Twilight


It is twilight. I stand on my balcony, observing the sky. The cool evening breeze kisses the plants, and they respond by swaying gently.

The sky’s beauty defies description, as it lets go of day and welcomes night. Another day has gone by; lost in the  folds of time, like a million others before it.

Photo by Andreas Fickl from Pexels

It is a time of quiet, a time to reflect upon the day and soak in the beauty of nature. As I watch the sky growing dark, my mom calls me. She shares the sad news that her aunt, my grand aunt, is no more.

She shares beautiful anecdotes of the wonderful times spent with her aunt. And then she sighs deeply and says, “With the passing of this aunt, my parents’ generation is no more. She was the last family member of that generation.”

I can understand how my mom feels. A sudden emptiness, no elder aunt or uncle to talk to or take advice from. That thread that connected my mom to her childhood, her parents and her family history is no longer there. Now, my mom’s generation has become the oldest in our family.

I hang up after talking to my mom for a few more minutes. Night will soon be here, and will again be replaced by day. And the cycle of life will continue, where people will come and go, and where days will arrive and vanish.

But then, there are times like this twilight hour – that straddle both day and night – where time seems to stand still for a bit; where one can feel the timelessness of creation against whose backdrop this cycle of life constantly unfolds. And just how the twilight hour passes the baton from day to night, so also, the baton has now been passed to my mom’s generation.

Every new experience


The evening sky is painted an orange shade that defies description. Spun gold? Gold cotton candy? Faraway buildings and trees are silhouetted against this backdrop. Most birds are already tucked into their cosy nests. There is a lull, as day winds down and shakes hands with twilight. The evening sky never looks the same, each evening is different. I stand on the balcony and soak-in the peace.

My kids barge into my reverie. It is the weekend and they want to order-in pizza. I agree, and soon, with a few clicks, the order is placed. In just under forty-five minutes, the familiar square cardboard box is delivered, accompanied by that mouth-watering aroma that every pizza-lover relishes. Hmmm!

But what has become such a regular part of our lives now, was once a new experience for me. When we were kids most meals were home cooked. We rarely ate out. My mom made yummy Indian food, sweets and savouries at home, and we looked forward to all the treats she cooked for us.

When I left for university, I fondly remembered and yearned for my mom’s food. By the time I started working, most meals were eaten out, with friends and colleagues. And that was the time I ate my first-ever pizza. A new outlet had opened in the city close to my place of work, and all of us went over.

And that’s when I smelt a pizza for the first time, that unique melding of cheese, bell peppers, olives, pineapples and other veggies. My favourite part was adding the chilli flakes on top for that extra burst of flavour. We loved the pizza even more because of the experience of trying something for the first time.

Image courtesy – http://www.shutterstock.com

It was something new, something shared, something exciting, a new type of food, a slice of another culture. And we were never the same again. We had changed.

And that is true of all the new things we try in life. Some are great experiences, while some don’t go at all well; but each one of them changes us in subtle ways.

My kids are happy, and predictably disappear into their rooms. As I close the lid on the pizza box and clean up, night has fallen, and a few stars are twinkling high up in the firmament. The sky has also changed.

A simple filter


I am home by 7 pm most evenings, when my family envelops me and becomes my world – where my routine revolves around school work, dinner and banter.

But over the last few days, I have been out later than usual, and have been in the central business district on some errand or the other.

Daylight is breathtakingly beautiful, twilight and the star-studded sky are both stunning, but man-made skyscrapers glittering like jewels at night, their backs tall and proud, astound me. I am enticed by this shimmering spectacle of buildings, their reflections bouncing and gently undulating in the water in the bayfront.

Joggers are pounding the pavement, people are heading home from work, tourists are caught up in the magic, and their cameras go click, click, click.

Christmas decorations are everywhere. Twinkling baubles of red and green, silver and blue. There is magic and hope in the air.

