Petrichor And I: Welcoming The Monsoon At Lavale
I don’t remember my childhood.
Nothing except the smell of the monsoon rains, right before they lashed onto the veranda. I, the solitary crawler, both enchanted and perplexed by a sudden downpour, would rush indoors to the safety of my mother’s lap. Such memories are vague, rather loosely etched on my mind. But the smell of the rains, the Petrichor, is something I can never forget.
I suspect that the ravishingly beautiful Petrichor is hard-coded deep in our minds – passed across generations through an infinite chain of forefathers. Or maybe it is simply a gift from heaven. After all, that’s where the rains come from!
The heavens opened up during the second week of June this year. The parched foliage of Lavale was quick to lose its brownish tinge, and adopt the most spectacular hue of green. The much-awaited aroma of the rains was back. And suddenly, all my apprehensions about starting a new life away from home were washed away. No more fearful thoughts of the hectic days that lay ahead crossed my mind. The burden of high expectations slid down my shoulders and gave way to that familiar calm that accompanies the rains.
I felt alive, once again.
I cannot help but wonder – how the first homo sapien, the legendary Adam (or his Indian counterpart, Manu) must have reacted to the onset of rains. Did he enjoy it as much as I do? Did he dance with over-brimming joy? Did he cherish the feeling of getting wet, the cold water relinquishing the thirst of his dry skin? Or did the rains make him anxious? The smell of the rain acting as a beacon for some impending danger. I don’t know the answers, neither am I hopeful of ever finding them. [Unless I somehow stumble upon John Oldman from The Man from Earth].
The only answers I have, however, are the ones about my own reactions to my first monsoon at Lavale. The Lavale rains bring a sudden calm rushing down my nerves, almost making me stop doing other chores and observe the dance of the lustrous clouds. And this dance takes its own time to conclude, often lasting through silent evenings and through long cold nights. The monsoon, here at the hilltop, demands a change of habit amongst us, the students. The fans need to run at lower speeds during nights, and the blankets need to be brought out of cupboards – the summer habits are to be forgotten like all other seasons of the past – adaptability is our permanent companion.
But this is quite alright. For we will be in the shadows of the monsoon clouds and in the company of Petrichor – the smell of freshly drenched soil will be there to elevate our spirits (and boy, will we need it in the coming months!).
In case you are wondering, NO, I am not the only one. The entire college has long romanticised the rains, perhaps every SIBM batch since the past 30 years fell in love with the rains. And I blame Petrichor for this allurement. Kissed by the rains, the magical aroma gently rises from the earth and is imbibed by our nasal cavities. Once inside, it churns up its magic amongst our brain cells. Wizardry so powerful, it overwhelms our senses – though only for a brief moment.
Alexander Frater, in his legendary novel, Chasing the Monsoon, describes the first onset of monsoon as:
“Soaked to skin within seconds,
I felt a wonderful sense of flooding warmth and invigoration;
it was, indubitably, a little bit like being born again”
I second that!
It may be interesting to note – and this might not be unique to SIBM – how eagerly people await the arrival and the departure of monsoon. They wait for it throughout summers as it provides a much-needed respite from the daunting sun. Its departure, however, is even more awaited as the retreating monsoon coincides with one of the most important events of our first year at SIBM – the SIRP. The last few days of monsoon will mark the end of our constant struggles and it’ll be time for reaping hard earned rewards.
Petrichor is, thus, more than just a happy smell. It is a promise of abundance, a welcome chance of survival, and a hope that the merry days will be back again. Those days won’t be back, and I am aware of this fact. But it is difficult to dampen the spirits of a writer elated by the smell of his favourite season of the year. So, I’ll enjoy these tiny droplets of happiness while they last.