The shrill of the mobile punctuates the sublime calm of the weekend morning.
It’s a friend, the storm last evening has ravaged the mango trees in her backyard, leaving scores of green mangoes orphaned.
I am sending you some, she says.
But where am I ?
A kaleidoscope of visuals fleet across my mind as I stare listlessly at the horizon.
I am all of nine or ten, when a ear-splitting clap of thunder shakes me out of my post lunch slumber.
It’s dark outside. Night it seems has eclipsed the day. There’s an ominous lull. A throbbing stillness. No birdsong greets the ears. Not even a leaf flutters in the backyard.
What time of the day is it, I wonder.
A lash of lightning zigzags across the canvass of the dark sky.
Almost anticipating a deafening roar, I put my fingers to my ears. One… two… three… I count, petrified, as a peal of thunder reverberates across.
That’s Devraj Indra wielding his Vajra to slay the wicked demons, Grandma had assured, in her usual benign calmness, one such afternoon, when intimidated by the roars of thunder, I had taken refuge in her lap.
Lightning and thunder continue to hector an already tormented earth, a blinding flash of light followed almost religiously by a macabre rumble.
And then the storm hits. An unruly rambunctious force steadfast and firm in its resolve to decimate everything in its path.
Grandma’s battered aluminum bucket, standing by the well in the courtyard, is swept away mercilessly.
Didi hurries to the backyard to collect the clothes left to dry in the sun.
A blue tarpaulin sheet drifts away, liberated from her ties.
The tormented trees in the horizon genuflect to appease the irate storm gods.
The morning newspaper resting on the table flies around like a dervish possessed.
Grandma and Maa rush to shut the windows.
And then come the rains. Torrential. Violent.
I can see the horizon no longer.
The fury of the kalboisakhi continues unabated for an hour.
And then a blissful calm descends.
A pleasant cool, far removed from the sweltering heat of the morning.
Come over to the garden with me, Didi suggests, a lantern hanging from her elbow, once the rains have stopped.
Devastation all around.
Uprooted plants. Trampled flower beds. Destroyed fences. Our calf, visibly shaken, cowered in the corner of the shed. Didi pats her lovingly.
We walk to the mango trees.
Didi adjusts the wick of the lantern and flashes it around.
And its then that I see them – scores of green mangoes lying, forlorn and defeated, on the wet earth. Rendered homeless by the gale.
Didi and I start picking up the mangoes.
Let’s get a basket, she advises when our hands can carry no more.
And Grandma makes a delectable Aam Dal the next morning. The earthy dal, the crisp tart of green mangoes punctuated by the gur, is sublime.
Can I get another helping of the Aam Dal ? I ask.
Didi pours a ladle of the dal into the bowl.
I take a loud slurp from the bowl and then another.
Aam Dal. A mellifluous symphony of masoor dal and green mangoes. Panacea for the blistering heat. Soul food !!