The world is alive and bustling. I am so caught up in all the bustle. Cars are like streamers on the road; and people are walking, talking into their phones.

There is a lone bicycle parked on the pavement. The benches are wet, testimony to the heavy rain that lashed all afternoon.

I keep taking pictures. I click this one.

I change the filter on my phone camera to black and white, and click again. The scene transforms into something even more magical.

There is only black and white. The same scene, but so different. I keep looking at the colour image and then the black and white.

While the colour image is vibrant and lively, the black and white image is somehow simpler and clearer.

And, as I head back, I liken these two images to our life. Sometimes it is so difficult to cut through all the noise and colour in our lives, to clearly see what matters.

Maybe we just need a simple filter to see things clearly in black and white, cut out all the things that do not matter and focus on the things that really do!

Change


It was a Friday evening, a few evenings ago, and my kids were home, ensconced in their rooms. I walked around the house, clearing and putting away stuff, room by room. I suddenly looked out of the window, and was stopped in my tracks.

The late evening sky was a breathtaking sight. Trees were silhouetted against a canvas of pinkish-orange; a shade that defied description. I felt transported to another world. Time seemed to stand still. How did I miss this, all these days? Did this magic happen everyday? I was sure it did.

Sometimes work pressure and chores take over your life; where there is simply no choice except to run this race and get things done.

Cut to a few days later, another Friday evening. Mother Nature gets busy, she is racing too. She has no time to show case her verdant beauty. The skies open up and heavy rain lashes all through the week. Rumbling thunder and lightning take turns to make announcements.

I watch this spectacle from my bedroom window. Lashing rain that splatters forcefully on the windows; raindrops who seem to surrender all their energy to the window and slide weakly down the glass in thin streams, joining their brethren in rapidly forming puddles.

I realize that nature has her busy and calm periods, her emotional and peaceful moments too!

Soon, my husband walks in; a spring in his step simply because it is the weekend. He asks if we can go out for dinner?

I am game. The kids…..they want to order-in and do their own thing. The rain has stopped, and the rays of the late evening sun are draped across the sky.

So, it is just us in the restaurant, the kids have ordered pizza at home. We laugh incredulously. There was a time just after marriage when we went out like this, then came the phase when we stayed home and ordered-in for ourselves and cooked healthy meals for the kids at home.

Then came the phase, when we went exploring the world with our kids, from insects to animals to the sky to toys to the movies; when we took them to restaurants and helped them try new foods. We learnt more about them, their preferences and their behaviour and likened it to ourselves and genetics.

Then, now, this! Where the kids are ordering-in and we are out. We talk about this and laugh, we also know deep inside that this will be the norm a few years from now. We talk about our day and the conversation veers back to the children. We laugh and joke about it, but that’s the truth. Because that’s what gives us meaning and purpose.

When we walk out, the skies have opened up again. There is a steady downpour, and lightning streaks illuminate the sky in bursts – now here, now there.

The wipers in the car work overtime to give us a clear view, but the raindrops continue to fall relentlessly.

Everything is constantly changing, the rain, the sun, the children, their parents…..!

We head back home. The evening quickly flies away.

My pedometer shows 10500 steps, but when the clock strikes twelve, even that will change and will be reset to zero.

Another day will begin, filled with hope, possibilities and more changes.

Carpet of flowers


This afternoon, as I rushed to complete a few errands, my eyes saw that the road was filled with beautiful pink flowers that had fallen from a nearby tree. And, as I watched, the flowers continued to fall, swaying gently in the wind and gliding to the road. There were many.

They had served their purpose, giving generously of their beauty, expecting nothing in return. A few of these flowers had also fallen on some green bushes that lined the road. And even after they had served their purpose, these flowers still decorated the bushes and brought them to life!

My attention then shifted to the tree. It was in full bloom, wrapped in pretty flowers, gently swaying in the breeze.

I paused to take pictures. This got me thinking.

