Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Kal-Boishekhi the summer storm.

A bout of short and sweet unseasonal rain in the afternoon, after a siesta on a stomach filled with a lunch of Mangsho-bhaat  on a midweek holiday. Heaven must be somewhat like this. The God is so kind to this lazy soul, I think. The pleasant surprises coalesced into a gift wrapped with the fragrance of petrichor and  the temporary relief from the heat and dust really lifts up the spirit.

As  I sit  by the window with a cup of steaming tea savouring the rainwashed surrounding below from my perch, I can also feel the coolness of a light wind entering inside. But strangely I am thinking about the thunderstorm,  or rather the absence of it.

Of my ten plus years of existence in Mumbai, I have missed the summer squalls. What we call the Kal-Boishekhi in Bengali. These thunderstorms occur during the summer months of April and May and hence the association with Boishakh, the first month of the calendar. Generally they happen after a scorching afternoon just before evenings and followed by heavy showers. People who have not experienced them will never understand how quickly nature can unleash its fury or appreciate the beauty of its terribleness. The main characteristics of a Kal-Boishekhi is the swift,  sudden intensity with the element of surprise always associated with it. In North India it is known as the Aandhee.

The weather along the coast of the Arabian sea, at least the northern part of it is much less dimensional compared to the Bay of Bengal. The near absence of storms  may be due to this reason That's why I  say one has to experience the Kal-Boishekhi to understand what it is. And preferably not in the city but in a rural setting.

The fury of nature and the calming effect thereafter can be c compared to the mythical Tandav of Lord Shiva in his Rudra manifestation. A real Kal Boishekhi does not only change the weather but can also change many lives in a very short span.

You think I am romanticizing the storm. Just ask the person who misses his train while going for a job interview. The lovers who get caught in a secluded place and have their first kiss on a dark wet evening. Or the widow  who loses her husband suddenly due to  a strike of lightning, from nowhere.

My childhood was spent with large family at a place called Karandih, in Jamshedpur but at the outskirts of the main township. Almost like Nazafgarh to Connaught Place, if you want a comparison. Four or five decades back it was more of a village with much less of the urban trappings. In front of our modest single stoeyed (then) house by the side of the road on the northern side  was a vast space of a barren stretch of Khash (Government) land. On a clear day we could actually see people, vehicles and houses almost two kilometers away over an expanse of eight to ten square kms, on a conservative estimate, if my memory serves me right. Now of course development and  Jharkhand has changed the landscape.

My vivid reminiscences of Kal-Boishekhi is shaped from my childhood experiences.  Some times I have been caught in this storm while coming home from school or while playing with friends on the field.  In the inocence of childhood, I used to run in an attempt to beat the storm before it reached our house   and was always so excited  about it. Then sometimes  I would run out with our pet dog to retrieve our  cow and her calf grazing in the fields.

Animals always had a better idea about the impending storm, I realised whenI was a child. They would be homewards and under a shelter much before the squalls hit. Be it the sparrows or the cows. And invariably before the storm, there was a rush by my mother and aunts to fetch the dry clothes and  pickle jars from outside. Then all the doors and windows were securely bolted. As explained earlier, our house had to bear a heavy brunt of the storm due to the vast open space  in  front of it.

Mostly these storms disrupted the electric supply. So it was dark inside. From a vantage point behind a pillar or a half open door we used to see the approaching storm with our heads covered by a scarf or gaamchha leaving only slits for the eyes. And after the storm subsided, there would be a shower accompanied by thunder and lightning . Sometimes there would be hailstones and we used to run to collect them inspite of warnings.

The best part for us the young ones was the evenings, when one by one the men folk would return ith their tales of the storm in the town and getting caught in it. And good old DVC was always there to support us by the discontinuance of electric supply. So minimal studies and participation in the evening adda of the adult family members around a lantern or  a kerosene lamp. Some ghost stories from an obliging uncle or an aunt. What a life it was.

Later in my life also I have witnessed these storms in varying degrees of turbulence and enjoyed them or got inconvenienced by them. But I  still miss the feeling of the ten year old boy running ahead of the approaching storm on a vast field against the backdrop of a darkening sky. Let that be the symbol of my life.

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