Sonder,  Visual Paraphernalia

Stories on the move, Chapter 5 – Nostalgic Naaz

Petrichor (/ˈpɛtrɪkɔːr/) is the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil. The word is constructed from Greek petra (πέτρα), meaning “stone”, and īchōr (ἰχώρ), the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.

as defined in Wikipedia

As we know, the world is experiencing record breaking heat wave. Temperatures have risen up to 48 degrees in some countries and according to some reports these places are “not fit for humans anymore”. Whatever that means right? People have been advised to stay indoors, drink as much water as possible, use sun screen when out and take all the necessary precautions in this unforgiving weather. Everyone around me is cursing the hot weather now, but no one likes to acknowledge that it is our own doing. Global warming is the most immediate and real threat that human kind is facing at this moment and unfortunately not much is being done to control it or even slow it down, the time for prevention is long gone. Why do I say this, you ask? Only a month back we saw torrential rains in Hungary and in some parts it even snowed. In the month of May! Ironically these same people (including me) were cursing the rain gods at that time. So for those who say Global Warming isn’t real or is the stuff from Science fiction novels, I want to see what you are smoking in the back seat of your car buddy!

So, it was just one of those days. The morning was pleasant with not a single cloud in sight. Me and a good friend of mine decided that we would take advantage of the shining sun and go for a walk along the Danube. We walked and talked, vented out our frustrations and various degrees of disappointment with mankind, when suddenly an ominous shadow fell upon us. We ignored it and kept up with our tête-à-tête. It was still sunny when after nearly an hour into our walk we decided that its time to head back.

People were out and about with their dogs and children. Strolling along with us. Everyone.. minding their own business. But then everything changed alarmingly fast. That pesky little ominous shadow grew in size. The scent of approaching rain reached us a little too late and we knew we were in trouble, but didn’t know how big a trouble it was. You see, it started with a measly drizzle, which was accompanied by a terrifying thunderclap, as if the Gods of nature were cackling at us, “Bwahahaha! RUN! Run! Petty little humans! You better RUN and HIDE!” and then they decided to unleash their fury upon us. It rained so hard that in just a few minutes, the street corners were water logged and we were drenched head to toe, looking like drain rats.

My friend and I parted ways and I walked home. I was the only one who was doing the walking while others took shelter. I had to get back home fast to change from my wet clothes and go pick up my son from his school. As I was walking, I found that the clouds had parted a bit and a sliver of sun was peeking out. So, I looked at the sky (which is my spontaneous, almost reflexive reaction to rain) to feel the rain drops fall on my face. When I looked down, I saw another wild soul who was doing the exact same thing. We looked at each other, almost simultaneously, locked eyes and burst out laughing! We obviously recognized the crazy in one another. We passed each other, walking towards our respective destinations, but this experience remained with me. How strange that we make such deep instant connections with absolute strangers, yet are unable to realize any at all with the people we are supposed to be close to.

I dedicate this story to a fellow wanderer and rain lover. Whoever you were, I saw you. 🙂

Naaz. She was told that her name meant “Pride”. Her father loved telling the story of her birth. Ever since she was little. While getting her ready for school in the morning. While feeding her dinner in the evening. Sometimes to scold her when she was being difficult. Sometimes to console her when she’s had an especially bad day at school. When she grew up, the frequency of how many times she heard that story dwindled. He would now only recount it to her when she had the time to hear him out. Sometimes at the dinner table. Or regaling her friends and family at school functions and birthdays. And always, when he was feeling overwhelmed. For her, by now, it was not an exceptional story. She thought that every parent must have done something of this sort to make their offspring feel special. Yet it stayed with her. The story of her birth. The reason why she was named ‘Naaz’.

As she started growing older she began to feel the typical pressure that every child feels coming from their parents. It was of course unintentional on her father’s part. But she always felt that she had to do justice to her name. She had to give her very best to everything that she did. To make her father proud.

So, she became the ideal student. Hard working, diligent, meticulous, disciplined. Excelling in all of her classes, all of her subjects. The languages and the sciences, mathematics and chess, debate and swimming and piano. Whatever she touched, she owned it. And her father was always beside her. No matter what. With a cup of coffee when she was pulling an all nighter, studying for the upcoming exams. Or keeping her company, while she practiced for her piano lessons, by watching a late night movie (on mute). Dropping her off at and picking her up from her swimming practice, no matter how busy his own schedule was.

During the entrance exam season, he would drive her to distant exam centers and proudly deliver her there as if she was a princess and he was her loyal charioteer. During college admissions season, he accompanied her to all the colleges where she wanted to apply, even though she could’ve easily gone with her friends from school. He would never pay attention to any of the bickering from their numerous relatives who would do their best to bring their spirits down. Asking him to marry her off or it would be too late for her. He was her pillar, her steady calm rock.

