A powerful storm ripped through Massachusetts tonight, bringing raging winds and ceaseless, sky-illuminating lightning as well as a short but torrential downpour. Watching it from the window of my home, I was vividly reminded of the sights, smells and sensations of summer monsoon storms in Calcutta and Bombay during my childhood. The cawing of the crows flying in circles as the wind picked up. The heavy smell of moist dust as the first drops fell. My sopping wet skirt clinging to my legs. My bare feet squeaking in my plastic chappals, or flip flops, then the cool, slippery sensation of walking wet-footed on tile floors. The whirring power-down of the ceiling fan during load shedding. The slight spray of raindrops on my skin as they broke down against the window screens. The splashing of cars sputtering through knee deep water in the street below. The horrid, probing feelers of a large cockroach emerging from the drain in the corner of the bathroom floor. The chatter of the household help, still referred to as “servants” then, in the hallway, seeking refuge from their usual retreat on the roof amid the drying laundry, makeshift charcoal fires and overturned buckets serving as seats. The clink of ice cubes in my father’s Johnny Walker and the conversation, Bengali with a smattering of English, of the adults as they sat around the living room chatting and crunching on pappadams waiting by candlelight for dinner to be served.
What a different world I inhabit now. As the same sky let loose its lightning and wind and rain this time, so many years later, so many thousands of miles away, I stood in a newly-built home, windows shut tight, my own children sleeping soundly downstairs, cool air blowing out onto my still bare feet through the vent in the floor, the dishwasher whirring downstairs, the lights steadily on, everything indoors dry and still and safe and quiet. I thought for a moment of opening the back door and stepping out onto the deck, letting the wind blow into the house. I didn’t. Instead, grateful to have those memories of storms past, I sat down at my computer, compelled to write.