Rains and I go back a long way.
4-5 months in a given year is reserved for rains, in what was once my part of the world. And nothing makes me feel alive – with all its primitive, heady, gloriousness – like petrichor.
The very first showers of the monsoon in the subcontinent would show up at our doorsteps, often on the first day of school, every year.
And then, they would escort us to school.
All day long they drummed steadily on rooftops and strung glittering curtains outside the windows and their wayward droplets found the way in, sopping the long corridors.
In the damp, jam – packed school bus, heading back home, it was the thought of those delicious puddles, that the rain gods would have so generously filled, that sustained us.
Since good impressions had been made and managed for the day and even the stiff collars had drunk up all the moisture and gone limp, it was finally safe to bring the imp out. So we splashed every single luscious puddle that dotted the roads, and often went back and did it all over again. Once the imp had had its full, we opened the doors and went in.
Mild, relatively well-behaved and riding the tail of hot summers and summer holidays, this first instalment of rains or the South-west monsoon was a welcome refreshing presence.
But then came the other kind, from the North-east, with a beguiling moniker of – 4’O Clock rains. They hit the skies out of nowhere during the last quarter of the year.
I still remember the dread as we waited for the deafening thunder to follow chilling bolts of lightning. One after the other the pyrotechnics would go on, in the background of angry rains. Legs off the floor, mirrors covered, curtains drawn, the wait continued in semi-darkness, as the electricity would have gone on its own merry way for the night. Even amidst the bewilderment of a docile canvas that stretched from one of end our world to the other suddenly losing its cool and spitting fire and growling, there was the fiendish childhood fascination for all things monstrous.
Of course as one grows older, the magic does make way for a little, legitimate (one feels!) irritation.
For one, there is the real possibility of having to start, spend and end the day dripping wet. Now, add to that the complication of logistics, specifically the public transportation kind. It is like being a small sardine, in a tin of sardines, packed in brine and gently warmed up. In the interest of keeping it real, the stench should ideally be dialed back a notch or two, and also factor in that this particular bunch of sardines moved and shoved and shouted, unlike their usually droopy counterparts.
Laundry woes would be a close second. I have witnessed the panic wet laundry used to send my parents in, during monsoon, exactly half an hour before the school bus leaves. Suffice to say that one stubbornly damp pair of white canvas shoe, was once inadvertently burned on stove top, by a very well meaning and generally peace loving mother. Yes, white-canvas-shoes-during-rains!
A little older and one finally realises that rains can indeed hamper one’s ‘style’. Especially since the one style that had been adopted, involved strapping platforms to the soles of one’s feet and lugging them around. What in normal circumstances is a minor inconvenience that gives major vertical boost can soon become an intense and perilous introduction to stilt walking, through water and slippery roads. Besides, those monstrosities weighed a ton when wet.
These minor gripes apart, I have always looked forward to rains.
The air in Kerala is anyway different (not that any claims to objectivity would hold much water); anyway, I remember overnight train journeys, and knowing for sure even before opening my sleepy eyes that I have crossed over to Kerala, the air feels more filling, as though every gasp somehow has just a little more life in it. And the greens! The number of shades of green in that tiny state, itself would need more words than Eskimos have for snow. Rains give the landscape a good wash, so that the colours sparkle, and while at it, makes the air even more hearty.