As a rule, man’s a fool
When it’s hot, he wants it cool
When it’s cool, he wants it hot
Always wanting what is not
Ever since I first read the above in a magazine advert for an airconditioner, I’ve found it applied very well to several situations I found myself in. Yesterday, again, it proved true. The monsoon was being eagerly awaited by Pakistan and Karachites especially, feeling the heat and also developing all varieties of weather-related ailments, scanned the skies for rain clouds. Being an absolute fanatic when it comes to rain, I was following a particular rain system on weather.com for the past couple of days and yes, it did bring rain starting Friday night. However, the jubilant outburst was quickly to turn into prayers for the rain to go away and the lines I’ve quoted above proved true once again.
Pakistanis, exemplified by Karachites, have a thing for outings and with such glorious weather, what else could be expected but for people to turn out in parks and on the beach to celebrate the onset of the monsoon? As for me, I woke on Saturday morning to a dark-grey, ready-to-burst overcast sky and went off to make breakfast for the family as the first showers began. Exams having ended on Thursday, cooking was a delight in itself and I made Chicken Handi and Parathas. It was the first time I made parathas and thankfully, they turned out great (except for one odd-shaped individual!). Then, expecting relatives in the evening, I went on to bake a cake in the afternoon. However, it turned out that we were to visit our Mamu (uncle) who lives in the beachfront “Seaview” apartments so we all got busy preparing to visit him.
It was raining heavily and, giggling delightfully, we managed to get into our car without getting too wet. The journey there was, although a little longer than usual as we looked for clear roads, pretty much fun and soon, we were having tea and snacks at our Mamu’s. Later, there was a spell of very heavy rain and we helped our Mamu clear out some water that was dripping through defects in the ceiling. Now, we probably should have set out for home then, before Maghrib, as Karachi’s roads have a tendency to flood quickly, despite all manner of drains being built recently, and there’s no way to swim home really! However, we set off to another Mamu’s place closeby and there, the large party all us relatives had made, plus the delicious food that was being prepared for the occassion, made us stay on. We didn’t really have much choice anyway I suppose because with a sudden gust of wind and lightning in the sky, there was a massive downpour and we delayed our jouney home. However, it was getting late so we decided to set off anyway.
When there are strong winds in Karachi, electricity cables tend to get snapped and with water flooding streets narrow and wide, the electricity supply is turned off to prevent any electrocution accidents. Also, the electricity transmission system often fails because of rain-related faults. When we set off from our Mamu’s house, it was dark and our car’s headlights showed just how flooded the lanes already were. We took the same route for home but all that rain made progress slow. My father talked of taking this lane and that and I thought to myself how we could, considering that certain roads were more prone to flooding.
We turned on to a major road and found ourself in a traffic jam. I looked over on the other side of the road, the on-coming side, and… gulped. It was absolutely flooded and people were seen pushing their cars in the water-logged lane, some standing to a side and some trying to find alternate modes of travel. Our side of the road was also filling up and when the traffic jam persisted for a while, it was clear we were, literally, in deep water. We could only imagine how the scene would be further on. Suddenly, my sister said somethign about water in the car and sure enough, water was filling up in the floor of the car… we pulled our feet up!
My father put the car into first gear and, with all sorts of bubbling and grumbling sounds coming from our poor Corolla, we literally swam through the rising water looking for a side-lane that was less flooded. My hopes were going down as rain continued to lash upon us when I saw a traffic warden guiding people to a better route. Just then, our car rocked gently from side to side… it was the water all around us, lapping at our car doors in waves, even washing over the front bonnet, that rocked the car from side to side. That was scary. Alhamdolillah, the desperate move that my father made at that instant to turn into a lane was the first good news and we found ourselves on our way home.
The streets being flooded and enveloped in darkness, the only sign of life were the struggling motorists, pedestrians and motorcyclists whereas all the shops and other businesses were closed. It was all silent except for the gurgling nature of our journey as the car waded through water. Drawing cloer to home, the water on our route got deeper and all sorts of alternate plans of deserting the car and wading our way home came to mind. We had a couple of close calls when, as we waded into a particular lane, the water rose so high that the car almost gave up but Alhamdolillah, after a nerve-wrecking, trial-and-error spell, we got home. We could not believe, having travelled through all that water, that we’d manage to even draw close to our home, let alone reach it!
Home was a luxury and comfort that I suddenly felt intensely grateful for and it hurt to think of all the families still stuck out there in the city, trying to make their way home through the darkness. Our apartment was dry and warm, something I felt so guilty about just then. We even have a stand-by generator in our apartment building so, while there was darkness all around, we had electricity too, more reason for guilt that others were not as fortunate. I turned on the radio while my family busied themselves in drying up, offering their Isha prayers (and Nawafil of gratitude too!) and recounting their inner thoughts and fears during the journey. Mobiles and the radio was the only source of news just then, for the cable networks were out too and the phones were dead. One live radio show, where people were calling in with their stories, told how Karachi was suffering in the rains, which as we were to find out later, broke a 30-year record. The radio show host was also asking for information on alternate routes people could seek to travel by, where water levels were lower, so I tried calling in with whatever I could share. I did get through and, with a slight stutter from nervousness (it was going live all over Pakistan!), I was able to share our story in a few words. We also found out how people missed their airplanes and patients were unable to get to hospitals because of the crippled transport.
Life surely gets paralysed in Karachi very easily, unfortunately, for a multitude of reason that can’t be described in this post right now. Being the largest and most important city, problems here mean a lot more than they would in a smaller town. As I write this now on Sunday evening, electricity has just been restored to about sixty percent of the city (including our place) after twenty hours without power although the phone lines are still down. During the day, it drizzled occassionally and although the weather system that brought all this rain has moved on, even the slightest bit of shower suddenly did not evoke feelings of joy. I was continually reminded of this Hadith:
Narrated Sharik bin ‘Abdullah bin Abi Namir: I heard Anas bin Malik saying, “On a Friday a person entered the main Mosque through the gate facing the pulpit while Allah’s Apostle was delivering the Khutba. The man stood in front of Allah’s Apostle and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! The livestock are dying and the roads are cut off; so please pray to Allah for rain.’ ” Anas added, “Allah’s Apostle (p.b.u.h) raised both his hands and said, ‘O Allah! Bless us with rain! O Allah! Bless us with rain! O Allah! Bless us with rain!’ ” Anas added, “By Allah, we could not see any trace of cloud in the sky and there was no building or a house between us and (the mountains of) Sila.” Anas added, “A heavy cloud like a shield appeared from behind it (i.e. Sila’ Mountain). When it came in the middle of the sky, it spread and then rained.” Anas further said, “By Allah! We could not see the sun for a week. Next Friday a person entered through the same gate and at that time Allah’s Apostle was delivering the Friday’s Khutba. The man stood in front of him and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! The livestock are dying and the roads are cut off, please pray to Allah to with-hold rain.’ ” Anas added, “Allah’s Apostle I raised both his hands and said, ‘O Allah! Round about us and not on us. O Allah! On the plateaus, on the mountains, on the hills, in the valleys and on the places where trees grow.‘ So the rain stopped and we came out walking in the sun.” Sharik asked Anas whether it was the same person who had asked for the rain (the last Friday). Anas replied that he did not know.
Thus, we must be careful in what we earnestly desire for. This has reminded me to ask for Allah’s blessings that will be good for us and not simply asking for something without measure. Too much of anything is harmful and duas for rain must, therefore, be based on the immense wisdom highlighted in the Hadith quoted above.