‘Hujan-hujanan’ is our Indonesian word for playing in the rain.

I loved playing in the rain when I was a child. Rain always felt good, especially when the season had just started, after the long months of steamy and hot dry season — which lasted approximately half of the year. That’s six months, more or less. Four of which could be very dry.

I was not unlike any other children in the village:

At the behest of the rain, we’d run to the yard and on to the streets, shouting and dancing, never minding of the drenching wet. The water pouring down from the sky was just pure joy. In just a few moments, we’d take off our clothes — to the point of being completely naked sometimes. We’d kick water from the muddy streams forming on the village roads and splash the water in all directions. Passing adults, who’d try hard to avoid the wet — under the umbrella, the rain coat, or a banana leaf — would be our victims. Some of them would get angry. Some would simply smile, or laugh, and moved on.

We’d make boats from leaves and sail them on the stream, or dam the stream with bricks, stones, debris, and mud. Our imagination would run wild. There were adventures only a child could imagine. We were on our own world — a small world that’s big, bigger even than this whole world that everybody else outside ours thought existed. We sailed down wild rivers and foamy rapids to our own oceans, and continents, and islands. We fought our own wars with the monsters, conquered them, and collected our fortunes, our treasures — which in the clouded eyes of the adults would just look like pebbles.

Our moms and dads would of course get worried. But we never did. It was simply inconceivable to us that a thing as pure as the rain water could get us sick. It was cold, of course. And after a while some of us would get shivering. Our skin turned wrinkled and pale, our lips turned bluish. But it was not sickness. It was joy. It was life as we knew it.

We’d get disappointed if the rain was too short, or too shy. We’d be disappointed if it abated, or just slightly showed a sign of it. It’s as if the energy that had moved our world, our dreams, was suddenly waning. We wanted it long and hard, so that we’d have more energy to explore our own world, our dreams.

Our parents would of course be relieved at the sight of us coming back home, drenched and shivering. They’d order us — or put us — on a warm ‘mandi’ (shower? bath?). They’d get us cleaned, worried that some evil germs had gotten into us and would make us sick. Our moms would hastily prepare hot sweet tea and urged us to drink. Then she’d serve some fried banana or hot steamed cassava to get our little bellies filled so that the evil winds would not get into our bodies and make us sick.

How long has it been since we all had that?

I haven’t. The last time I played in the rain like that was probably fifteen years ago. Fifteen! Yes, those long years of deprivation from the simple joy of playing in the rain.

I was an adult then. It was one hot steamy early October day, or September, if I remembered it correctly, when — suddenly — the sky turned dark and the water started to pour down, wetting the whole earth with its blessing. I ran out, like a child — a child that had been hiding underneath the adult skin –, and properly played like one. Some adults seeing this were frowning. But I did not care. At that moment I found myself again; I met — opened the doors — to that world of carefree joy I’d once had. And it was wonderful!


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