Black Clouds, White Birds
By Debananndita Ray
I live at the edge of a city. From here, you can see signs of village life. Cleaner air, brighter sky, colder wind, and greener fields. And cycle-tracked dirt roads. The red mud would turn still redder when it rained, and the petrichor would waft up in a warm haze and linger near the damp soil. The cycle’s tracks would wash away, leaving the dirt road to be freshly trampled once more. It was a bumpy, rocky, dusty road. However, I preferred riding over such kuccha roads to cycling on straight, tarred roads.
Today was the day I went to attend my math’s tuition, which is located somewhere in the middle of the fields. It is the only “modern” piece of architecture for miles around, so the dirt road that leads up to it is accordingly named - “Tuition Road”.
I would have to cycle over Tuition Road to reach my coaching center. As I rode over it, the cold, refreshing wind stung my face. I rode faster and let my bicycle roll over the small hill to enjoy the wind even more. It was the perfect type of weather that appealed to me. Grey clouds were gathering in the horizon, the wind was getting stronger, but still the sun’s rays reflected on my face and on the shiny, spine-like leaves of the coconut tree. The rays played upon the fields, the green blades of the rice plants swaying and waving in tune with the gamboling wind. Ah, what a picturesque scene! I could have stayed and watched the clouds gather, and the sun play with the wind all day, but my math will not wait. So I rolled into the coaching center and parked my bike. I chained it to a nearby pillar and dropped the key in my bag. Wiping the hair out of my face, I entered the building.
Two and half hours later, it was time to return. I bade goodbye to my friends. I unfastened my bike from the pillar and made ready to ride back home - but what was this? The sun had disappeared overhead, leaving behind the last trace of a pale white glow that filtered through the layers of cloud and provided the only remaining daylight. The wind danced harder than ever, blowing the leaves off the trees, taking them around in miniature tornadoes and tossing them about. The sky was getting darker and the clouds gathered closer, sending a sure signal that my clothes would not stay dry for long. I rode faster. Then, there came deafening claps of thunder, and blinding flashes of lightning tore through the moisture-laden air.
Believe it or not, I was actually beginning to enjoy the present circumstances, but I knew my mother would not if I stayed out for long. I was just starting to wonder what I would have to face when I got home when I saw it.
A splendid V shaped formation of white cranes flapped across the inky-black sky in a slow, harmonious motion of wings. They seemed to be oblivious to the commotion the clouds were causing. They streaked on, circling the blue. Their white feathers stood out magnificently in contrast to the blackening sky, it was truly a sight to behold.
It was long before I realized that I wasn’t moving, and that there were drops of rain on my face; I was so captivated by the sight. Slowly, I rode home, keeping my eyes on the flock. I began racing down the small hillock when I sensed the big rain pellets on my back. I could smell the rain and the warm petrichor in the wind, as it howled while propelling me down the dirt road. The moisture had made the road muddy, and my cycle chiseled clear tire tracks in it. I skidded to a halt, spattering mud and wet grass on my feet and leggings. I hastily pushed my bike indoors, shielding my head with my study-bag. Inside, I found my mother waiting with a plate of hot, mouth-watering pakoras and steaming, sweet tea. To her dismay, she saw that my feet were stained with red mud. She sternly shooed me into the bathroom, where I washed my hands and feet, and changed into dry clothing. Only when I showed my wet hands to my mother, did she let me touch a pakora. I settled down in a warm chair by the window and narrated my experience, just as I am doing to you. It was truly the best and most memorable moment of ever cycling outdoors. The image of black clouds and white birds will forever stay imprinted in my head.
By Debananndita Ray