Yet when she got admitted into a reputable Music and Arts program at Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music and Arts in Budapest she was nervous to tell her father about it. She had chosen to study Physics, she was going to do her research and earn her doctorate from University of Delhi. How would music add up in her plans? But it was just a one year program. And she got in because she was a naturally gifted musician. And she desperately wanted to go. It was her one chance to go out and explore life beyond the city she grew up in. So, she figured out how to put her studies on hold for a year and all the logistics about how she would support herself when she was in a foreign country. She approached her father only when she had all the answers. But apparently she had no reason to be so anxious. On hearing the news her father felt nothing but immense pride, and she was yet again reminded how her father has only ever encouraged her to follow her dreams. He sent her off with all his love and blessings. Held down his own tears while wiping hers. This was the first time they were separating since she was born.

The first month in Budapest was proving to be more difficult for Naaz than she thought. She had seen everything there was to see in this cozy little city. She visited all the major monuments in the first week. She walked for hours, observed the city from the Fishermen’s Bastion, climbed up to the Liberty Statue on top of the Gellert Hill, sat at one of the many benches in the parliament square and watched as the world passed her by. She had arrived a month early, the planner that she is, she needed time to settle down, figure out her housing and the city which she found to be utterly charming. Now that she had done all that there was to be done she was feeling lonely. It would take another couple of weeks for the other students in the program to arrive. Plus she had eaten through all of the 36 packets of Maggi instant noodles that her father had crammed into her suitcase. That and the unusually incessant rainy season in Budapest had left her feeling homesick.

She was at a cafe near the Szent Istvan Bazilika when it started raining yet again. “It was just sunny outside! I didn’t even bring my umbrella along this time!”, Naaz thought. Stuck inside the cafe she felt hopelessly homesick. The sense of nostalgia was so strong that in the midst of the sharp petrichor emanating from the dry earth outside she could almost catch a whiff of the scent of fried potato fritters and tea (She was obviously hallucinating!). As for her, rains back home always meant being pampered by her father with fried delicacies like fritters and samosas. She missed her father painfully in that moment. She called him and on sensing that she was upset he once more launched into the story of how she was born.

“Naaz… Your mother and I had tried to have a baby for a long time before she finally conceived you. She was quite old almost 40, when we found out that she was pregnant. Early into the pregnancy we also came to know that your mother was sick. But the rebel that she was, she did the unthinkable and decided to carry you full term. Well, you being a rebel yourself, were determined to come into this world at your own time. She gave birth to you only at 27 weeks. You a were tiny, pink bundle, as heavy as a cotton roll. Yet she fed you, doted on you, made you healthy. She named you Naaz. Because she was proud of you for sticking along for those difficult 27 weeks. For pulling through afterwards even though you were born prematurely. And because she knew you were exactly like her. Tenacious, Rebellious and a deviant. She left us only a couple of months after your birth, but made me promise that I will stand by you no matter what, against all odds. She was such a stubborn soul. She left only after she was assured that you and I had each other and that we were going to be okay. And we have been okay! All these years. We have been through thick and thin together. So my darling girl, do not feel lonely, I am right there with you. In fact, I am frying your favorite potato fritters right this moment as we speak.”

They had a hearty laugh at that. And just like that he was able to lift her spirits up. She thanked him and felt gratitude for everything she had. When she peeked outside she saw a glimmer of sunshine among the thick black clouds. She had always thought that sun shining through rain was some kind of a miracle. She put on her jacket and stepped outside. She was one of the very few people who were walking in the rain. She looked up, closed her eyes, like she always did when it rained, to feel the fat drops falling on her face. Felt a small smile curving her lips. When she was done with her ritual of feeling the rain drops, she looked down. She saw another woman, drenched from head to toe, who was doing the exact same thing. This woman was not even wearing a jacket (seriously how can people be so stupid!). As soon as, Naaz locked eyes with this woman, and they both burst out laughing. They laughed and laughed, as they passed each other. Naaz was still grinning like a loon when she reached her dormitory. Because her father was right. She had no reason to feel lonely.

I do not know if she was Naaz. But she was someone I shared this moment with. It might seem insignificant to many but for me it was momentous. Because it was completely spontaneous and we didn’t even stop to say “Hi” to each other. It proved to me, even now in this big bad cynical world there are people who are free and guileless. So, I am thankful that I came across her that day. I hope she is doing well, wherever she is.


  • Ravinder Ka

    We are also experiencing the constant drizzle.😀
    Like to share some fritters.beautifully captured the essence of rain and your experience of it.
    love you.God bless you

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