There is even a word for it, petrichor. The scent emanating from the sun-beaten earth after it makes its first contact with the season’s rains. The western disturbances of wintry days may not be potent enough to fill the air with this scent, but they did succeed in evoking the memories of the special monsoon days of June that I used to spend at my maternal village. From 1997 to 2001 I used to spend at least 15 days of my summer vacation at my Naani’s place.
As soon as I discovered my folks enjoying their after-lunch siestas, I would step outside to hang out with the neighborhood kids. They were always fascinated with my urban accent. I also seemed to amuse them with my conversational skills in Khari-boli. It was during one of such daily outings in the vast, open, lush and idyllic rural surroundings that the clouds would suddenly dim the sunlight. It was as if they were preparing for a routine theatrical performance. It would start slowly. Gentle raindrops fell on the loose sand. And within minutes, after letting the petrichor fill up the air, the rain god would summon up more clouds for the eventual crescendo.
We would pick up wooden sticks and run around splashing rainwater in small pools that formed everywhere. We would pretend that there were fish in some of these ponds. We would watch with amazement as toads came out and sang their songs welcoming the monsoon. Though we always wondered if these songs were happy or sad. The seemingly depressing countenances of the toads would eventually convince some of us of the sad nature of these songs. We would saunter from one corner of the village to the other, sometimes increasing our speeds to whiz past the houses of some group members whose mothers weren’t too much in favor of letting their kids ruin the efforts that they had put in washing them and their clothes.
As years have passed by I seem to have cultivated that very fear of dirt whenever I step outside during rains. Getting drenched seems a nuisance now. All the focus shifts on keeping the wallet and the phone from getting wet. Umbrellas, which seemed so burdensome that I was happy to forget them at home on my way to school, are no longer uncool now. Hurrying automobiles on the streets seem to have robbed the after-shower street walks of their romanticism. Things have indeed changed now, though I can’t pinpoint what has changed more, that which is on the outside or that what is inside.