Saturday, October 01, 2011
Hello, darkness my old friend!
Darkness everywhere. It terrified me, a Delhi girl in my early twenties on my first evening in a tea garden.
That night, a few of us rode from Birpara Tea Garden to Lankapara Tea Garden in an Ambassador car. It was a memorable ride - the car hurtled into the darkness at top speed. It was hard to believe there was a road. There probably wasn't. I'd never been in such inky darkness before.
When the terror of the ride ended, there were the introductions to strangers at the party. I was the new bride in the district. There was only one reason I didn't want the evening to end. The drive would have to be repeated.
While stepping out of our hosts' bungalow, I looked up at the sky. There were stars everywhere! I'd learnt to recognise the major constellations and the planets in Delhi's night skies, but this sight made my head spin. There were stars where I'd been used to seeing dark spaces.
For the first time, I saw the Little Bear - Ursa Minor. It had only been a name on a star map before this. In Delhi, we could spot two stars from Ursa Minor - the Pole Star Polaris, and Kocab. These stars augured well - I was going to love a lot things about my new life in tea.
I missed the city lights. Here, darkness fell by six-thirty in the summer and by five in the winter months. Twenty-five years ago, there was no electricity anywhere in tea gardens save in the bungalows, factories and hospitals. The towns nearby were not much better. There was no street lighting, nor were there any neon signs.
Our daughters never feared the dark as babies. They wouldn't cry or get restless when the lights went out. My husband always said that this was where we failed, having grown up in a city!
I can't say when I started appreciating the darkness in a tea garden. But you do need darkness to appreciate the beauty of light.
My cousin Ambika wrote about this on her blog recently. She had linked another article for star gazers. It is really sad to think of children growing up without seeing stars in the night sky.
For some years now, I've enjoyed taking a solitary outing at nightfall. All those years ago, the loneliness was as frightening as the darkness. Over time, a love of solitude replaced the fear. Silence and darkness can become a rich environment for those who like to wander about in the spaces of the mind.
We should be alright in a world where 'Daylight is good at arriving at the right time'.*
Beware of darkness
Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night
- George Harrison
*George Harrison, 'All Things Must Pass'