Apparently the cyclone (Mahasen) which is bearing down on the Bangladesh/Myanmar coast has weakened to Tropical Storm status. Which has to be better news than cyclone status. Marginally. It does not mean however, that the highly vulnerable communities which are in its path, under the wide system spread across the region, and which be affected by the storm surge, winds and flooding, will not be impacted. They almost certainly will be. The frantic preparations will for sure make a difference, but the vulnerability in these areas is enormous.
The fact that the storm kept changing its mind about exactly where it was headed, has kept us on tenterhooks refreshing the storm tracking maps and checking predictions constantly. It seems to have changed tack again and is passing a good bit further north of us than originally predicted. There are some pretty angry skies here though, whether the outer tendrils of Mahasen, or just coincidental monsoonal tantrums gathering. Whatever it is, it is bringing dramatic bursts of rain, thunder, lightning and winds.
I was woken in the night by one such dramatic rainstorm. The rains were pounding, the winds rushing and in the midst of it was the bullfrog. He was seemingly confused, as he was giving out his loud “bring the rains” call, which is very different from his “wallowing in the rains” call. Dawn saw a sky strewn with wispy clouds, and great clumps of chunky grey cloud against an incongruous bright blue sky.
The rains however, had brought an abundant flowering of the Padauk tree, even more profuse than that of last week. As soon as I left home, I saw women with Padauk in their hair, bikes and cars with a bloom and an influx of sellers among the traffic. There must have been a huge overnight Padauk harvest.
As I reached the bottom of my lane, however, the most special moment of the day happened. The woman in one of the tiny wooden shops called out to me, asking me to wait a moment. She reached over, holding out a small branch of the Padauk for me. It was still covered in raindrops and giving out its characteristic sweet scent. I gave some of the blossoms to colleagues, who put it in their hair. Many other of the women already had blossoms pinned onto their hair. The remaining blossoms sat on my desk, their scent and colours reminding me of how little is needed to bring a smile. Despite the nervousness of the approaching cyclone towards the northern shores, there was an unexpected and welcome lightness somehow brought to the day.
By the end of the working day, the flowers were already wilting and news of Mahasen making landfall filtering through. It seems from early reports that the system is continuing to weaken but we know that it will be devastating for too many.
As the rains sweep in they bring transformation – some welcome and some most definitely not.