Life goes on. Days fly past. Morning quickly becomes night. ‘Things to do’ lists grow, shrink and expand at an alarming pace. Life’s pauses are few and far between. Technology rules. Necks are bent forward in a permanent posture of seeing and experiencing the world through one’s smartphone. Fingers are so used to touchscreen technology that we even try to zoom into physical copies of photographs.

Mother Nature is busy too! But where is the time to notice her beauty or her generosity? The miracle of sunrise and sunset are only used to pace our day, time our workouts or fix our various appointments. There is no time to enjoy the appearance of stars on the dark, velvety sky every night or appreciate a glorious sunny day! Weather reports are again to plan one’s schedule rather than to appreciate the lashing tropical rain or a grey, cloudy day!

We need to take small breaks – to stop, to appreciate, to rejuvenate and to be grateful!

What’s cooking?


I am heading home from my evening walk. The sky is turning a deep blue. I see the silhouettes of birds flying back to their nests. Many birds are already home. There is a lot of chirping; the birds are obviously catching up with each other, after a long, tiring day.

As I enter our condominium, the street lights switch on. The lights in many homes are coming on too!

My muscles are tired from all that walking, and there is no more ‘brisk’ in my walk.

Picture courtesy – http://www.clipart-library.com

And as I cross from one building to another, the smells of dinner being cooked are everywhere! My stomach growls, my tongue waters.

Warm paranthas are being tossed on the tawa….yumm! Now, I smell cheese; now, mustard sputtering in oil. I can hear a pressure cooker letting off steam.

I make it home, both tired and famished. I only have one thought in my head – FOOD! I take a shower, and rush into the kitchen to warm my dinner.

The first mouthful is divine, and I savour it with eyes closed. I wolf down the rest. I am full. I stretch in contentment. Bliss!

The Evening Gossip Brigade


The balcony of my mom’s living room overlooks a line of trees. Each time I visit my mom, I realize that the foliage has become thicker. The neighbourhood cricket training ground – that was once clearly visible – is now completely obscured from view.

But the trees provide their own entertainment.They host, what we call, the Evening Gossip Brigade.

My mom and I usually stand at the balcony at around 5.45 p.m. Hundreds of birds descend on these trees. Crows, mynas, sparrows and many more that we cannot see.  Squirrels also flit about from tree to tree, seemingly boneless.

By 6 pm, the cacophony starts. The Evening Gossip Brigade kicks into action. We wonder aloud about all the cawing and chirping. Maybe they gossip about their long day, the places they visited, the availability of food or the lack of it, general health issues, nest discussions, love, friendship, petty fights….!
Then again, if one observes closely, there are a few loners, who sit away from the Brigade, lost in thought. Is it age or loneliness? We wonder.

There is a lot of movement between the trees and the various branches. And slowly, as if by magic, the decibel levels drop. Another bird day ends. One by one the chirping birds quieten down for the night.  Except for a few birds that are clearly outlined, the arrival of twilight casts many shadows and the birds merge with the foliage.
Now and then, a small chirp or caw can be heard, maybe little baby birds asking for their moms.

The night is upon us. We wish our little birds a good night and head indoors.

Look up


We are so busy these days that we don’t have the time to look up at the sky and enjoy its splendour. As we go through our day, the sky above is also changing. So much is happening up there, clouds are lazing about or seriously gathering to bring us some showers. The sun is busy travelling across the sky, silently casting shadows, both short and long. The sky is a kaleidoscope of colours through the day.

We only seem to have time to bend our necks downward and keep texting,  or to keep inclining our heads at odd angles to answer calls on our mobiles, while trying to complete other chores.

We never ever look upwards.  Because, if we do, we may actually get to see the absolute deep violet of twilight or catch a few twinkling stars that are almost invisible in the cities, where skyscrapers grab the skyline.

Or like I did, one may get to see something like this –

image

A merry jet streaking across the morning sky, hints of pale yellow reflecting off the clouds.

Another day to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.

