As a child I had a rather deep fascination for the weather: the first snow of the year; heavy snowfalls at the height of winter; the arrival of spring when snow melted into water; how sunshine and a clear-blue sky seemed to brighten everything and improved one’s mood; the shapes of clouds and how, fast or slowly, they moved across the sky; how autumn changed the leaves’ colors into shades of yellow, orange, red and brown; the many forms of rain (from drizzles to downpours and storms); the way asphalt smelled after rain; the excitement of lightning; how weather was something we couldn’t affect, but rather learn to appreciate.
As a teenager, I perused the weather forecasts in the newspaper basically every morning before school. Locally, nationally and internationally. London: 10 degrees, clouds and rain. No surprise. Sydney: 30 degrees, sun. So wish I was there right now!? New York: -1 degree, overcast. Hmm… My interest for the climate and change of seasons bordered to an obsession. And, perhaps those weather forecasts from Delhi and Mumbai had some part in my ever-increasing curiosity about India.
In any case, for the reasons above I knew I would enjoy Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment when I received a review copy by author Tim Brookes, honored by Booklist and the New York Times as one of the best travel writers in America.
The background story: Tim Brookes’ editor at National Geographic was looking for someone to cover weather forecasting. Brookes had just finished Alexander Frater’s Chasing the Monsoon and suggested a focus on monsoon forecasting. An agreement was made and, in late May of 2002, he flew to India with plans of watching the monsoon come ashore in Trivandrum, Kerala, and interview meteorologists at the India Meteorological Department.
Two days after arriving, however, he was banned from every office of the India Meteorological Department as a result of misunderstandings, a clerical error and bureaucracy. With journalistic duty and the assignment to write about the art of monsoon forecasting, Brookes ditched his original plan and set off on a new journey across India to seek the real meaning of the moonsoon.
Once he returned from India, it only took him two months to nearly finish what would become Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment. A lesson in unpredictability, the book was finally completed in the fall of 2009. Having read it twice I can attest to Brookes sense for hilarity and wit as well as exceptional writing skills. Not to mention his ability of finding the true story behind the story.
From the tension between India and Pakistan to insightful encounters to spice villages in the Western Ghats to a Hindu wedding, Brookes discovers the sublime nature of water and learns the Indian saying that you have to learn to live with uncertainty. In the end scene set in Vermont, he brilliantly captures a child’s feelings towards weather.
On the third straight day of downpours, my daughter Maddy, who at the age of seven was already in love with rain, went out onto the deck and danced, her hands outspread, her face turned up to the generous clouds.
For more information or to order the book, visit www.thirtypercentchance.com/