It rained this day, that year

By Enid Grace Parker

Recently, a radio station I was  tuned into played a song dating back to 1989; that got me nostalgic and I wondered — what was I up to on this particular day 30 years ago? A quick Google check informed me that it had been a Saturday, which means I would have been in school (we had only Fridays off back then). Just for fun, and because I love going down memory lane, I tried to piece together what might have transpired on that day.

So here’s a likely timeline of happenings on February 18, 1989:

6:30am: I am being rudely shaken awake by my mother, who looks as fresh as a daisy, hair and cotton sari immaculately in place, school teacher fashion on point. “Nnnggh school,” I mumble, only to receive a sharp slap on the feet. “Who is going to study and ….” Before she could complete her sentence I jump out of bed, all sleep gone as I recollect there’s a Hindi grammar and composition test I haven’t prepared for today.

That worrisome thought is soon replaced by another: How to find matching socks in exactly 20 seconds; the bus should be here any minute now. I also remember just in time to grab my latest copy of Smash Hits from a growing pile of music magazines (they’re all I spend my Dh15 monthly pocket money on, apart from music cassettes).

7:15am: Chilly, thrilling weather. Cold wind hits our faces through open windows in the bus (not all school transport vehicles were airconditioned back then). I have my book open to read for the test but am engrossed in listening to someone a few seats behind singing Madonna’s La Isla Bonita. I can’t help mentally correcting their lyrics while simultaneously being entranced by the overcast sky. Okay, so my little Madonna obsession took precedence over Hindi grammar and composition. The test!!! I’d better get back to my book…

8:45am: I am still agonising over the upcoming test yet also enjoying straining my ears for what sounds like intriguing gossip from three desks ahead. All this merriment comes to an end as our class teacher walks in and declares in an icy voice that matches the weather: “I think you all should take 9th a bit more seriously.” I mock-shiver (eliciting sniggers from unruly neighbours) in my blue sweater, picked up from the school’s ‘Lost-and-Found’ — which was essentially, during winters, a mini-mountain of warm clothing that looked identical. “But how do you know it’s the one you lost?” my friend asks. I still don’t know, 30 years later.

10am: Recess. We (me and a couple of other girls who had forgotten to study for the test) hot-foot it to the canteen in the hopes of buying a snack and returning in record time to bury our noses in our Hindi textbooks. Unfortunately, as we make our way across the damp football ground clutching packets of our favourite Pofaki chips, we are distracted by people looking up and marvelling at the rain clouds; it seemed a shame not to indulge in that pastime for a while. Needless to say the Hindi textbooks remained untouched during break.

1pm: On my way back home in the bus, whose windows have been shut due to heavy rain. The test turned out to be bad as predicted, but I’d worry about the results later; I was too busy enjoying the weather, humming Gene Kelly’s Singin’ In The Rain, wishing I could dance around like him in the downpour with an umbrella.

4pm: The rain has abated. Nagging my mother to let me watch Channel 33 cartoons before I head downstairs to play. “I’ve studied a lot today,” I said, stretching the truth a teeny-weeny bit and effectively burying the memory of the recently concluded test as I tied the laces on my white canvas shoes (some trivia — a pair could be bought for anything between Dh10-15 in those days from Karama).

7pm: For the 1,345th time in the day, day-dreaming about how awesome it would be if exams didn’t exist while my mother keeps popping into the room to motivate me to study. So tempted to put on the radio and listen to songs.

9pm: Heavy rain. An excited friend calls me to ask if the school may be shut tomorrow. “I hope it isn’t,” I say, yawning. “I’d be bored at home.” (This was true. Except for the spectre of exams hovering above my head, I actually enjoyed school). As I pack my bag for the next day a random thought floats into my head — if it rains and the school ground fills up with water, we could sail paper boats in recess. Today you’d call that a ‘simple joy’. Back then, we just did stuff that made us happy, without over-analysing anything.

And so ends February 18, 1989. As a 13-year-old I had no Internet, no mobile phone and no cable TV. It wasn’t common for kids to hang out together until we were much older. So there were no mall visits either, except with our parents. Playing outdoors, reading books, watching limited TV programmes and listening to the radio made up our entertainment. Maybe I’m looking at 1989 through rose-tinted glasses, but it was a great time to be a kid in Dubai.

Enid is a fan of nostalgia, books and is on a quest to find the perfect cup of chai in Dubai.

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