Point of view on a lazy evening


It is evening, around 6 pm. I drag my easy-chair out, to the balcony. Pinkish golden clouds are flirting with the Sun, as he bids adieu for the day.

The birds in the trees nearby are chirping loudly, catching up on all the gossip in their world. The evening is still bright and golden.

The wind lazily makes its way through the coconut palms. I look down at the play area and lobby below. A few cars are parked. There is a small boy, all by himself; trying to run around, clearly missing his friends. He looks around to see why his friends haven’t arrived yet.

He swings himself on a metal bar, and suddenly lets out a whoop of joy, as a group of boys runs down to meet him.

The dynamics below change completely. They talk in shrill voices, discuss something, and then start playing.

It takes me a while to realize that they are playing a game of hide and seek.  It is fun to watch from above, because I can clearly see both the hunter and the hunted.

image

           Courtesy – http://www.123rf.com

But they are oblivious to me and crawl around the cars, benches and trees, in the park below. They move with stealth not knowing where the predator is! When they are finally hunted down, they giggle, and the game starts all over again.

I am fascinated by this. What is obvious to me from where I am seated, seems to be such a challenge to them.

That’s exactly how it is with life’s problems, right? When we are very involved, we cannot see the picture clearly.

However, when we step back and see the big picture, we definitely get a better perspective!

I dwell on this, and watch the boys playing soccer now. The birds have run out of things to say. Lights are coming on in some homes. The sky is taking on a deep hue. The clouds are mere grey wisps, cooling down after a long day.

In a while, the boys call out byes to each other and run home. I go back inside with a smile.

Twilight Walk – A Short Story


Fiona had to run across M.G.Road, and walk about 300 m to drop off a set of documents to another office, and get back to her workplace to wind down for the day.

She grabbed her handbag, took the folder containing the documents, and left the building.

The Sun had already set and most office-goers were heading home, some in a rush, some strolling, others busy on their phones.

Hundreds of crows were cawing raucously in the twilight, catching up on the day’s gossip. Fiona smiled to herself, as she imagined what the crows would say to each other.

Traffic was heavy on MG Road and it took her sometime to cross. She quickened her pace. She walked down 1st Cross, took the second left, went into the office, dropped off the folder and headed back.

She badly wanted to have a cold drink. The humidity was stifling. As she walked back, there was a stretch of road where the street lights were not working. As she looked up to see the lamp post, she was grabbed from the back and forced against a wall.

A masked face pointed a knife at her neck and asked for her handbag. Fear paralysed her, as the handbag was snatched, and she felt darkness engulf her. She felt herself going limp as her legs gave way. She felt that these were her last moments. After that nothing.

When she came to, she felt water drops on her face. She could hear many voices, indignant, worried and lots of murmuring.

She opened her eyes and looked into ten or twelve pairs of eyes. They helped her to her feet and asked her what had happened.

She was too tired to talk and told them that she was okay and that she could manage. One of the women offered to drive her back. Fiona declined and said she could easily walk back.

Another man said he would walk her down to the office, just to ensure she reached safely. She agreed.

She thanked everyone for their concern and started walking towards the office.
The man made polite conversation. He looked like a banker or sales guy, well dressed, and she noticed he wore branded glasses. Smart, she thought.

The office building was fast emptying, as they reached the lift. He smiled.

She smiled and said, “I can manage from here, thank you so very much.”

He said, “No trouble at all. I will see you up.”

She did not want to be rude, and they got into the lift.

The door closed. And then he caught hold of her neck and pushed her against the lift wall.

“You silly woman, there was nothing in your handbag, except trivia, no money, no smartphone, nothing”, he said.

Her eyes widened in terror.

“I will not go back empty handed”, he said.

He snatched the thin gold chain she wore around her neck, yanked it off, pressed the lift for the next floor and disappeared into the night.

She then remembered that her wallet was in her laptop bag along with her phone. She rubbed her neck, which now had an angry red line.

What a day it had been! Phew!