WITH my eyes half open after an extended afternoon nap, I look above to see the slow, monotonous winding of the ceiling fan, the tedious humming of the air-conditioner, and stretch slothfully as a crackle of thunder jolts me out of bed.
I hear my parents croon to Shammi Kapoor’s hit number, ‘Tumne mujhe dekha…’ I push the curtains aside and the pleasures of pre-monsoon showers beckon. My guava tree is dancing in ecstasy, the young lemon tree looks happy and the gulmohar is content.
I can smell the dusty clamminess outside fade away, giving rise to the delicate smell of gentle earth as the rain catches vigour. I open my bedroom window to be greeted by a warm monsoon raindrop spray on my face, a breeze that brings the room alive and an aroma rising from the kitchen — of crispy pakoras and sweet cardamom chai.
I am reminded of the time spent at my great-grandmother’s summer residence in the garrison town of Dagshai. It was that time of the year again, when it was a houseful with all my aunts and uncles, their kids and pets, flocking to Dagshai.
The gentle fragrance of rain, thunder and lightning is almost synonymous with that of vegetable pakoras and a fine brew of desi, extra-sweet cardamom tea. This is truly a match made in heaven. My grandmom’s chef, Kirpa Ram, KP, we called him fondly, from the good old ‘Burrah Saheb’ days, would dole out heaps of crispy golden pakoras with his extra-special mint and tomato chutney.
There was something special about the batter. A humble pakora that adorned thinly sliced potatoes, onion rings, aubergines and green chillies, was pure magic for our tongues. Dundee cake baked by my aunt was relished by one and all.
The pitter-patter of raindrops, the fragrance of wet earth and the cool monsoon breeze against your face is what makes this season special. The delicate, unforgettable scent of petrichor, the joy of evening walks once the showers take a break, the risqué pleasure of dancing in the rain, reading your favourite book while sitting in the verandah or the spirit of romantic numbers that didn't sound the same otherwise. Monsoons have their own indescribable joy, even if it comes with irritants like humidity, traffic snarls et al. But then, life is like that!
The freshness of the first pre-monsoon rain brings in tremendous relief to the sulking moods and rising anger. It washes away the accumulated stagnation and dirt, literally and metaphorically. The intoxicating fragrance of the wet earth is indeed liberating. I reckon India is all about waiting eagerly for the monsoon to come, and then waiting anxiously for the monsoon to go. We're a bunch of nasty hypocrites.
Chai and pakoras, anyone?
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