Once again, thousands of Indians have been affected by flooding in the monsoon season. It’s become a regular sight to us, and we saw it here in America in the aftermath of Katrina. But few of us can imagine the forceful nature of water as enemy.
I remember my father’s aunt putting her bed up on bricks, stacked four high. She lived in Bangur, a northern, low-lying Kolkata neighborhood prone to flooding. It was expected that the outside would invade as the standing water on the streets inched upward. With it came snakes, creepy insects, garbage, disease. “Badi-te jol eshecche,” my great aunt would say. “The water has come to the house.”
We planned our lives around the water — we knew the streets that were still navigable by car and foot and we knew the ones to avoid.
The smell of mold hung heavy in every house. Without electricity to run fans, we sat in darkness, the sweat trickling from our heads all the way down our backs. We’d pray for more rain because with it came a breeze in the stillness of an oppressive afternoon.
Now, I get upset if one fly has illegally entered my house. I run about trying to swat the nuisance. I begin to panic if the power goes off for more than an hour at a time.
How lucky we are that we can lock out the heat and stave off the water — that we have so much power over nature’s fury.