The wind starts blowing suddenly, steadily gathering strength. Dark clouds appear from nowhere, floating across the sky hurriedly. Intermittent flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder ensue. Summer rains seem to be a week early.
I can see my paddy field in the distance, the crop ready for harvest. The harvesting machines would be available only a week later, I was told. The memory of farmers losing their entire crop due to unseasonal summer rains a couple of years ago is fresh in my memory. Panic builds up inside me but I tell myself that the wind would blow away.
I see Thomas, my neighbour, and his sons moving about, doing odd jobs in their compound. Gone are the days when we would sit chatting till late in the night, while the women busied themselves in gossip. Things changed when George told me one day that he was in love with Lizzy, Thomas’ daughter. I was in a dilemma: on the one hand, I wanted my son to be happy with the girl she loved and, on the other hand, I wanted to keep my word, given years ago, to my distant relative John. We had agreed that his daughter was a perfect match for George. One day, in the heat of the moment, I had even accused Thomas of conspiring to create discord in my family. I suspect that the womenfolk still maintain the old relationship, though clandestinely.
The frequency and intensity of lightning and thunder increase steadily. I am almost blinded by a flash of lightning, followed by a peal of thunder. The top of one of the coconut trees standing on the edge of my paddy field starts burning and the fiery leaves fall into the field. Smoke and columns of flames rise upward. It would only be a matter of minutes before the entire crop went up in flames.
Suddenly I hear shouts and see Thomas and his sons running towards the field, followed by the womenfolk, carrying buckets and large vessels. There is a pond at the edge of the paddy field and they start dousing the fire with bucketsful of water. Soon there were only some whiffs of dying smoke rising from the spot.
“Don’t stand there like a startled ghost,” I tell my baffled neighbour, gaping at me and John walking towards him the next day, “I’ve come with a marriage proposal for my son.”