(First Published in Rasa Literary Review)
The light blue LED of my fully charged laptop stares at me, appearing scandalized by its mere presence, glittering like the luminous eyes of an alien. Overhead, whirring on its own, is the fan, crisscrossing the blue rays, making peculiar patterns on the ceiling, reminding me of a fancy discotheque in a funky college movie.
My eyes are wide awake. I use them to figure out the time from the radium-encrusted hands of the clock, serenely hung up there, on the wall, with glowing protuberances of Ajanta, whiling away its own time—Tick Tock, indifferent to its surroundings. The atmosphere is cool, dampened by the late-night condensation; a deep silence prevails, rhythmically interrupted by the rustling of pages, a book unceremoniously heaped near the pillow; the pair of glasses reflecting light blue rays, quietly ensconced in the binding’s groove.
I force myself out of the comfortable bed, grope for my sneakers with the tip of my toes, and carry myself down to the washroom.
It is four O’clock; the sun has not appeared yet, and I am here, on the lower berth of a train, during one of my voyages across the great plains of the holy Ganges and the mammoth Brahmaputra. My parents are in their deepest of slumbers, like other passengers of the compartment, blithely indifferent to the two of us. There is my younger brother, a malnourished midget then, hands hanging down from the seat, like the end of a thick rope, moving back and forth, synchronizing with the train’s sensual hurling symphony. I wave to myself, already aware of the response though, or rather the lack of response; he keeps staring out the window, doing what I enjoyed the most… when I was him- looking at the nature racing outside.
Trees of varied size and shape, presenting different semblances of the same color green, nature’s mark; inexorably diminishing away with the velocity of the train, giving way to diverse herbs and shrubs now and then, intermittently blocked by the electric poles. Streams, ponds, brooks, tanks, and rivers; the indisputable ultimate sources of freshwater, the reasons behind the outgrowth of civilization in these plains; banking the great fields, fields of sugarcane, of paddy and wheat; the dung-flower floating hither and thither, buffaloes being washed, men and women cleaning themselves, children howling and flapping the surface of the water with their hands; I would always get afraid when the train passed over a bridge, making a horrendous din, terrifying to the extent of raising my hairs. My imagination would create unfriendly scenes in my mind- what would happen if the bridge collapses?
And there are mighty mountains, in the route comprising the regions of Assam and West Bengal, grandeur pouring out from mention of the word itself, surging through the very soul of mine; the mountains remind me of many things: the Kamakhya temple, any worthy description of which requires a whole new book; the Vaishno temple, yet another example of nature’s exotic brilliance, which interestingly my smaller self is still unaware of; the story I read in my fifth standard, in which the princess chose the rat over the mountain as her probable bridegroom because the rat could make holes at the latter’s base.
In fact, I have always fantasized living an adventurous life among the mountains, sipping a cup of warm coffee while reading a book, going for a walk down the slope and then coming back with a cute puppy; lying down on a cozy armchair and absorbing the heralded beauty of mountains – the immaculate heights, the fog, the cedar forests, the sprinkling brooks, the ladder fields, the snaky roads, the consummate pot-puri of nature’s gifts. And then I suddenly remember that I have never been to a seashore, no, I must have visited it at least once, once when I lived in Madras, but I was too young, too immature to comprehend the meaning of sea waves.
Standing there on the deck of a running train with my younger self, I try to recollect what I am thinking as an eight-year-old boy, who does not wear glasses and has little knowledge of the vastness of this world – the diversity, and the good things which bind it together: love and peace; and the bad things which infest it incessantly and try to divide it: hatred and agony, diseases and debauchery. He must think something good; I am sure; I am too used to myself and my facial expressions. The sun has not risen yet; maybe the light rays are just eight minutes away, or maybe they have not started their pilgrim yet; maybe I am becoming too philosophical and maybe I should stop thinking such futile things.
Maybe I should concentrate more on washing my hands; maybe the world is too right to be ignored further: that senility is not because of senescence but a natural consequence of constant and harmful brooding: thinking and imagining that you can visit your past; that crazy people wake up at four O’clock and think about going to the rooftop.
I resolve to go against the world.
“Now, I am on a train looking outside the window, waiting for the morn. I look at my father’s watch. It is four. The vacations were great. I visited all my uncles and aunts. It was a memorable experience in Delhi, but I don’t like Delhi very much. Cold gushes of outside wind slap at my face. The third standard is very hard because there is English as the primary subject. I am trying to learn it. So I try to write more. There are dark dots outside the window running continuously. Suddenly there is light in the sky. First red and then white. Sun is going up slowly. The world is visible now. I think this is the first sunrise I have ever seen because I usually wake up after six. It looks like the train is revolving around the sun. I press my face on the rods in the window and try to locate the engine. I enjoy doing it very much. The engine whistles and spread a lot of smoke in the air. I am on the 24th coach behind the engine. Suddenly I feel like peeing. I stand up and go to the end of the coach to pee.”
It feels much lighter, now that I have emptied my bladders, night time peeing: one of the idiosyncratic symptoms of people with kidney problems; I quietly tiptoe myself across the hall, clamber up the stairs to the rooftop, all the while making sure that nobody wakes up accidentally. The modern street lights do not prevent the darkness from showing its engrossing presence, it is thick: the air, making it a little difficult to breathe; I look up at the sky; the moon is there, shining more palely than I have ever seen it; it is losing its sheen, as seconds pass by, slowly and serenely, as the first rays of the sun strike the surface of the earth. I am surrounded by a multitude of flats, each of them distinct in its own way, each of them having a unique position in the heart of its dwellers; the sound of distant trucks, buses, and cars, being carried by the tardily flowing pangs of wind, strike the eardrum of my ears.
The black slowly dissolves itself into deep red, followed by its lighter versions; rays emanate from the roofs in the eastern direction, perhaps the sun has already risen and I cannot see it in full glory because of the obstructing buildings. The sky is painted with red and yellow as if two entire bottles of watercolor, one red and other yellow, have been spilled upon a piece of paper and it is trying to absorb them; there are black dots, signifying the existence of twittering birds, welcoming the sun in their own unique way. The imagery is picture-perfect, the exact analogy of what they describe through language, through paintings, through various other modes of communication developed my human being, but, still, there is a lot more to grasp, a lot more to dive into; perhaps that is what’s enchanting about nature, we can never feel it through others. And now there appears the sun, the ultimate source of energy, of light, of warmth; the red and orange of the sky slowly fades into yellow and then dissolves into the most pristine form of white; the moisture disappears and a comforting heat soothes my entire body. Every cell feels energetic. Like it has been supplied with enormous quantities of glucose and mitochondria. Like it has taken an entirely new birth; I feel ecstatic pleasure in its extreme form.
According to Hindu mythology, The Sun God travels in the sky on a chariot carried by seven horses; according to various experiments by many physicists, light is a mixture of seven colors; seven is the only thing common between them, yet it binds them for eternity; the seven horses scatter as they pass through the atmosphere and give delusions of different colors to the observer. As the sun surges up the sky, I contemplate: twelve years have passed since I first observed the sunrise, yet it is the same: the same feeling of nostalgia, the same feeling of amazement for the power of nature’s brilliance; time travels in circles: it continuously keeps throwing you into similar situations; what changes is us, our modes of communicating with the world, our ways of looking at the things. Life is, perhaps, too short to neglect things like these.