Like a prodding finger that snaps a doze, some aromas sharply awaken memories that have gone into a stupor with the gentle massage of time. Recently I experienced such a nostalgic journey when the first drops of Monsoon rains hit the summer scorched earth of my garden in Bangalore and the previously parched air became redolent with the astringent but soothing scent of fresh moisture.
Instantly, like one of those flashbacks seen in films, my mind careened back in time to the Monsoons of Jaipur in the Fifties. The month of Sawan is a very joyously awaited period in the desert kingdom. Only those who have endured the remorseless whiplashes of heat from a merciless Sun and the scalding warmth of the Loo (the summer wind of the region) for an apparently endless three summer months can understand the anticipatory anxiety of the advent of Monsoon. The first to pick up the change in the moisture of the air were the peacocks and koels (there were plenty of them in those days) whose cacophony of calls heralding the arrival of Indira’s army resounded off the hills towering over the city.
Soon the Loo beat a hasty retreat from the aggressive incursion of a cool breeze that made the leaves in the trees shiver in anticipatory delight. Then they made their appearance over the horizon — Indira’s hordes, darkening the sky with their cumulous black robes and showing off their might in a sound and light show of thunder and lightning. The thirsty Earth hissed in appreciation as the first drops of watery solace descended on it and a light aroma of steam tickled our noses.
Delirious with the deliverance from the heat, the peacocks in our garden perked up their drooping heads, fluffed out their long tails in a giant arch to show off their brilliant hues and danced a delicate two-step with abandon. All this, of course, to impress the harem of dowdy females who looked on in silent admiration.
While the adult humans who were caught out on the streets dashed for dry sanctuary to the steps of the nearest shop or below a broad tree, the children just danced like dervishes in the open enjoying the downpour to the hilt. Or else they would be busy chasing paper boats placed on the streams of rainwater paralleling the pavements.
Yet another Monsoon memory of Jaipur flashes before the mind — of young girls perched on hemp rope swings tied to stout branches of large peepul trees soaring like fairies in the air, their dupattas flying behind like wings, their shrieks of delight following their pendulum motions. Some of those swings could be pretty high and it required a stout heart to ride them on high arcs but that did not faze the girls at all who just pumped away to reach greater and greater heights. Monsoon madness? Maybe. That’s what the rains do to desert folk.