A Lazy Afternoon
At exactly one o’clock on a hot, summer-like afternoon, the streets are deserted but for the odd car or motorbike, honking to warn away any imaginary pedestrians. There are no customers at the provision shop across the street, and the girl at the counter and her father stare out at the sun-splashed empty road from the stifling confines of the small room. The heavy, coal-fed iron clanks as the weary woman at the rickety stall on the other side of the road draws it across a pair of grey trousers. A heap of clothes is piled behind her on a narrow table balanced across a culvert; a little child, her daughter or niece, maybe even her granddaughter, drinks thirstily from a green bottle.
It could be a scene from this day. Or thirty years ago. The unvarying quietness of hot afternoons always reminds me of summers gone by, of the vacations associated with them and the concomitant sights and sounds.
The sky is languid and cloudless. The bushes on my bit of the hill are parched and dry. From where I stand on the balcony, I don’t get a clear view of the hill. Intersecting wires strung between electric poles, and an ugly white-and-orange building rising from the gentle mound towards the foot of the hill, mar the vista. But you notice them only if you pay attention on them. Lose yourself in the hill, and they don’t bother you. It just depends on what you want to see.
Down the street comes the postman, pushing his old bicycle, a bag slung from the handlebar. There is an inexplicable timelessness in his arrival, in his disinterested walk as he delivers letters. True, the friendly communities have been replaced by the cold isolation of flats, and business mails largely outnumber intimate letters; the arrival of the postman is no longer a much looked forward to event as it must once have been.
But I like watching the postman as he walks through the sun-drenched streets, an occasional tree providing him with some welcome shade. He wears an old, faded, once-purple cap, and an indiscernible expression on his face. He reminds me of the last century, of Tagore and RK Narayan, of everything homely, earthy and simple.
A Formal Goodbye
The rose from last evening is drooping, and everything is now just a confused memory of dazzling lights and sound, no, noise.
We had our Farewell party yesterday, and it was evident that the Third Year students had gone to much trouble organising it. I appreciate all the effort they put into it, but it really wasn’t my kind of thing. It was my first experience of a discotheque kind of atmosphere, a DJ, crazy lights that gave me a headache, and loud music that almost shattered my eardrums. Evidently, no conversation was possible, and all I did was watch as people danced and laughed for no particular reason. Once dinner got over, however, it was fun- we took many pictures and acted silly. Some of us crashed into the DJ’s booth and explored the console. It was my first time at a party of this kind, and watching everybody all dressed up was rather interesting. Nobody got emotional. We were probably too absorbed in the way we looked to worry about other things.
So it’s officially over.
I have been reading two books- Beyond Boundaries, the autobiography of businessman Swraj Paul, and Autobiography of a Yogi, the story of the life of Paramahansa Yogananda. I am a little disappointed with Beyond Boundaries- I’d been hoping it would be a light account of an Indian’s experiences in a foreign country, something in the style of Ruskin Bond, but it’s more about philosophy, business and politics than simple anecdotes. Autobiography, on the other hand, is extremely compelling.
I try not to accept beliefs without questioning them. Indeed, some instances mentioned in Autobiography seem rather incredible to me. But I am not inclined to write them off as exaggeration, because I know very little of the powers of meditation and spirituality, and I cannot let my ignorance come in the way of learning. I have been curious about the powers of cosmic sound, and the idea that every single sound in the Universe has a positive or negative effect on the cosmic sound is rather intriguing. If this were true, then we might be giving an impetus to a lot of evil with all the negative talking we do. Is that why we should always think before we speak, not just for decorum, but for the good of the Universe as a whole?
I have a few questions. Is it necessary to be a yogi or a sannyasi, give oneself up entirely to the contemplation of God, to be free of the cycle of rebirth? In that case, will there be such a life of renunciation for every one of us, so we can attain salvation? If everything depends on karma, who guides our actions?
The sky is heavy with grey clouds. I think there’ll be rain. This seems to happen everytime I get contemplative and go rambling. Is that an omen? I don’t know. But right now, I just can’t wait for the rain.