Over more than five decades or perhaps more, I have achieved notoriety amongst friends and family as someone, who is irreparably footloose. Those close to me, sometimes give me amused looks in the knowledge that the urge to ‘rush’ outdoors is triggered by billowing clouds, gusting winds and falling rain drops. What many people don’t know is that there is yet another element that makes my ‘roaming instinct’ irrepressible – thunderstorms.

There is something mystic and magnetic about thunderheads (a rounded mass of cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud often appearing before a thunderstorm). One moment it is an army of elephants charging the enemy and minutes later it morphs into an old lady bent over her spinning wheel. One minute it is a towering, boiling mass of incandescent white tinged with grey and purple and ten minutes later it is gone – dissipated by conflicting winds.

I think my love affair with the elements is selectively genetic, since only my elder female sibling is afflicted by it, as was my maternal grandfather and my mother. When the city of my birth was not yet a concrete jungle, plagued with pollution and unruly traffic, the sight of monsoon clouds rising across the horizon was a signal that the family Morris Oxford needed to be prepped for a journey outdoors. As the sun was engulfed by a dark mass, heavy with moisture and reverberating distant thunder, we would all pile into the faithful jalopy along with whichever youngster from the domestic staff quarters could fit in and head for the Ravi River. In those days, this historic watercourse was a real river and we had staked our claim on three spots along its lush wooded banks – the Government College Boat Club right of the bridge, the forested bank extending left from the bridge and Kamran’s Baradari across the river (I have no idea if the boat club still exists, the forest along the banks is gone and what remains of the ‘baradari’ is now an apology of an island, midstream of a sorry looking trickle of water).

We would take a break on reaching Data Durbar to stock ourselves with an ample supply of Lahore’s signature food – ‘Chikkar Cholay’, Nan and Lemonade. On reaching whichever spot out of the three favorite ones took our fancy, we would invariably be overtaken by rain. If we were at the old Mughal relic, we sought refuge inside the ancient ‘baradari’, otherwise our ever present umbrellas came to the rescue. Oblivious of any discomfort we gorged ourselves silly on ‘Nan Cholay’, while watching the down pour create patterns on the swirling waters of the river. From nowhere, my mother magically produced flasks of hot salty Kashmiri Tea, topping off a perfect family outing, made even more memorable by the rain storm.

If on occasions we were unable to take a trip to the river, we would set up a cooking station in the covered passage that linked the main house to the kitchen. While the crazy half of the family ran out into the compound for a drenching, the less crazy of the lot, prepared spicy ‘pakoras’ and deliciously sweet ‘gulgulay’ for everyone. Once again the snacks were washed down with copious quantities of pink Kashmiri Tea.

I have often sat in the window of my study watching white, blue and pink lightning weaving fantastic patterns in the night sky. I once tried to watch nature’s wonderful performance from my bedroom, much to the detriment of the bon homie that hallmarks my domestic unit.

Having stepped into the role of a parent and now a grandparent, I have kept the family tradition of being ‘footloose’ alive. I am happy to report that the coveted family gene is well and kicking in my grandchildren. The sight of, what in other people’s books is referred to as inclement weather, generates an excitement that can only be mitigated if we undertake an impromptu outing. The end result of my ‘behavioral anomaly’ is that none of my extended family or friends visit me if the weather forecast is ‘cloudy with chances of thunderstorms’.