My first memory of a storm is somewhere in the very early fifties. My maternal uncle had come home that morning after graduating from Lincoln’s Inn and the family was celebrating his return, when we noticed that the western horizon had gone murky. We were rudely made aware that a storm was coming, when the light suddenly began to dim and within minutes was replaced by a gloom, pierced by diffused flashes of lightning and rolling thunder. I still remember feeling scared, because no clouds were visible, just a uniform darkness that was deepening in an eerie manner. Eerie, because everything appeared to be still and waiting for something terrible to happen - as if a pause button had been pressed. Then a wisp of a breeze began ruffling leaves ever so gently. Now, occasional gusts began to sway tree tops and as I watched, these gusts changed to a consistent gale, gradually increasing in velocity and fury, bending trees and flattening flower beds. With the wind, came pelting hail, gradually growing in severity and size, striking window panes with a nerve racking rat-ta-tat. My fear changed into fascination at nature’s awesome power – a feeling that has over the years, turned into an uncontrollable urge to be outdoors during a storm. The sight of a senior citizen driving around happily in such weather (while saner people stayed indoors) is something that motivates friends and family to categorize me as an oddball. I don’t find this offensive, since I am merely a fan of nature’s box office performance.

It was somewhere in 1983, having just returned home after a trying day at the office, in the scalding oven-like heat of Multan, I stepped out in the back yard of my house and stopped cold. Once again, there was the familiar stillness in the air – no leaf moved, the birds were silent, there was an uncanny difficulty in breathing and a weight appeared to be descending upon everything. Suddenly a slight rustle swept through the trees and flocks of panic stricken birds began to fly in one direction as if chased by an invisible predator. It was more by instinct than anything else that I ran to a window shouting to my better half to close all doors, windows and take the washing inside. I then rushed to cover my large aviary with a plastic sheet lying in the garage. As I looked back over my shoulder, I went into a momentary state of shock, for there visible above the tall mango tree tops was a solid rolling, wall of sand, many hundred feet in height bearing down upon me. As I ran towards the house and safety, the afternoon went pitch black or rather ‘pitch brown’. I knew then that I was experiencing my first classic sand storm.

The next encounter with stormy weather was hair raising. I was flying in an Airbus from Zurich to Dubai, enjoying the excellent hospitality of the crew, when somewhere near the Persian Gulf, the pilot announce that we would be encountering turbulence after five minutes and therefore must adjust our seats and fasten our seat belts. I looked out of the window and saw only the sky and bright sunshine, growing skeptical about the way that the cabin crew were diligently inspecting each passenger and implementation of the captain’s instruction. My skepticism changed to concern, when I saw the crew strapping themselves into their designated places. Still trying to absorb the sight, the light outside suddenly changed to a dark roiling mass that began tossing the heavy plane in every direction like a toy. Panic welled up, when I spotted lightning in the dark mass that now engulfed the plane. Closing my eyes, I began reciting everything I could remember from the Holy ‘Koran’. It all ended as abruptly as it had begun, with darkness suddenly changed to bright sunshine and a blue sky. My condition must have been very evident, since I received a double helping of a well-known Swiss Ice Cream from a member of the cabin crew, who whispered that I really did need a double ration to raise my sugar level.

I have just reached home after being driven through one of the worst storms in the Federal Capital’s history. We have miraculously negotiated flying debris and falling trees. I have nevertheless thoroughly enjoyed the experience, notwithstanding the fact that my fruit laden trees are now a wreck and my veggies a mess. I cannot however complain, because in these matters, nature always wins.