It has been raining off and on since the last few hours. There is something in my family genes that kicks in whenever dark clouds blot out the sun and lightning streaks across leaden skies. I am sitting in my verandah with my laptop writing this piece and occasionally looking up at nature’s awesome duo i.e. ‘lightning and thunder’ doing what they are intended to do best – create the most awesome ‘light and sound show’ in the world.

From the poetic point of view it could be said that thunder appears to be applauding its eternal mate as ‘she’ dances across the heavens, sometimes striking the ground to create an ‘impression’. A down to earth perspective would however define lightning as a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm between electrically charged regions of the same cloud, two different clouds or between a cloud and the ground. Thunder is caused by the instantaneous increase in pressure and temperature as air around and within a lightning bolt rapidly expands. The intensity of a thunderclap usually depends on the intensity of the lightning bolt.

My connection with thunderstorms is not a rare case requiring the services of a ‘shrink’. I know a lot of perfectly normal people, who are equally (if not more) effected by billowing thunderheads. My group of ‘lightning infected’ friends often propound ‘out of this world theories’. One such notion is that lightning and thunder reflect in a perfect manner, the basic psyche of the human male and female. Thunder activity increases and decreases as a direct result of the type and intensity of lightning (rings a bell doesn’t it). While lightning is embellished by its various forms and even colors, thunder is just thunder (I can hear another bell ringing). Was this the reason that someone coined the saying that “Marriages are made in Heaven and so is Thunder and Lightning”.

It was in 1982 that my ‘thunder watching’ almost undid me. I had taken a few days off from my hectic professional commitments and gone off to the hills. The very next day, I was blessed with the sight of a thunder storm heading across the valley towards my lodgings near ‘Pindi Point’. Pulling on my sneakers and a raincoat, I went out into the surrounding pines as a dense mist began to form in the area. Minutes later, I was surrounded by an eerie silence broken only by approaching thunder and the faint shadowy form of tree trunks around me. Uncharacteristically, I began to feel a sense of apprehension and foreboding that prompted me to begin walking back to my rooms. I had hardly taken a couple of steps, when there was a blinding flash and I saw an incandescent ball of fire moving through the trees in my direction. I stood rooted to the ground as the phenomenon hurtled past and disappeared with what appeared to be a small thunderclap, leaving me with bristling hair and a tingling body. It took me minutes to realise that I had just had a close encounter with what is technically referred to as ‘ball lightning’. I have never again witnessed this form of electrical discharge during my frequent sojourns to cooler climes and can classify the incident as something extremely rare in this part of the world.

Animals too react in strange ways to thunderstorms. Our cocker spaniel had the habit of howling at the sight of approaching thunder, while one of our menagerie of cats had the nasty habit of running around the house in a frenzy, every time lightning flashed, leaving behind a trail of broken vases and overturned side tables.

Thunderstorms are a regular meteorological event in the Margalla Hills as are lightning strikes. I have often sought reasons for this, from weather gurus, some of who are of the opinion that this is perhaps due to good conductivity mineral deposits in these hills. Whatever be the case, the residents of the Federal Capital are privileged to have ringside seats to a show that has been choreographed to perfection, by none other than Mother Nature herself.