Memory works in very strange ways sometimes. You forget the most important things or you may remember some random things from the past and then sit and wonder how did that memory even stay in your brain for so long. In this case, let me take you back to memory somehow etched into my mind from 24 years ago - June 13, 1996 afternoon about 2:30 pm.
My school was on the top of a hill and it was about half a kilometre's walk to the top. It was a regular day at school, or so I would like to believe because I hardly remember anything else that happened on that particular day. I have never seen more precision with anything more than the arrival of monsoon in Kerala. Irrespective of the year, it hits the coastal state precisely on the 1st of June. The only competition might be Japanese train schedule.
So June 13 would've been about two weeks into the rains and this is a time which there are strong winds accompanied with the rains. For some unknown reasons, I was afraid of the winds. I had no idea that on this day my fears would be pushed to the limits.
The rain started shortly after lunch at about 1:30- 1:45 pm. The wind started picking up speed. The classes on the first floor (second floor for my American friends) of my school had metal sheets for the roof. During the rainy season, we would wait for the heavy rainfall so that the noise of water drops lashing on the metal would overpower our teacher's voice and classes come to a halt.
On the other hand during the summer, these sheets turn the classrooms into blast furnaces. Add to that the weird choice of uniforms for a tropical state. We had to wear blazers. Yes, I agree, ridiculous. School authorities once told my parents that schools in Ooty and Kodaikanal have blazers as a part of the school uniform. RIP logic. But that's a story for another day.
By about 2:30 pm, winds started catching speed and in the distance, I could see coconut trees swaying more than usual. The metal sheet roof started moving and you could see the waves forming on the rickety roof as the wind blew through them. The bolts holding the roof to the roof structure were straining to hold on.
Within about 10 minutes the storm situation turned from bad to worse. I could see smaller branches of trees breaking and flying off. To the backside of the classes was a small forest with bamboos and other trees. There was a barbed-wire fence separating the woods from the school. Even on a normal day under broad daylight, the woods were creepy. With bamboo trees swaying and making weird noises.
Today it was a different sight as if the devil's curse hung on us. Woods were dark and you could hardly see through because of the heavy rains. Wind speed picked up again and the rain was almost falling horizontally. The whole class got up from their seats and started moving towards the door and into the corridor. Teachers were trying to get the student back in.
I was terrified of seeing all this. It was like my worst nightmare just came true. I just wanted to go home. Looking up I could see the metal sheet trying its best to hold on and some of my classmates were shouting that the roof will now fly off. I thought - this is the end. I am done, we are all done.
For what felt like an eternity, the wind and rain wreaked havoc. Water started pouring into the classroom through the windows and into the corridor as well. This had never happened in the two years I have been in this school. The huge mango tree was swaying and looked like it would give up and break in half.
I was trying hard to keep a brave face in front of my friends but was terrified inside. It was another ten minutes before the wind and the rain died down. School bell rang at 3:30 pm and it was time to go home. The entire area around the school playground was filled with water and small trees had their branches broken. Branches had fallen on the power lines.
The scene became more terrifying as we walked down the hill. Big trees were seen uprooted and parts of the road were blocked with fallen branches. We were cautioned to watch out for fallen electric wires. It looked like the apocalypse had just passed. Muddy water was flowing from the top of the hill and the road was extremely slippery. Some kids fell and bruised their arms and knees.
I carefully headed to the firm ground where the Jeep that ferried a few of us every day to school was waiting for us. The driver, a good-hearted middle-aged chap, was completely drenched and was waiting with an anxious expression. After about an hour I was dropped at my drop point. It was a fifteen-minute walk back to my home.
When I reached home, something seemed off. My mom was at the door with a very worried look on the face. She was relieved to see me. After I got inside the house. She calmly said "Check the back portion of the house"
It was a horror scene. A coconut tree had fallen straight over the bathroom and broken some portions of the tiles over the kitchen. I was speechless while mom consoled me saying that everything is fine and we will move to another place. There was considerable damage to that bathroom and wasn't in a useable condition.
By the time it was evening, I started feeling anxious and scared. I did not want to sleep in the house. I was afraid that the storm would come again and the house will be destroyed. I know I was overthinking, but I was a kid. Our awesome neighbours invited us to stay over at their place.
This affected me badly. The fear turned into a phobia. We moved out of the house in two weeks but the fear stayed, for a long time. I was scared of even the slightest breeze. It became so bad that my parents had to visit my school and discuss the issue with the authorities, but neither of them knew what the real problem was. My mom, who herself was terrified of lightning and thunder, consoled me every time there was a storm.
But over years, somewhere into my mid-teens, the fear died. I was no longer scared of wind or storm. I love a good windy day now. But even though years have passed since the incident, I still vividly remember the date and the day.
The brain is weird.