I witnessed it right from the start thanks to sleep deprivation. The fact that I have trouble falling asleep is no big secret, so when I could not sleep on Saturday night, it was no big deal. I did manage to sleep at 3 am only to be rudely woken up by what seemed like a ghoul screaming. It was five am. Startled at the sound, I woke up with a start, intimidated by that strange surreal sound which wrapped the air. It took me a few seconds to realise it was only the wind howling like a banshee in intense pain. Admittedly, I was slightly scared, and even though the beach is some eight kilometres away, it sounded like the waves had descended upon my house and were crashing on its walls from all sides. It seemed like the wind would probably blow my house away.
After a few minutes, the sound intensified, and now, it sounded like a group of banshees screaming in a creepy as hell tone. I felt a sinking feeling and all the noise gave me the goose bumps. But I knew we were living at a safe distance, but for the first time I thought about those who lived within the vicinity of where the cyclone makes landfall, and if I felt this strange depressing feeling then I could imagine the terror of those experiencing it right where it originates.
As the wind continued its eerie song, I got up from my bed and made way to the window to see what it was like outside. I could see the trees outside shaking in fear, stripped off most of their leaves. They stood like poorly dressed beggars fighting against the wrath of nature. I stretched my hands outside to feel the breeze, it was harsh, cold and heavy. There had been a power cut for a long time since the previous day, the cyclone alert had put the city on its toes and had plunged most of it in darkness. I could hear the doors in my house trembling against the force of the wind that was trying to barge its way inside. Some of the windows which were open were knocking themselves against their frames. I locked the windows that were open in my room.
While I was in awe of the crazy weather outside, my need for sleep was more compelling and I crawled back into my bed, drowned my face in my pillow, trying to lose myself in sweet slumber. I cuddled up in my blanket and grabbed hold of another pillow and put it over my head to dim the howling of the wind. Suddenly I heard something crash! And the sound scared me, it sounded like something really huge had crashed in the house. I immediately sprung up from my bed to see what had happened, hoping it was nothing serious. As I made my way to the hall, everything seemed to be in its place. I went closer to the windows in the hall and saw that our cashew nut tree that had overgrown into a giant and provided shade for cars in the summer had fallen to its death. And the tree had taken down a lot of electrical wires with it. Just a little ahead, I could see an electric pole too had collapsed. But I was relieved that the tree had fallen on the road and not on the house, saving us a lot of potential damage. Everybody in the house seemed to be sleeping soundly, slightly envious; I made my way to the bed again.
After some tossing and turning, I managed to fall asleep, or I thought so, but barely had half an hour passed that I heard the sound of something crashing again. Scared again if somebody was hurt in the house, I made my way to the door. I tried opening my door from the inside, which proved be a little struggle this time and as I opened the door a figure jumped at me and I let out a soft scream. It was my younger brother. Both of us started laughing, he had heard me trying to open the door of my room from the inside and had been waiting to scare me. He was surprised that I was already up and I asked him if he had heard the sound of something crashing. He hadn’t.
“Do you want to go for a small drive, my friends are on their way to pick me up”, he asked me with a smile.
“Are they mad, look outside, trees are falling everywhere, they could fall on us, tell them to go back to their house, it’s not safe outside”, I told him, slightly baffled at the naivety and brashness of his friends. Then I told him about the cashew tree, he saw it and realised that the weather was not meant for us to mess around in. This time the cyclone meant some dangerous business. The weather had never been this stormy in all the years we had lived in this lovely city which was nestled between the hills and the sea. Luckily for us, we lived very close to a hill which is very compact and there was little chance of a landslide taking place. My brother told his friends to go back to their house which was again in the safer interiors of the city, which is why the silly kids probably did not realise the intensity of the storm. It sounded to me like we were trapped inside a rocky boat in rough seas, except that our house was not shaking, but the ambient sound made me feel like I was surrounded by unforgiving waves.
