I live in a desert country. It rains here once in a blue moon, and literally, that means maybe two days in a year. This morning I woke up to the smell of rain stirring up the sun-baked Earth. I looked out of my window, and my plants looked a bit washed off their usual layers of settled dust. The roads were sprayed with rain, and my cat sat in my portico, watching a few drops falling lightly.
Rain in the desert is a completely different experience to anyone who has lived in parts of the South-West Monsoon belt before. Where I grew up, rain is expected, foreboding, and can pour relentlessly for hours and days together, disrupting regular life. Rain can become a calamity, causing choked cities to fill, overflow, and shift shape. Rain can be a fine line between a bountiful harvest and a destroyed crop. Rain meant squelch, slush, different types of flu, and long hours in the company of unforgiving mosquitos without electricity.
Here, rain is different. It's almost out of character from what I had known rain to be. It is softer, sometimes silent, and mostly unexpected. It is so unexpected that the Earth can hardly soak it in. Even a little rain can flood or stand as a thin veneer on parched soil. It is almost like the Earth is perplexed and cannot decide if it wanted any rain it all. In the four years I have lived in the desert, only once has rain been torrential. Even then, for a very short time. The rain here is stirring but not stifling.
Pondering on, I got out of bed and went to join my cat on the portico. We took a little walk in the drizzle. We arrived at the street’s end overlooking the campus mosque to see a lazy rainbow stretched across the sky — so content in its temporary existence. Even as grey clouds gathered as a backdrop to the mosque, the other side saw rays of sun shining through.
We stood there, admiring the rainbow. As I walked back home, I thought of how grateful I am for every drop of rain in the desert when I disliked it back home for the havoc it caused. And, I was even more grateful for the rainbow in my desert sky reminding me of a favorite poem,
“My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.” — William Wordsworth