Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lunch at Twilight, Dinner at Midnight

I love nights. I love the shroud of silence and contemplation nights throw on my mind.  There is an involuntary stillness that enters my heart, as I find nature tucking in for the day despite human beings’ frenzied activity around them. Crows start turning to their nests at the stroke of sunset, trees fold up for the day and draw their leaves tighter around themselves like shawls, self respecting insects (unlike mosquitoes) disappear for the day. A while later children’s eyelids start getting heavier despite the TV and homework.  As the night bleeds and spreads its black fingers over lamp shades, the mist of sleep overpowers thoughtful minds and restless hearts.  It is time to draw the curtains, not just on the day but on the rerun of events of the day in our minds. Nights are for rejuvenation, reconsideration and revival. In simpler terms, when the moon appears at your window it is time to hibernate, shut down or do an Alt+Ctrl+del.

For me, the beauty of nights has much to do with the color black- the hue of absorption, mystery, seduction and death. As I look up at the fickle moon bobbing like a ball on the dark November sky with stars flitting around like fire flies I wonder which ignoramus labeled nights as the hour of the demons. What can match the cool beauty, subtle fragrance and deep sexuality of the night? Mornings and noon explode with activity and shake you up for necessary and unnecessary actions. The nature of light is such.  It demands movement. Aristotle hypothesized on the nature of light as “a disturbance in the element air”. But as light wanes and movements subside, mind and body seeks its nest and the heart searches for love.  If day is a factory to feed your body, night is the spa for pampering yourself.
When I was breaking into my teens, I used to feel a ravenous hunger in the pit of my stomach at exactly the stroke of sunset and I would gorge.  Noticing my habit, my mother’s music teacher mentioned in passing, “only rakshashis eat at sunset.”  What was stated intentionally to shame me out of the habit in fact had the opposite effect. I fell in love with idea of being a rakshashi and “fuelling myself for the night” at sunset, which I supposed was dawn for rakshashis.  In fact as days passed I not only had “lunch” at 6 pm but also “dinner” at the stroke of midnight. Amma shaking her head would leave rasam and rice for me. At midnight, while the house was dunked in dark slumber, I would toss the food, top it with pickle and pappad shreds and go into the balcony. We lived in a Government quarter then, on the seventh floor and the dining table was in that open balcony of sorts. I would sit, not at the table but on it. As the wind whooshed through my hair, as I watched the distant city lights and supped on the delicious gruel, I used to feel an incredible high, an insatiable thirst to “create”, throughout the night. On those special nights when I wrote particularly well, I understood it as a “female night”, a Rajni, a Nisha and not just another ratri.

I heard this lovely story about Adam and his first experience of night. It is Adam’s first day of being born. He feels comfortable in light but fearfully anticipates the sun set as he would be left in dark. But as night approaches Adam sees the moon emerge with her stars, the evening flowers bloom exuding their fragrance and the creatures of the night materialize to sing their nightly songs, Adam discovers life in the dark and falls in love with night too.

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