by Dr. Madhav Prabhu
Strange as it may seem, this word has nothing to do with politics or thieves, it’s actually Greek meaning stone and fluid that flows through the veins of God. By now you may have understood it must be something Divine. Well it is, Petrichor is the fragrance that mother earth enthralls us with when her burning body is relieved of the heat by welcome showers of rain in peak summers. Just a drizzle is enough and the air is filled with a mild scent, geosmin they call it but to us, it is nothing less than the essence of life.
Well to most it is a smell, to some, it is a fragrance, but to the fortunate of us who have grown up in Belagavi, there are a lot of emotions and memories attached to it.
Petrichor is most during the pre-monsoon showers, mungaru male or walivacha paus we call it in the city. The showers were most famed in the Kannada movie Munguru Male, a romantic epic and true to its name the showers do evoke a strong romance.
But to me my memories with Petrichor are very different, I don’t mean to say I am not romantic but my memories are a little distant. For kids in Belagavi, this fragrance was always associated with exams or results. See exams started in March and results came in the second week of April, and this was also the time for the pre-monsoon showers.
Today with the cement concrete jungles we hardly have space for the heavenly union of the soil and the rain, we hardly get this fragrance, as soon as it rains, the gutters are full and all we get is the stench.
But let’s not go there, we have so many good memories. For us exams were calling when we were visited by the small whirlwinds that started coming on our playgrounds, we called them Parikshe che Ware(exam winds) or even the tornadoes of examination, for most average students these winds did create a lot of havoc as this was the time to start studying. It was only then that the studies got a little serious and we had to burn our night oil, literally actually because KEB( now HESCOM) then always did load shedding in the same season. The load shedding or power cuts were done at mostly at night time which was exactly the same time as the studies would start, this complimented by the absence of generators and inverters was a nightmare.
We did, however, manage to study and pass in flying colors. The problem was we studied only during exams and the rest of the academic year was spent in learning useful things like climbing trees, playing games, fishing, loitering and much more. The missing link here is the pre Monsoon showers, see these showers were the reasons for unscheduled power cuts, this was like having a thirteenth month in a drought. So apart from the routine power cuts, there were shower related power cuts, sometimes the lights would go out for no reasons and sometimes because the lines were cut by overexcited trees which fell on them. And so when there were no lights and there was plenty of studies all we did was lie down and experience the Petrichor.
But all was not lost and exams would soon be over and there would be hope to the kids who had to be rehabilitated from the torture of exams, those days schools were allowed to fail children and not merely push them to the next level. But then exams were soon over and there were two months of real-life academic performance to deliver.
The first ten days were tense as results had to arrive. Results were not for self but for the parents and their friends and the many aunties that made up the social media then. Postman back then had extreme importance, there was no phone, no email, just the khaki-clad “God till Tenth April ” called the postman. Tenth April because on that day the result sheet would be delivered home, after which the postman was a no entity. While the results came there was a lot happening around. It used to be hot and humid, not as blazing as today, Belagavi back then was cooler.
But then there were so many relieving factors. It was the season when the deciduous trees would shed their leaves and bring out new foliage as if to welcome the results of the exam. There we mango trees and there was a lot to do with raw mangoes. We could pickle the raw mangoes, we could make chuttnies and not be left we could have the pannha.
The pannha was the elixir of life in summer, back then there was no Coke or Fanta, there was Gold Spot, Thumbs Up and Duke, all these were out of reach for most and not fashionable. Pannha was the organic, chemical free, pesticide free drink invented by some Konkani chap who had plenty of raw mangoes and did not know what to do with it. Pannha went excellently with the dal chatni which was perfected by the grandmoms of those times. In fact, pannha was so popular that women back then had kitty parties called Chaitratla Haldikumkum just to savor this drink.
In fact, mangoes were not the only fruits available we had Karwanda, Dhamne, Charolya, and many more, I bet half the kids today don’t know what these fruits look like. The season would only end with the entry of Jambhul which had even more demand for the purple hue it gave to our tongues.
You are wondering what all this has to do with Petrichor right, hmmm, well mangoes for all this were rarely plucked from trees, what would happen is that there would be these pre-monsoon showers which would come with some heavy breeze and this would lead to mangoes falling off the trees, it was this fallen crop that was used for pannha and chutney, no mango was allowed to be wasted then. At the time when children went around collecting these fallen mangoes, they were encouraged my mother earth with the fragrance of Petrichor.
There were several games that we played back then, chappi was a girls game, lagori, hide and seek were unisex and Gilli danda was male. Hockey and cricket were for the older kids and they played separately on big grounds where you find apartments today. But the most exciting this was to get wet in the first rain.
Getting wet in the first rain was a ritual, everyone indulged, it was the most favorite day of the year and even parents never objected to this. You could have some sardi khasi for the days to follow but no one ever cared, all we did was get wet and collect the hailstones(gaara), there used to be a competition as to who would collect maximum gaara and eat them too. While children were busy playing they always had the essence of the earth the Petrichor.
Such were those days that even today when it rains and when there is Petrichor in the air it brings back all those sweet memories. I wish our childhood was like forever. At times I wonder if those days were better and if what we are missing today is just a product of what we decided to do away voluntarily from our lives.