Monsoon by
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(133 Stories)

Prompted By Rainy Days

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Monsoons are more than just rainy days.  They are the wet season, the dry season’s counterpoint.  The rains are intense downpours, not drizzly affairs, and they sweep in ferociously. They are the annual water renewal that makes life possible.  Of course, that is changing along with the rest of the climate, but still.

The small commercial plane carrying me, my two sisters and my parents pitched and rolled through the monsoon clouds on its way to a bumpy touch down in Dacca (now Dhaka) in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) in 1962.  Below us were glimpses of the saturated great green delta, so prone to flood and cyclone.  After a disorienting drive through humid gray streets, we arrived at our temporary house and wondered what the future held.

There was air conditioning.  The house had some servants assigned to it, dressed in loose white cotton.  Michael the cook served us rice pudding for dessert and he had a pet Alsatian dog with small puppies we couldn’t play with. My sisters sneaked sips of purloined crème de menthe from a preceding plane flight while my parents had their grownup discussion in another room.  I would later hear my mother summarize this as, “what god-forsaken place have you brought us to?”

That first impression was hardly improved when we awoke the following morning to find our house essentially an island in a dull watery lake.   The tanks (manmade water catchment ponds) had overflowed, the road runoff had overwhelmed the ditches on the side which served as open sewers, and we were going nowhere until the waters receded.  Michael and the rest of the crew were nonetheless unfazed, and we were soon visited by the cheerful and chaotic family across the street, the one we were replacing with our two-year posting. Welcome!

The monsoon season passed and the land dried up. Our new life developed its routine. We moved to a new house, the kids started school, met new people, got to know the city better. We ate dry season vegetables of pumpkin and okra. It was still hot.  Always humid and hot.

One sweltering day, I walked a few blocks over to visit my friend Pam..  She was blond and freckled, energetic, a year behind me in school and cursed with an obnoxious younger brother named Larry.  Her parents weren’t home.  She showed me how to make burnt-sugar candy in a frying pan, maybe a little too burnt, maybe sticking to the pan too much.  Uh oh.  To get out of the heat of the kitchen, she led us up the stairs to the flat roof for a bit of breeze.

Red-faced and overheated, I stepped outside and turned towards a quickening wind with an unexpected freshness.   The clouds had become very dark and we felt the weather turn.  And then it came, the astonishing wall of water, heavy drops sweeping across the roof, starting at one edge and swiftly advancing in a distinct line, a knife-edge front.  It raced forward and then washed over us, quenching our heat, giving relief, making us giddy.

Hooray, the rains are back!

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry


Characterizations: right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Thanx again Khati for another glimpse into your peripatetic life.

    Your parents’ work certainly gave you a childhood full of travel and life experiences that has certainly fed your rich sensibilities!

  2. Khati: I loved being invited on this trip. Your description brought home (down?) the feelings of heat and rain, and of living in East Pakistan. Your trips always sound adventurous.

  3. Jim Willis says:

    Khati,
    What an adventure you had in Dacca, and those monsoons bring back a couple bad memories for me. I’m sure the folks on Maui were wishing for one this past week, though. Oddly enough, our first year in Southern California — the region of year-round sun — produced weather approaching monsoon levels. It was the most rain the LA area had seen in many, many years and went on for about six weeks. All I kept thinking about was keeping it out of the house as the Mamas and Papas song, “It Never Rains in Southern California” kept playing in my head.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Hearts out to Maui! We’re all in for more bumpy rides I’m afraid. Even though we expect climate (or used to), we get weather. I moved to Seattle years ago expecting endless rain and got sunny days (a drought year). FYI the Mamas and Papas reference sure rang true, California Dreaming etc, but I looked it up and that was Albert Hammond (one hit wonder?). But the song is still spot on.

  4. Great and memorable line overheard from your mother, about the “god-forsaken place!” And then the reversal at the end, when the rains came in, so welcome, to wash out the heat. A story full of palpable sensory elements!

  5. pattyv says:

    Khati, I actually felt the heat while reading this. And the immense relief of that “wall of water” raining down on me. You have such a distinctive style to your writing. You take me on so many adventures I would have never had. Thank you for that.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Thanks Patty, it was a very visceral experience, and astonishing to see that curtain of rain start at one side of the roof and sweep over us. And of course memorable! I have since experienced squalls that suddenly come through, but haven’t been a young girl in the heat allowing the rain to wash over me again.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Your descriptions of the monsoons and your life in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) are wonderful. I could feel that rain the hit you on the rooftop, washing away your mischief and the heat.

  7. Betsy Pfau says:

    Khati, as others have already expressed, your descriptions are so vivid that we could feel the heat and felt the relief that the monsoons brought. Your description of “wall of water” and “knife’s-edge front” are wonderful!

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