Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Summer (the season) (07/09/09)
- TITLE: Monsoon's Arrival
By Seema Bagai
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Each morning, we awoke to screeching peacocks, their mating cries signaling the forthcoming monsoons. Cumulous clouds would collect, taunt us with threats of rain, and then dissipate like steam rising from overheated asphalt.
Everywhere we went, weather was discussed. “The monsoons are late this year.” “I never remember it not raining in June.” “This is bad for the farmers.” The nightly news carried stories of flooded southern villages, but rain had not arrived in India’s parched, northwest breadbasket.
In oppressive heat, we departed on the final leg of our journey. Normally, life in India moves at a leisurely pace. “No hurry. No worry,” is probably the unofficial slogan. The triple digit temperatures and suffocating humidity slowed life significantly. Traffic was light and our driver was a lead foot. Delhi by dusk.
The easternmost edge of the horizon appeared murky as we sped down National Highway 1. Cows napped on the side of the road, some obstructing traffic. Trees lining the highway drooped from thirst, while wheat and rice farmers trudged through parched fields, one eye riveted upward in anticipation of rain.
The radio droned a continuous melody of rain-related Bollywood tunes, as if lyrics reverberating through the airwaves could produce precipitation. The kids counted the passing trucks and the moms reminisced about monsoon snacks. At a service station, everyone clambered for cold cans of soda and more weather discussion. We could feel faint stirrings of coolness pushing away the heat.
Around two-thirds into the trip, darkness appeared overhead. Gigantic globs of rain pelted the van. The sound was joyous. The pattering of water against the van and the swishing of the windshield wipers brought relief, knowing the outside temperature had dropped at least 20 degrees. After several minutes, the dust had melted from the windows and I could see an occasional flash of lightning in the distance followed by rumbles of thunder.
As we drove past a village, clusters of people had gathered outdoors, many arms outstretched to soak in the showers. Some children ran in circles throwing mud at each other. A few of the women danced in a circle, their colorful tunics enhancing the jubilation of the arrival of the monsoons.
“Thanks be for the rain,” Aunty said as she dabbed her sweaty face with her scarf. “Now it will cool down.”
“But then the mosquitoes come,” Rohit announced. I cringed, remembering the infected bite I received on a previous trip. My forearm had swollen up like a balloon.
“And then there will be mud everywhere,” Mom added from the back seat. “Remember, Kirti, on one trip when you wore your new shoes when we went shopping? By the time we got to the hotel, they were filthy.” Kirti rolled her eyes and I chuckled.
Unexpectedly, the van shook and swerved violently. The trees, which earlier had been swaying, now were bending precariously in every direction. The driver gripped the steering wheel as traffic around us slowed to a crawl. The rain fell much harder, making it impossible to see out the window. Many cars had pulled off the highway, which I thought was an excellent idea. We kept going, though.
The wind pounded the van and I wondered if this was what a hurricane felt like. More than once, I thought the vehicle would tip over when buffeted by a strong gust. On the other side of the highway, a gigantic tree had collapsed onto a car, crushing it like an empty soda can. Though my heart fell into my abdomen, I forced myself to breathe evenly and focus on God’s promise of protection for safe travels.
Then just as abruptly as the rain began, it ceased. The clouds lingered, threatening to deluge us again, but we arrived safely back in Delhi to the peacocks heralding the start of monsoon season. Inside we celebrated with monsoon foods, crisp vegetable pakoras (fritters) and puras (savory pancakes), the same things Mom often cooked at home when it rained. I hoped I’d packed enough mosquito repellant to avoid becoming their lunch.
We hoped it would stay cool so we could finish shopping before flying home. Before falling asleep, as rain pelted outside, I opened my journal to narrate the road trip before the memories washed away.
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