School and the monsoon
Always began together.
You never remember
The smell of a classroom after it’s rained all night
As well as you do
The smell when you splash home through puddles,
Spots of mud on your shoes:
The smell they tell you is called petrichor.
You sit by the window with homework and hot pakodas.
Water drips off bushes.
Frogs croak like creaking gates.
In flashes of lightning the blossoms fall,
Jasmine and frangipani and kadambari and bougainvillea
In a pale carpet
That will turn brown and feed the grass
And it will be green tomorrow.
It’s a different smell.
The scent of the blossoms
And the earth
And the frying pakodas,
The ink and the new brown covers of your school books.
The seasons change and the clouds give way.
Is there anything as pitiless as the blue sky?
Blue sky that stretches on unending through time and space
In fourteen dimensions.
School ends on a summer day.
The monsoon comes in June,
Casting its darkness over the sky.
You don’t revel in the puddles.
You don’t look up at the clouds.
You open your umbrella and worry about the wind
And drink herbal tea and check your phone.
Sometimes you ask yourself what’s altered,
Why your dreams have withered like the carpet of flowers.
It’s the stress,
Nine to five and nine to five and nine to five
Day after day.
It’s because the dry dust smell of summer
Hasn’t been drowned in the rain.
The cuckoo never comes calling,
The blossoms fall unseen,
Like the rain unseen.
Now it’s a nuisance,
Not wet earth and jasmine and hot pakodas and new paper.
That’s what you remember,
When you remember.
When you remember
Sometimes you can smell it still,
It’s the smell of dreams and lazy afternoons,
The smell of eternity
As though when the universe is dust
Or reduced to a single speck in a sea of nothing
You’ll still know it.
The smell of home.