How you’re sounding all reasonable when you haven’t actually said anything to
make me feel better. I mean, what you’ve basically said, dressed up in
Daniel-speak, is that I have to put up with it. Isn’t that right?” He didn’t
wait for an answer. “And it’s started raining.”
But against all expectations, Daniel’s face lit up. “Yes!” he said, holding up
his palms and looking straight up at the sky. “It’s raining!”
Rodney glanced up. The sky was forbidding grey, with clouds rolling up even as
he watched, and there was a roll of thunder from somewhere. The occasional
spotting was giving way to proper raindrops, and yet Daniel was still grinning
like the Cheshire cat.
“That’s it,” said Rodney, eyeing the drop from rickshaw to ground. “You’ve
finally lost your mind. I’m getting out while I can.”
Daniel only laughed. “Rodney, you idiot, just look.”
Rodney looked. Even as he was staring upwards, the heavens opened. The mere
raindrops gave way to a sudden deluge, water falling as if thrown from buckets
and Rodney’s eyes filled with it until he couldn’t see. It was getting into his
mouth, dripping through his hair and soaking his clothes. Around them, people
had launched themselves from rickshaws, turned off their car engines, tethered
their donkeys and oxen, and through the roar of the rain, Rodney fancied he
heard other people laughing, just like Daniel. Ragged children were dive-bombing
the sudden six-inch puddles, the storeholders were pulling down their awnings
and staring reverently at the sky.
Daniel grabbed Rodney’s hands and propelled them both into the mud. “Come on!”
he yelled. “Don’t you get it yet?”
“It’s warm,” said Rodney wonderingly, realising it all of a sudden. “It’s warm
“Water on the Deccan,” Daniel said. “It’s a blessing. Have you ever seen
anything like it in your life?”
“The dust is all being washed off!” Rodney said, happily. The trees and bushes,
dry as tinder only minutes before, were lush verdant green. As he looked, a
small boy tore at a hanging palm to use as shelter and Rodney saw water gush
richly from the cut leaf.
Daniel gave up the attempt to twirl him and kissed him instead. “Welcome to the
monsoon,” he said fervently, and the language barrier ceased to be one, for a
moment. The rainwater had fallen into Daniel’s mouth, and Rodney tasted it,
along with the spices and the incense and the rich sweetness of the bazaar while
all the time the water of the monsoon poured down on his head like a
When they emerged, the rickshaw-walla was staring down at them in frank
disapproval. “Goreh,” he said severely.
“Oh, shut up,” said Daniel, and swung Rodney back up beside him. The first rush
of the storm was slackening off now; it was settling into a steady downpour that
didn’t have any effect on people already soaked to the skin. When the traffic
started moving again, Rodney complained about the mud, and his wet clothes, and
the congestion that would prevent him getting dry ones.
Daniel took one finger, held it to Rodney’s lips, and murmured, “Aashirwad.
“Blessing,” Rodney repeated. “Blessing, blessing...”
And for that one moment, sitting up there with Daniel and drenched by the
monsoon rains, it was.