Friday, 26 March 2010

Eyes Open

Ceiling punkah. Drongos, bee-eaters, spotted owlets. Scotch - the good kind, with two cubes of ice. Bamboo in the wind, dotted with bulbuls and magpie robins. Flowering Glyricidia - a poor version of springtime cherry blossom - but poor only if you're comparing them. By itself, the lace of baby pink and white and pale green set against a dusky grey-brown bark is enough to stop your heart. Marigold and chaffa in little brass pots. The smell of the earth in the afternoon, when the maali does the watering. The wide smile he flashes at you when you walk into your room for something and he sees you from the window. As white as the moghra he always picks by the handful and passes to you from the jaali of the kitchen window, just for fun (and sometimes, I think, to spite my mother, who detests these flowers being plucked off the bush.)

In the middle of the afternoon, the chaffa trees are blazing molten pink against the furnace-top of the sky, and the crickets and doves rhythymically crick and chime, crick and chime, crick and chime, crick.. and.. you're asleep. A sister, or a cat, sometimes both, both equally lovely, sometimes walk silently in and sit by you. (And then either jolt you awake or understand, and fall asleep themselves - respectively :P)

No one who's been inside an Indian afternoon in a peaceful place, in a home-place, could ever again think that peace = quiet, simplicity = beige or solitude = aloneness.

Now that I'm back in a quiet, beige and solitary place, these are the things whose absence is like a jagged edge rustling somewhere in the corner of my mind. Even though it is spring, and the birds, the vines, the daffodils, the lilies (and some days, even the people!) seem to be waking up and stretching after a long, cold sleep.

Simple sounds: ceiling fans, turtle doves. Utterly simple scents: moghra and wet earth. And simple gestures: being handed a bunch of white flowers by the gardener, being smiled at. Being handed a beedi by the watchman as an invitation to sit by the garden tap for five minutes and smoke in companionable silence as the sun starts to set.

These dot the whole day, when it's a peaceful day, in a peaceful place, with nothing much to do.

And then the gentle breeze of dusk, heavy with the smell of warm earth and windblown grass, starts to shake the old trees glittering in the sunset, and one by one, loosens the stars into the sky. The trees grow dim, the birdsong fades slowly, and above, a tapestry of silver and indigo starts to spread from the eastern sky. Slowly, the moon begins to glow and with the first call of an owlet from the neem tree, the day is done.

These are riches, this is heaven, this is the love like no other.