Mother called me today to tell me that the big mango tree in our backyard is throwing mangoes on the ground. “It’s the wind! Palakkadan kaattu!” she yelled. For ages, Palakkad’s windy season, which goes by the name of Palakkadan kaattu (kattu meaning “breeze”), has terrorized people by flinging dust into their eyes and mouths. Gusts of vicious breeze arise from nowhere at this time (around January end till late February), hitting the mountains and rocking trees and howling for the world to end.
The natives try their best to keep their sarongs on their hips and their hair in buns, but anyone who goes out comes back looking like a scarecrow with wild eyes and chapped lips. I thought I escaped the terrible breeze of my native town when I packed my bags for Singapore, but alas! Palakkad’s ghastly guest has followed me here like a disgruntled lover. I never thought I would see Singaporeans — with immaculate hair and make-up — struggle to look good as they scrunch up their faces at this terrible phenomenon. My dog looks at me perplexed and wary, but we plod on bravely through the streets, the wind yowling behind us. We come back to it moaning through windows and doors, like vampires on the prowl.
But I am not going to let it have the last laugh. One of these days, I am going to stand below the mango tree near the church close to my house and wait for those raw, green mangoes to fall. Nothing like a good Palakkadan pickle to thumb my nose at this stalker, this grouch, this whiner — the Palakkadan kaattu.