I went back to my room to sleep and block out the rough weather my city was battling and fell asleep for an hour. A knock on the door woke me up again, it was my mother. She had office today and I told her to tell her office guys to ‘fuck off’ if they asked her to show up at work. She did not react to my use of obscenity or perhaps she did not hear it, regardless, there was no way in hell she was going to work in this weather. It had been pretty rocky the previous day too and almost all schools, colleges, workplaces and shops were closed, but not her office, she had gone to work. But today was a different day, the storm was more furious and ferocious.
She decided not to go and all of us sat down to have our morning tea. This was a new experience for me since I am usually never up this early in the morning. And we discussed how this was the worst we had seen in all these years. There had always been cyclone alerts in the city in the past too, but by the time it reached our city, by sheer luck, it had almost always calmed down a little bit and did not cause too much of a serious scare or damage. In the middle of our conversation we heard some crashing sound again, this time it came from downstairs. My grandparents live in the flat downstairs, and the sound obviously worried us.
We rushed down to see what it was, the glass windows in the hall had broken. Some of the windows were still clattering in frenzy and all of us started checking all the windows to see if they were bolted or not. Turned out we were too slow for the wind, for soon, we had 12 glass windows broken around the house. My brother had a narrow escape, he was just about to go outside to close one of the windows because we were having a hard time pulling it inside due to the stubborn wind, just before he could reach for the window, the wind hit it so hard that it shattered into pieces.
“My heart starts to palpitate whenever I hear the wind”, my mother said as the wind grunted like a monster. We were not sure, how long this was supposed to last. It was soon ten am, but the condition was as bad as ever. The news did say that the cyclone would be at its worse between 8 am to 12 pm. My brother and I went to his balcony to watch all the action outside. Our maid lives in the compound next to us, and their house had a thatched roof made of sturdy dry leaves, but it was shaking like some vibrator. The roof looked like it would blow off any moment. The wind had already blown away the bathroom they had constructed outside their house. We wondered at how scared they must be inside and hoped they would be safe.
“Look at that house in hill, it’s gone!” my brother pointed at what was now a roofless house in the hill. It was obviously an illegal construction and my brother exclaimed it served them right for being so foolish. We could see a lot of men near the debris and they were perhaps trying to rescue whatever was left of the house. We could see some men carrying someone who was probably injured in the collapse. They were a lot of illegal settlements in the hills but while the one that had collapsed was a weak wooden and tin structure; most of the others were concrete houses.
Soon our maid’s entire family sought shelter in my granparents house downstairs. They had an infant and a three year old boy who seemed very scared. Everything in their house had fallen down and they were terrified that the storm would tear their home away. All of them sat huddled in the extra room our grandfather had.
My brother and I decided to watch nature’s wrath from one of our bigger balconies. We pushed the door open and the rain laden wind whipped us. We shivered in the cold and stood watching ‘hudhud’ slamming everything around. Most of the trees in our area were uprooted. To our surprise, the house diagonally opposite to us had witnessed major damage, the entire compound wall on one side had collapsed! We saw a dog whimpering and running away on the road. Little birds had taken shelter in the balconies of the houses around. There was no network on our phones to know what was really happening near the coast where the cyclone was at its furious best.
Soon a worried reporter friend of mine managed to get through my mother’s number and updated me a little about what was happening in the city from what she heard in the news. The cyclone was supposed to be at it worst in the noon apparently. A lot of mobile towers had fallen, there would be no power for quite some time. Honestly, I felt like I was in some dark age. And not knowing what to do, I decided to write about it.
At around two in the noon, the wind’s angry ballad had stopped and we were surrounded by sudden calm. One could hear the birds chirping and we thought it was over. We managed to get some network on a phone and read that two people had died so far in Vizag. That was not a grim number, and we were relieved. All of us went out and could see a lot of other people gathered in their terraces, accessing the damage caused to their property. Our neighbor was frowning at his collapsed wall and stared at it a really long time, his expression bordered on being comical, as if he was thinking “to hell with this, I don’t have the money to fix this damn wall”.
We went back in, with a sense of reassurance that it had stopped. But soon a flood of air was banging at our doors and windows again. But well, the storm has to end at some hour. We can only hope for minimal loss.