Scene from a speeding train window

In Anticipation of Petrichor

pet•ri•chor /’pe , trikor’/
n. 1. the smell of dust after rain
2. a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies
the first rain after a long period of
warm, dry weather

Rain is happiness, rain is melancholy, rain is nostalgia. For Indians, it’s more than just these; it is a part of life, it is a part of the larger cultural fabric of India, insomuch that fine art, classical music and folk dance zealously celebrate it with imaginative, vibrant themes. Be it a drizzle, or a torrential downpour, India’s vistas are transformed into hues of green and blue waiting to be sought out. Like a serenade wafting through the air, the monsoon season breaks the fevered Indian heat spell across the country. It brings with it a delightful prism of responses from the young and old, believing and non-believing, wandering and staying. This rainy season we imagine how petrichor is perceived by people of different backgrounds from across the geographical palette of India.

Earthen Lamps, Diyas
"The land is awash by the torrents of rain that the gods bring about with mighty bolts of lightning and colossal chariots of cloud. The dry, parched land has long awaited the gentleness of touch and the wafting cold winds that the rains bring."

The earliest scriptures of the Hindu faith extol the gods of nature, and the king of the gods, Indra, the lord of the heavens, the God of Thunder. Armed with a bolt of lightning called the Vajrayudha, he commands the skies. He marches across every year and brings the much-awaited respite from the scorching heat of the Indian summer. With the first showers, priests in temples light lamps or diyas and ring bells to announce the beginning of the monsoons in India.

Kaale megha, kaale megha, paani toh barsaao, bijuri ki talwar nahin boondon ke baan chalaao…"
"O Dark Cloud! O Dark Cloud! Shower upon us your grace, No more of the thunder's roar, But shower on us the arrows of rain…"
- Song Ghanan, Ghanan from the Bollywood movie Lagaan

As the farmers of India await the rains of the season with pregnant hopes of a bountiful harvest, they sing and dance. The mood of the farmers during the monsoons is aptly captured by these lines from the song Ghanan, Ghanan composed by the Oscar-winning maestro, A. R. Rahman. One can chase sights of endless green fields and fragrant wet fertile earth.

A monsoon sky, India
A paper boat in rippling water
" You say you love the rain, but you open your umbrella when it rains"
– A Turkish Song

While the thought of rain brings to our minds pleasant scenes and memories, for city dwellers, it conjures up images of being stuck in traffic, being late to work and musty smelling commutes. The streets fill with puddles after the slightest of drizzles and make the experience an unpleasant one. But it all changes with a sip of the hot masala chai and a bite of spicy pakoras. Standing by that roadside tea stall, you let out a heavenly sigh.

“Rain! Whose soft architectural hands have power to cut stones, and chisel to shapes of grandeur, the very mountains.”- Henry Ward Beecher

As the mountains bathe in the first spells of rain, visitors from the cities head straight into their embrace. The slow caressing streams in the valleys turn into gushing cascades, the rugged hillside turns green with grass and wildlife emerges. The people of the hills prepare for the monsoons by tilling terrace farms, waiting for gathering clouds to show their might. Small makeshift dams made of mud collect the rainwater and take them to barren fields that soon hint at tiny saplings.

A cabin in the hills, South India
Monsoon landscapes

"I am enamored with desert dew because it's usually the closest thing we get to rain."
- Linda Solegato

In the shadows of the mountains that stand majestically and stall the marching clouds, lie valleys and expanses that yearn for the nourishing drops of rain. Desert regions, both cold and hot, are not completely lifeless – their inhabitants survive despite the arid conditions and find solace in oases and the occasional pond. The desolate landscape holds some very promising secrets of life. The indescribable beauty of it all must be seen to be experienced.

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