It was a balmy Sunday afternoon at my local park.
The book I was reading sat across my chest and I was gazing into the nearly cloudless sky. My eyes were half-closed to try and avoid the brightness of the Australian afternoon sun, as I picked up my phone to have a peek at the weather forecast and check it for the week ahead.
Almost immediately, an intense surge of happiness flowed through my veins: “Rain all week,” it read. Then I felt guilty at this smug indulgence I derived from gazing at a weather app.
My ears pricked up and I listened in to the conversation of a group sitting on a picnic blanket not far from me: “Bloody hell, miserable weather for the next week.” Another sip of my pinot and a Cheshire Cat-like grin spread across my face. I felt no remorse for not sympathising with their feelings about the rain ahead.
For as long as I have lived, I’ve had to listen to messages about the positive effects of the sun. If the sun were a political party, such messages would be its propaganda: The importance of fresh air, sunshine, and how it breathes life into despair. On the radio, there is always endless chatter about the “reprieve” following a week of rain and talk of “horrid weather ahead,” to describe a wet weekend. Let’s face it, there’s a constant sense of doom when talking about grey clouds and rain. But for me, wet weather provides a sense of mental coherence.
A week of wetness is a pluviophile’s paradise.
My drive into work the following day was somewhat hindered. Crawling through the wet roads may have been quicker and more fun. Regardless, I was still happy with the weather for the week ahead. Most days, I struggled to write even three lines in my morning journal, however, on this day, the words had flowed to form six whole sentences. “Twice” by Ludovico Einaudi was on repeat through my car speakers. Every now and again, I would take a quick peek at the sunroof to ensure there was no inch of blue sky or sun. Raindrops belting the car sunroof sounded like popcorn and the clouds were shrouded with a blanket of grey, hiding the skies above.
I love the rain—the pitter-patter of raindrops on the roof, the smell of the wet air, and the sound of tyres on rainy streets. Sometimes, I will walk outside barefoot. The soles of my feet at one with the cold, damp ground, rain kissed, and shimmering. The weight of my body often quelling the soil beneath the now wet grass, making my toes waterlogged. Even the birds pay no heed, they are but there for the worms that come through the wet soil, for a breath of fresh air.
Yes, I know we live in an arid country known for its sands and expansive glimmering coastlines. Brilliant in the morning sun; ribbons of cliffs, jagged and folded going the distance. Beneath the edges of cliffs, sandy beaches stretch out to meet the waves. Along these coastlines, the sounds of crashing waves are the only sound one hears. The occasional cry of a seagull patrolling its sanctum. I like these too, but, I love grey skies and rain clouds.
Sitting at a window and watching the heavens open up are some of life’s greatest pleasures. The rain takes me back to my childhood days in Mumbai where I grew up. During the monsoons, I would awake to the smell of wet soil in the air. One smelt the dampness of the earth far before seeing or feeling a drop of rain. In the early hours of the morning, as my mind was processing the smells, my ears would hear a soothing sound, a melody akin to a lullaby. At times, the monsoon showers seemed chaotic, accompanied by a wind carrying drops in whirls one minute and sideways the next.
A child of the Mumbai monsoons, I remember my grandmother forcing me to go and play in the first rains of the season. “It is good for your skin and your soul, so get out there and don’t dare come back dry,” my grandmother would hark. This brought with it a sense of freedom, almost like the rain. Because rain comes, unknown to itself even. To some, it fulfils a need, and in others, it revives memories of their past. It relieves the soil of a thirst unquenched, and brings life to those in need of it. It transforms lives, yet remains unassertive about itself.
I never thought of rain so poetically when I was growing up, though as a teenager, I may have at times thought of myself as Gene Kelly, leaping with poise in puddles of water, as though there would never be another rain. At other times I was like Tim Robbins, holding my arms up as the heaven’s waters washed over my shirtless body. It generated a sense of freedom like no other, as I traversed the sewers of life.
Regardless of what I may have thought myself, there was a sense with every first rain that a new season was nigh. That sense of freedom and happiness hasn’t changed.
For me, the fragrance of petrichor that spreads when raindrops fall to the ground brings with them melancholy. The pensiveness, a robe that I cannot let go of on such days. Like memories of yesteryear that once was, but has made me who I am today, and of a future that may not come.
Mostly this overgarment of emotion clings to me, bringing a warmth that at times one desires—warmth that anchors the feet firmly in the now, providing a sense of soft joy within, which sometimes fails to find the surface.
I’m finally ready to change the song on my drive and use my fingers on the steering wheel to click over to the next track. “Petrichor—Ludovico Einaudi,” lights up on my display.