After a storm hit our thatched house

I was 9 and a storm hit our thatched house and turned it upside down. The roof flew off. The rice recently harvested and stored in a spare room toppled over and hid underneath the debris. A cow in the barn got hit by flying splinters of wood and died. We, I, my two sisters, Tara 6 and Binita 2, and my parents were spared. The house had been built just a month before. It had only one room furnished with a large bed where five people would sleep together passing many cold nights, clinging and coiling like rattle snakes under the same blanket. The bed was one of many things that protected us from the cruelty of poverty.

To whisper the name of God when we were in trouble was interesting. We believed that to whisper the name of God would protect us from misfortune. There are said to be 33 million Gods in the Hindu religion, so my mother would whisper the name of any God that would come to her mind, such as Bramha, Bishnu, Maeshwor, Siva, Rama, Hari, or whatever. 

Cold windy nights told us we were getting close to the months of the monsoon season. Our house was made of mud and hay. The house’s floor was not much different from the floor you would have if you pitched a tent on the open ground, the only difference being it was raised higher with extra mud and shaped like a podium on which we would spread mats made out of haystacks and lie down and rest, and even if it rained, the podium would be above the water level. When guests came to visit, they would sleep on our bed and we rested on the podium dressed with hay mats. You might pretty much call our house a tent made of haystacks and mud, perhaps stronger than a tent because it was supported by bamboo pillars in each of the four corners. However, it could easily be destroyed by any strong wind that blew from the west. Every night, when the wind started blowing from the west, we had to hide under the bed and hold its legs in the name of God, “Rama, Rama, Rama” “Hari, Hari, Hari,” “Bishnu, Bishnu, Bishnu,” just to ensure that nothing unfortunate would happen, believing the bed would protect us from being trapped under the rubble if the wind blew the house down. 

To whisper the name of God when we were in trouble was interesting. We believed that to whisper the name of God would protect us from misfortune. There are said to be 33 million Gods in the Hindu religion, so my mother would whisper the name of any God that would come to her mind, such as Bramha, Bishnu, Maeshwor, Siva, Rama, Hari, or whatever. 

My mother suffers like this once or twice a month when she is stressed. When it happens, it is frightening. The sound of all of us yelling, shouting, screaming to God to save our mother’s life could awaken the dead.  And slowly, she trickles back to life after a minute’s pause of breath. None of the doctors has diagnosed the real cause besides her diabetes and thyroid for which she has been taking medicines for a many years now.

One night, after having dinner earlier than usual because the weather outside was so predictable that anytime a tornado-like wind would blow from the west, we all gathered in the house. Clouds hovered over the sky, and it got darker and darker with lightning and thunder sounding like the sky was going to rip asunder and fall down upon our heads. Birds started flying, chirping. A tethered dog yelped as it tried to free itself to find a safe haven for itself. A cow mowed. Goats in the barn bleated. My heart started pounding; sweat covered my mother’s face. My father, his shoulders shaking, continued comforting my mother by rubbing her back with his hands. “You will be fine,” he said. My mother had developed a heart problem since I was seven. Sometimes her whole body would start shaking her hands and legs contorted, and her heart beat slowed and seemed to disappear. Her jaw locked, her teeth clenched, she would stop breathing until my father used his hands to prise her mouth open and pour drops of water while I maneuvered her hands and legs back into place.  

My mother suffers like this once or twice a month when she is stressed. When it happens, it is frightening. The sound of all of us yelling, shouting, screaming to God to save our mother’s life could awaken the dead.  And slowly, she trickles back to life after a minute’s pause of breath. None of the doctors has diagnosed the real cause besides her diabetes and thyroid for which she has been taking medicines for a many years now.

All of a sudden, a gust of wind blew from the west in such a way that our house started swaying. My mother clasped my father in fear saying “Rama, Rama, Oh, God almighty!” I started crying. My five year old sister Tara started crying because she saw the panic on our faces.  She was too young to know the power of horrendous nature, but old enough to recognize distress in her nearest and dearest. My father was the only person in our family to have a strong heart and lead the situation adamantly. He told us not to cry, and he reassured us that nothing would happen. “Remember the God,” my father said, holding my youngest sister Binita close to his heart and smiled. “But remember only one God not many like your mother remembers.” “Why?” I said curious.

