Malini looked out at the courtyard from the grilled windows of her house. There were dark clouds in the sky, and they could burst open at any time. She saw her neighbours, sitting on their verandahs and balconies, waiting for the first drops to fall.
Some children were out in the open, playing with the wind and among themselves.
And suddenly, the skies opened and there started a heavy downpour. A trickle flowed down from Malini’s eyes too, as the smell of petrichor wafted into her nostrils.
Her six-year-old niece ran into her room. “Akka, Akka”. She always called her as elder sister (Akka) even though everyone around tried to correct her and make her call her “Attai” (aunt). Maybe because she was unmarried or because she was short and looked young, the girl had stuck to calling her “Akka”.
“Come out Akka.” She wiped her tears lest she see them. “Let’s play in the rain. The smell is so good.”
A scent she so loved. Tears started falling freely now. The scent today frightened her and brought up memories of an incident that she wished had never happened.
What could she tell the little thing? From the corner of her eye, she could see the girl’s mother watching them, creases of worry on her face.
The last monsoon, as the first drops of rain fell, she had started to hurry back from office. She had quickened her steps along the muddied lane from the bus stop to her house.
It was darker than what it usually is at 5:30 pm. The dark clouds looked menacing. But petrichor, it always ignited something inside her. After all, it doesn’t come with every rain. It’s just with the first ones.
She stopped for a minute to breathe in the smell. She felt the rain drench her and cleanse her, and took pleasure in the moment.
But, the moment was gone too soon. Snatched away forcibly. Hands grabbed her. She was lifted by strange people, and they went astray from her usual path, into the fields nearby.
Her hands and mouth were tied. Clothes torn and removed cruelly.
She didn’t know how long it went. Only the pain and the constant resistance of her body kept her conscious.
And when they left, she lay there on the Earth, soaked in the rainwater and her blood. Her nostrils could no longer feel the petrichor.
She wished it was all over. But no, she survived. An ordeal harder than death itself.
She closed herself out from the world. She lived a non-existent life for the next twelve months.
But petrichor was once again igniting the lost spark. She took her niece’s hand and went outside to the verandah. Her sister smiled encouragingly.
She may not dance in the rain today, but someday she will.
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