An unfamiliar sound woke me up at 3 this morning. I sat up in bed unsure of what it was, and then I heard it again. Warning winds, baying like a wolf. Before I could make sense of them, the first cracks of lightning ripped through the night sky, followed, within moments, by colossal claps of thunder. One mighty rumble reverberated after the other, splitting the air, and my eardrums. The rain heralded the next act, starting small but quickly escalating, as if it were being tossed down, carelessly, by the Gods from giant drums.
Fresh bolts of jagged light snaked through the dark, and the thunderous boom started again, pounding the skies with an unforgiving sledgehammer. Each boom sounded louder and closer than the one that had gone before, finally segueing into an endless series of roars that threatened to split the skies and roofs, and crash into our homes uninvited. Meanwhile, the wind kept up its wail, tearing branches from accommodating trees that bent to its command, and the rain kept pace, lashing down on the earth, torrential, pitiless.
I’d gone to bed reading a book about pralay, the purported dissolution and destruction of the universe that’s said to take place at the end of each age or kalpa. Hindu sages believed that a pralay was needed to cleanse the world before a new one could be created. My book had talked about the current civilisation being in its Kalyug phase, or a state of degeneration and eventual collapse. It also made passing mention of the ‘Rapture’ phenomenon that some Christian groups predict will bring about a global apocalypse between now and 2021. Floods, earthquakes and deadly plagues would finish the civilised world as we know it, just like the Biblical Flood of 2,348 BC and the Three Plagues of Egypt had done, my book said.
I could believe it, considering the catastrophic weather conditions of the last two years. Hadn’t traditionally cool countries started experiencing killer heatwaves, while the warmer parts of the word just got wetter? Hadn’t three Category 5 hurricanes hit America, and thousands of people died in floods across India, Bangladesh and Nepal in 2017? India’s Flood Vulnerability Index had pointed the finger at 10 Indian states and almost 1,000 people had already died in the monsoon this year, most of them residents of four of those 10 states.
Back in school, I may have forgotten everything I’d ever studied when facing an examination paper. But last night, cowering in bed, listening to the rolling rumble overhead, all that I’d ever learnt in the disaster department came rushing back to me. I recognised the throttle of the thunder as a warning of the wrath that was to come.
I huddled under my sheets and began my prayers. I chanted from the Bhagwad Gita, the Gayatri Mantra and the Lord’s Prayer. No siree, I wasn’t leaving anything to chance. But somewhere between the prayers, my eyelids must have drooped. I woke up at 9 to a sunny, bright day. I jumped out of bed and put on some Harry Belafonte. Pralay would have to wait. For now, it was Apocalypso time.