“You wanna know?” My father said. The wind outside was blowing harder. “Listen,” my father continued. “One day three people were sailing a ship on the ocean. Each of them was from three different religious backgrounds; one was Hindu, the other one was Muslim, and the last one was Christian. All of a sudden the ship crumbled and started sinking into the ocean.”

We heard the roar of the wind, the sound from trees cracking and breaking, and birds chirping and twittering and the wailing and yelling of rural creatures, such as jackals and foxes. We heard again the cows mooing, goats bleating, oxen grunting, chicken cackling, dogs barking, and owls hooting. My mother continued hiccupping in pain, humming the name of God. We heard one of the bamboo pillars of our house splitting.

The wind started blowing harder and harder. My father pulled all of us under the bed, and we grasped each other fastened like a bundle of firewood, our unity lessened the fear by developing our combined sense of hope and confidence. We heard the roar of the wind, the sound from trees cracking and breaking, and birds chirping and twittering and the wailing and yelling of rural creatures, such as jackals and foxes. We heard again the cows mooing, goats bleating, oxen grunting, chicken cackling, dogs barking, and owls hooting. My mother continued hiccupping in pain, humming the name of God. We heard one of the bamboo pillars of our house splitting.

“Listen,” My father continued. “To save their lives, all of them started whispering the name of God, so the Gods would come to rescue them. The Christian whispered the name of Jesus Christ, and Jesus immediately came and rescued him. The Muslim whispered the name of Allah, and Allah came and rescued him. At the last, the Hindu whispered the name of Bishnu, and Bishnu made his way towards him to rescue him. While Bishnu was on his way, he again whispered the name of Rama. So Bishnu thought that He was not called, but Rama was called, so Bishnu stopped and turned around at the half way mark. Again that Hindu man whispered the name of Siva while Rama was on his way. Rama also thought that the person was not calling him anymore, so He also stopped and turned around at the half way mark without rescuing him. At last, the Hindu man died without having any help from Hindu Gods while the others survived.” And my father said, “Its bad luck, you know, to have many gods who confuse one another in our religion. So remember only one God, okay so he can come and save us.”

We laughed. By that time, the wind had turned the roof of our house upside down, and we found ourselves pushed further underneath our bed which the wind failed to move. The bed was heavy and big and we clung to its legs our bodies crouched into fetal positions, my parents bent double. With one hand my father held on to little Binita clasping her to his chest, his other hand held down a leg of the bed. Right in front of my eyes, the storm blew away everything one by one, the walls crumbled, then dishes began circling clinking and clanging as they jostled for airspace, then  blankets became airborne followed by the  mattress, pillows, and mats, and all the food recently harvested and stored sailed like confetti into the air.

We looked up from our room which was now canopied by the open sky. There was a trace of our house, just bamboo stems, mud, and hay and debris stacked up in a corner. The roof was thrown aside. There was no barn, just cattle crying with the ropes around their necks. There were no clothes to wear anymore, nor rice that my parents had harvested with their sweat and labor. My mother continued crying and sniveling and I and my sister followed her. “Stop crying,” my father yelled at us. “At least we survived. We can start a new life from here again.”

My mother continued calling “Rama, Rama” just the name of one Hindu God out of millions. I did the same. My sister did the same.

 Suddenly the wind stopped its game of havoc and it began to pour with rain. The downpour drenched us completely like rats coming out of a stream. The rain disappeared as quickly as it started. “Do you see? It stopped,” My father said, looking at us. “Why we are the ones to suffer all the time? What mistakes had we made?” My mother complained, sobbing. “Stop it,” My father rebutted her. “Don’t overact. Nothing has happened.” We had thought we were no more, but fortunately we were not even scratched. We came out from under the bed. My father had impeccably protected my youngster sister, she was unharmed and only the edges of the blankets she had been wrapped in were wet. We looked up from our room which was now canopied by the open sky. There was a trace of our house, just bamboo stems, mud, and hay and debris stacked up in a corner. The roof was thrown aside. There was no barn, just cattle crying with the ropes around their necks. There were no clothes to wear anymore, nor rice that my parents had harvested with their sweat and labor. My mother continued crying and sniveling and I and my sister followed her. “Stop crying,” my father yelled at us. “At least we survived. We can start a new life from here again.”

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