Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Reflections of an Evening

In Delhi, in the seventies, we used to look out for sunsets in the monsoon and post-monsoon months of August and September without fail. In a big and dry city like Delhi, rain was incredibly energetic. It was always a bonus; it brought high spirits, and it spelt romance. Spells of rain never lasted too long, and when they ended by evening, we got the additional treat of a sunset to enjoy and remember.

Evening curfew for a young girl like me in those days was lighting-up time. As soon as the street lights came on, I had to be home. What lovely late evening twilights we had. The light would fade slowly and grandly out of the sky, lingering until the clouds and trees were dark silhouettes. In my imagination, those banked up clouds on the horizon, black and purple masses, were mountains. The return home at the street light hour was followed by prayers in the back verandah. The puja was in the store room that opened off it. The back verandah would be lit only by the fading daylight and the storeroom was beautiful in the dark. It was comforting and yet exciting, and there were many smells that filled it: the sharp smell of the scrubbed brass villakku or the smoky smell of burnt oil wicks, the scent of goodies stored in big biscuit tins, and agarbatti, which dominated, and then took over my senses with its calming effect so that my troubles -- homework undone or a test the next day-- would be washed away. Only the comfort and the safety of my parents' home would remain.

It was remarkable that one could connect to nature in such a profound way in the heart of Delhi.

That was a long time ago, and the habit of enjoying a few quiet moments gathering one's thoughts at the end of the day remains. On some evenings, the day seems to die, and it has a melancholy feel. On other days, there is only a feeling of peace. Today, I was sitting outside our house and looking at the Bhutan Himalayas, purple and black masses against the Northern sky, and I dreamed they were the clouds of my Delhi childhood. One peak stood out sharply defined, perfectly symmetrical, and in the foreground, a gulmohar leaf swayed in the silent breeze. It could have been a calendar picture of Mt.Fuji with a leaf etching in front.

It rained all afternoon after an incredibly hot and sticky morning. The thunder was deafening and it was a really dramatic, high intensity storm. It cleared the air magically. By four o'clock, the sky was washed blue and the hills stood out in clear relief. I walked down to the National Highway -- a straight road leads to it from my house - at about five o'clock, with my head turned right to see the hills. They were silhouettes; I couldn’t see the trees on them at all, but I could see the ranges layered out distinctly. Where the sky met the hills, it was a lighter blue than anywhere else; almost whitish, and luminous. The silence that settled around this spectacle made me imagine it was a pre-dawn scene, as if something big was about to happen soon.
Back from my walk, I sat outside on a swing, with our patient and undemanding dog Simba at my feet. There was a gentle breeze blowing. Birds had returned to their nests and fallen silent. A truck rumbled past on the highway, but it wasn’t an unwelcome sound.

The sound of children playing somewhere in the distance was missing today. It is a typical evening sound. Once I was among children who played in the evenings out in the open, watching anxiously for the lights on the lampposts. Then, as a young adult, I remember sitting and daydreaming on the front steps in the evening and listening to a sad song about a lonely man watching the children play. I sit alone now and the children who played in this garden when they were little have left home. Home and childhood may seem very far away to them too. The complete tranquility and simplicity of those childhood years is lost for ever, but at moments such as these, one can recapture traces of it.


Kamini said...

What a lovely piece, Gowri. Sitting here in cold, damp and dreary New York, I was transported magically to a beautiful time and place. I think this one might become my favourite piece on your blog!


"The light would fade slowly and grandly out of the sky, lingering until the clouds and trees were dark silhouettes" - such a lovely image of a languid evening.
"I sit alone now and the children who played in this garden when they were little have left home. "

The piece balances the nostagia of childhood days with the loneliness of the present.

Poetry in prose.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Too good.

Is this the song, BTW?

It is the evening of the day
I sit and watch the children play
Doin' things I used to do
They think are new
I sit and watch
As tears go by

Gardenia said...

That song always did something to me .. even when I was way too young for it!

Anonymous said...

Very different Stones at their melancholic best.

Parvati said...

ma too good... i want to come back home... if i look out of my front door i see only a wall much to my woe!!... lol... too senti... i love it...


Terrific new picture! You look great.

Viji Venkatesh said...

The thoughts
the memories
the telling of both

Anonymous said...

This was so, so beautiful.. Having been there, I can imagine it all.

And the heartache...


devil said...

Gowri, some part of this is what all of us of our generation feel we have lost. Only, you have found something else with time, and some of us are looking still.

Moments after the rain only we in India understand. The magic, the smell, the ca;m after the rain. And the humidity, let's not forget!

Anonymous said...

Gow this brings back memories.I live vicariously through your writings.Unfortunately all I see when I look out of my window is a freezing cold world. Perhaps out in Hyde Park this could have been confused with poetic but here in Suburbia it is just a reminder that groceries must be bought and cars must be scraped

Mohan and Poornima said...

What a marvellous writer you are, Gowri. That was a lovely, lyrical piece. I have childhood monsoon memories of Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai....ehm..all far more dramatic than Delhi monsoons! Just kidding, everyone's memories are precious.

It was wonderful meeting up with you at the IIC. Keep blogging!


Sivakami said...

what a flowery pleasant to read and it touches the shd write books[fiction, short story whatever] you feel.

Srivalli said...

hi..this is such a nostalgic post...I guess this is true for everybody who has been there and now so busy to even take a moment's time off!...made me feel about those bygone days!

shampa said...

wow ma'am..!! This is just so perfect..!! Took me back to my childhood days in the tea estate..your write-up gave me a few moments of peace and tranquility..ah! to get back to the estate..!!
wonderful Ma'am..!!