Saturday, June 11, 2005

Staring out windows

The rains are a week late, and the stock exchange index loses value. Meanwhile, it is muggy here. Muggier than on most days. There will be relief when it rains. Rains and snow force people to create warmth in a way summer can't. Love stories will be read, fritters will be had, stories will be written - not all by hand. The rains, like snow, are a physical indicator of passing time. Years will be recalled by what fell from the sky.

Warning: story ahead. In Dubai it hailed once. We were in class, attentive towards the dark sky outside, distracted only by the faint voice of a lecturing history teacher. Dark skies meant rain, and rain meant a flooded school, because when it rained in Dubai, it rained. And we would go home. Then water pattered against the windows and into open school corridors, not falling downwards but seemingly sideways, with the wind wheezing and squeezing through cracks under doors and narrow spaces. We walked towards the exits at angles, feet always a few steps behind the head, fighting a furious wind that raised sand and caked it on our faces.

It was satisfying, for a high-school boy's aim is straightforward: how do I get out of school? This was a means to an end. But then, as we boarded a bus, something else happened, which I had hoped would happen again sometime, but never expected to see. Ice fell from the sky. Dubai, a desert on Latitude 16.55 East 25.6 North, to the west of Oman, north-east of Saudi Arabia, in a part of the world where it barely drizzled in some years, Dubai finally had hail. We scattered, bags over heads, fingers pelted by ice, in gleeful panic towards buses revving up to get out of there. Along the journey we saw all the things we had heard happened during hail. Cobwebs spun across windscreens, dented cars, accidents, rainbow-streaked oil spills, and the world looking like an ice-factory explosion. The day passed in breathless descriptions of sights and sounds and mock fear and telephone calls to friends in various parts of the city - "It's going to hail here; I saw something fall, I swear!"

The next day, assignments were given: "What is hail?", "What is the greenhouse effect?", "Write a 500-word essay on pollution." Subdued students stared at skies, wondering when they'd see ice from the sky again.

Years later, a subdued adult stares out his window, wondering why why why the sky is so blue, and why it doesn't just rain.


Neha said...

I stumbled into your blog and fell into nostalgia. I remember such a storm in my Dubai days. The 'morning shift' bus was taking me home to lunch when the hail began. We forced a stop on the side of the road and watched with open mouths, dramatically flinchng at the loud thuds on the metal roof. Nowadays, in Canada, the hail seems muted and lifeless in comparison. Thanks for taking me back...

|| sbk || said...

WOW Bro! Didn't pay attention to detail when it actually happened.. I was just happy that school got cancelled :)

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