It was two hours before sunset when I entered Hail Haor, though you couldn’t tell the time from the grey sky. The road had weaved through half a dozen villages before the land and the sky abruptly opened up all around me. Inside the Haor, the rice fields were glowing with soft green rice seedlings and the beels were brimming with monsoon water.
My first stop was at a fisheries compound where I wanted to photograph Baya Weavers and the nests they had constructed in a row of coconut trees. As I watched the birds through my viewfinder waiting for a good moment, the exposure meter warned me of rapidly falling light. Drops of rain followed, quickly growing in strength. I abandoned the weavers but was reluctant to give up on the outing. Hoping the rain would diminish soon, I decided to drive further into the Haor.
Sure enough, the rain stopped as I reached the middle of the Haor and the clouds cleared somewhat. Presently I got out of the car and started walking, looking for birds. But the weather changed its mind and a thick ribbon of dark cloud spread across the northern sky.
In moments a strong wind started blowing from the north. It whipped the entire world into frenzy, bending branches right and left, turning the large Kochu leaves upside down, sending small islands of Water Hyacinth shooting across the beels, and blowing layers upon layers of dark clouds racing southwards.
Then came the rain. The wind sent it across the water in waves of shiny drops that stood out against the water which had turned black reflecting the sky. The drops stung my face and arms. I ran back to the car for shelter, opened the window, and watched the storm.
“A toi toi! A toi toi!” – a woman’s loud but pleading call startled me. She had come out of one of the Haor cottages, calling her ducks to take them to safety. They waddled out of the beel and gathered around their drenched mistress who shooed them to her home. The cows, meanwhile, seemed unperturbed by the storm. They continued grazing, swishing their tail occasionally to remove a fly. Further afield, the rain washed the mud off a group of water buffaloes as they stood in a deserted paddy field.
When I looked up a strange scene greeted me. A white egret was flying directly into the wind. It flapped its wings, but the wind blew it back and it barely moved. But only for a moment, because the wind’s direction changed – or maybe the bird figured out how to tackle the wind - and before I knew it, it had vanished.
There was still an hour and a half before sunset. I was hopeful the rain would stop and sky would clear. They refused to cooperate, however, and the rain lasted well into the evening giving me a good taste of storm in the Haor.
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