Evening, to be precise. Here's a gist of what unfolded on that fateful day.
Tuesday, 17th November 2009, 6:00 PM – Thinking of getting out of office early today. Not much work anyway. The match is boring as well. Sri Lankans batting like the asuras and raavanas combined together.
6:10 PM – Happen to look outside. Startled. The world outside the windowpane is pretty much pitch black in complexion. Like a scene straight out of Armageddon or Apocalypto or whatever those doomsday movies are called.
(Oh by the way, its not supposed to be pitch black, let along even a hint of black before 7 PM here)
6:30 PM – Take a long peek at the situation outside. Pondering how to manage getting home amidst this cataclysm. Need to go for a hair cut urgently. Have a wedding to attend next weekend, and I don’t want to look my best, lest I impress any nubile and impressionable young ladies down there.
6:40 PM – I am informed that someone is coming to get me and has a spare umbrella. Bless her. As you might have guessed by now, I don’t have an umbrella with me. I stopped carrying those contraptions long back, after I had magnanimously donated quite a few of those to the general unassuming public within a short frame of time, during my adolescence. I also don’t carry water bottles to school. Rather, I didn’t. Long story. Suffice to say, I am pretty much resistant to the worst of water today.
7:00 PM – Reach the subway (MRT). Bid adieu to my gracious saviour and board a train back home. The hair-cutting saloon is on the way from the MRT to my home. Its called Sri Kandi. Reminds of a rather delicious Maharashtrian dessert. Anyway, they charge only $8 per haircut and the ambience is rather like one you would find back in my hometown. Only air-conditioned. No massage to top it off, though. But the cheapest and best I could find.
7:15 PM – Hey how’s that possible? I walk out of the underground station and on to an implausibly dry sidewalk. No hint of rain. No stormy winds. Am I in the same city or what? Barely 10kms from where I boarded but the world is showing no signs of ending here! It’s all pretty balmy out here. Rather.
7:40 PM – Haircut is done and a satisfied customer walks out, having again unknowingly and magnanimously donated his newly borrowed blue umbrella to the unassuming Sri Kandan gentlemen. However, God smiles on those who do good deeds and such must be the traits of my previously described gracious saviour. So, my barber uncle (I hope I don’t have to call him hairdresser uncle) comes running out after me and completes the cycle of Good Karma. Thank God, I think – at least, my record with umbrellas stays intact.
7:45 PM – Walking through a football field on one side and an unused school building on the other – which defines the footpath leading into the estate where I live – I come across a rat scurrying for cover. Probably initially attracted by my Ganesha belly but later intimidated by my rather stuck-up and indifferent presence, the rat tries to escape into the football field through a wire mesh fence at least 4 times and fails. On the fifth try, he succeeds, obviously. Dumb rat, I think. But wait, this is the first time I’ve seen a rat in Singapore, I believe. Is this an omen?
7:50 PM – Trudging up the steps to my apartment block on Braddell Hill (yes, its rather hilly, by Singaporean standards - must be at least 10 meters above sea level), I again wonder why there is no hint of rain or storm or even any breeze. It’s just eerily quiet. And calm.
8:00 PM – I’m the first to reach home today. As I settle down on the couch in our living room, again the absence of a breeze is discernible. Usually, the cross ventilation in our 19th floor setup can lead to an unnecessarily windy scenario if both windows are open. Today, the silence is palpable. A baby lizard leaps off the window grille on to my thumb, as I open yet another shutter.
8: 10 PM – I can hear a dog howling rather loudly in a neighbouring building. Very unusual – even the dogs and the babies are well behaved in Singapore. Suddenly, even the koels aorund here start cooing. Out of nowhere, on a still November evening.
8:30 PM – Where is all this leading? Why are things so unnaturally calm and quiet? Not even a leaf is moving here, when just 10 km away, I valiantly escaped a storm that was supposedly about to wreak havoc in the Central Business District. Why are the animals behaving so oddly? Why so many firsts in one single evening?
And then it hits me. We are in the eye of a storm. A huge one is brewing. It’s on its way. A twister or tornado or something. A shiver of anticipation goes down my spine. This is going to be a lifetime experience. One I can surely write about. Tell my grandchildren. The works.
9:00 PM – Finish a good dinner of French Toast and Maggi Hot ‘n’ Sour Tomato Chill Sauce (“Its Different”) to help me prepare for the eventuality that is fast approaching.
9:10 PM – The sky is weirdly white. Not even red. Just a whitish orangish grayish haze. I know it’s coming. I message some of my friends about the impending catastrophe, warning them to stay clear of open spaces.
9:20 PM – The streaks of lightning are more noticeable now. My eyes are hooked on the sky with feverish anticipation. I know we can’t be in the eye for much longer.
9:30 PM – We must be almost there. I can visualize myself being branded a hero for having predicted this, and saved so many lives. Getting a Red & White bravery award or maybe the Marlboro Man award or some tobacco company award will be a breeze now.
9:40 PM – Are we there yet?
9:50 PM - Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
10:00 PM – NO we are not. Unfortunately, nothing happens. All my romanticizing comes to naught. It’s just another boring Singapore evening - and windless at that.
Nothing to shout about. Sighhh.