Ghosh makes the spectacle of the whirling wind seem as enchanting as in The Wizard of Oz but infinitely more threatening. His writing is magical - as if he has seen it all. Or perhaps, as people of the Sunderbans might say, if you have seen one cyclone and lived to tell the tale, you have seen them all. In these parts, do they measure the longevity of their lives by the storms they have survived? The Sunderbans and their neighbourhood have been battered time and again by the most furious and bloodthirsty of storms. Each cyclone whips up a seemingly unending wave of suffering that generation after generation of people must endure. Their wretched homes torn asunder, their emaciated livestock drowned, and their meagre savings gone to seed, the survivors are perhaps unluckier than the victims. They are faced with the crushing and intimidating prospect of beginning their lives all over again. As if this were not sorrow enough, they are encumbered by the absence of family members who were once their sustenance and stay.
Number-obsessed statisticians are auditing assets gone to waste and counting bodies - human, mostly. Environmentalists are mourning the loss of habitats, which have either wiped out or displaced the region's fauna: dolphins, gharials, tigers... and these are only the charismatic species. How much has been lost forever we can only tell when the hungry tide is satiated. Of these sinister storms, Cyclone Aila was the most recent. And she certainly won't be the last. Despite all the technology at our command (and our consequent hubris), we will never be capable of stopping natural disasters in their tracks. Meteorologists can issue warnings. Governments can cry out for aid. Relief workers can mop up the mess. And the media can weep and wail, insinuate and blame, and generally prolong the suffering for as long as public sentiment lasts. But despite all of that, we cannot predict the weight of nature's wrath. We can only measure its aftermath. And count our dead.