The Paper Boat


Author – Aditi Bose

Paper Boat Nostalgia
Image – Flickr / John Morgan

Scientists may say that petrichor, or the pleasant smell when rain falls on dry earth, is caused due to a double chemical reaction – one comes from the oils that plants secrete during the dry spells which is released into the air when the rain falls and the second is the smell of the chemicals, actinomycetes, that’s released by the soil dwelling bacteria. But for me? Petrichor holds all the memories of childhood that’s entwined with the rains.

Born and brought up in Calcutta (Yes it was called that back then as no one had come up with the ‘sheer brilliance’ of Kolkata yet), I experienced a lot of rain. And a part of me used to look forward to the dark clouds gathering in the sky for they brought with them rainy days at school, khichdi at home and the day-long affair of creating paper boats.
I particularly remember one incident. It was, of course, much before romancing under umbrellas and walking hand in hand with my new crush-turned-boyfriend on rain drenched afternoons to the Park Street Metro Station, during college days at St. Xavier’s. And even then, my twenty something grown-up self didn’t stop having fun. I asked my Political Science professor to stop his class simply because it was raining outside and I wanted to go out and get wet. I think the extra guts came from the fact that he was a pretty handsome man.

Paper Boat Nostalgia
Image – Flickr / Domiriel

Would you believe it if I said that he actually agreed? Would you believe it if I said that my best friend and I actually rolled up our jeans and took off our shoes and walked out to the greenery to get wet? Would you believe it if I said that we set sail our shoes on the flooded waters right in the middle of a crowded Park Street road simply because we wanted to run and get it? Would you believe it if I said that we bought egg rolls for a paltry amount of Rs. 7, not caring much about its unhygienic mode of preparation, and gobbling it up in the most unladylike fashion as the rain soaked us through and through?Those were carefree days. Those were days when the heart was innocent and the mind fearless. Rewinding back a little more, I was reminiscing about the most fun rain incident that I had ever had as a child. It was when I was around eight years old.

My home in Calcutta is on a road that has always enjoyed itself getting flooded at the smallest of downpours. So, once, when the rain fell for a long time, the road overflowed and the water came right inside my home. Being the child that I was, it didn’t bother me that things had to be removed before the water flowed in even more. And I had no worries that the dirty water might cause infections. I was too caught up in racing paper boats with a neighbourhood friend; screaming with glee when her boat turned soggy and sank into the water before mine.

That’s when more excitement struck. A fish decided to swim into our house! There’s no way that I can put into words the excitement of the eight year old upon seeing that. What followed was a lot of splashing around as the fish swam from one room to the other. Finally it was caught. The cook wanted to prepare a delicacy of it for lunch but I stopped him. Instead, a big ‘handi’ was found and it was kept there safely. When the flood subsided, I took it to the Ganges and set it free.

Things have changed now. Calcutta has become Kolkata. I have shifted to Delhi. I’m no longer a kid – I’m the mother of a kid now. ‘Rainy-day’ holidays don’t exist anymore; schools demand attendance even when it rains. The kid hates khichdi – she’d rather have pizza. But there’s something that I won’t let go yet – the paper boat. She will learn the art of its creation. She will sail them too. And once again, I will relive my youth as I see them toss and turn in the muddy rainwater flooded roads.

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