Braving the Storm
Heavy raindrops pelted the thin panes of glass and claps of thunder rumbled through the walls; my only refuge from the typhoon raging outside. Occasional bursts of lightning illuminated the bedroom, revealing tear stains on the pillow. Wracked with homesickness, muffled sobs escaped my clenched mouth. Going to Sri Lanka was not an idea I was particularly fond of as a ten year old. I wanted to play with my friends at home, go to the pool or the park and have fun. But there I sat, weeping away the horrors and trying to make sense of a completely different world.
Slowly crying myself to sleep that stormy summer night, events of the past week drifted in and out of my head. Children my own age picking at piles of garbage with stray dogs, haggard men toiling away at their menial jobs, and gaunt women cooking over fire pits in little shacks. I could not understand why the lived this way. “They are poor. They cannot afford the nice things we have,” my mother explained. And when I asked whether I should give them a dollar as I did back home, she shook her head. A mere dollar could not make a difference for them; it could not buy them a stove, send them to school, or find them better jobs.
The rain battered down harder now, and I buried myself deeper under the blankets. It sounded like thousands of bullets being fired from guns, and the fear of being shot made me tremble. Soldiers patrolled the streets back then and occasionally still do, with their machine guns slung over their shoulders like a backpack on a schoolboy. I had never seen a real gun before, and I couldn’t comprehend why one would be needed. “Sri Lanka is in the middle of a civil war,” my father explained, “the terrorists in the North want to hurt the people here in the South.” War? My ten year old mind could not grasp it. America was at war, but soldiers did not parade the streets with their shiny toys in hand. I only knew of the war on television with tanks, helicopters, and bombs. With these thoughts still fresh in my mind, my tired body succumbed to sleep to the lullaby of guns and destitution.
Sunshine streamed in through the crystal clear windows that next morning. The typhoon had passed, but broken tree branches and monstrous puddles of rainwater littered the dirt roads. But the birds sang, the same impoverished children frolicked about, and the adults amused themselves with cups of tea and a game of carrom. These people enjoyed themselves and were happy, despite their lack of material possession and low standing in society. Smiling, I dressed and went down to join them. Lamenting my lost innocence and ignorance of the world would do no good. The world is far from perfect, but I cannot let adversity break my spirit.